A social media profile picture is much more important than many people tend to assume. I think it’s easy to take an online picture for granted, treating it as more of an identification photo than anything else. The truth is that your online picture is a crucial part of the first impression people develop when they first encounter your online presence. This point alone illustrates the difference between snapshots for Facebook and professional headshots for LinkedIn.
We spend extra time to look good before meeting an important client, doing a speaking engagement or any other personal encounter we might have with business connections. Do we spend enough time getting the online picture that will represent us when we are not present? In this article, I’ll explain three important things that make a great social media profile picture.
1 – Quality
Step up the game on your social media profile picture
The first thing is that your profile photo should be of high quality. Most experts would agree that your profile picture is the most critical part of you profile. The photo will usually be the first thing most people are drawn to, so it should be impactful. A low-quality photo will be the beginning of a negative first impression. Low quality photos will often show as blurry, have jagged edges or bad color. Bad color will often show most obviously in the skin tones. The picture must look natural and should be eye catching. There are a few important elements to understand about the quality of your social media profile picture.
What did your camera do?
Of course, it took a picture when you clicked the shutter button. Most of today’s cameras are advanced computers that make decisions for us about light, color and focus. This could be anything from the cell phone in your pocket to professional cameras costing thousands of dollars. No matter how expensive the camera, they all have one important thing in common; they are not perfect. Auto color (white balance), auto focus and auto exposure (response to lighting) cannot be right all the time. Nor can these functions replace creativity. I’ll cover more on this subject in a future article.
When the camera makes wrong decisions
When the camera is wrong, it can have a big impact the quality of the image. The camera responds to the ‘color’ of light in the scene you are photographing. If your camera does not make decisions correctly, you might see skin tones that are yellow or orange. The camera might also be wrong about light if it uses the wrong part of the image for exposure. You ultimately want the camera to expose properly for the person’s face, not the background or other elements. Bad exposure can result in a face that is darker than it should be. This would prevent the subject of the picture from ‘popping out’ as the main draw for your attention.
Beyond the camera
There are other things beyond the control of the camera that need to be taken care of after the picture is taken. These are things often addressed by a professional in retouch:
- Redness of the skin
- Facial blemishes
- Whitening of the teeth
- Stray hairs
Here is an example: The image on the left is straight out of the camera, while the image to the right has been retouched.