With few exceptions, your self-promotion should include your photo. It’s not okay to leave the blank placeholder on your profile. The placeholder is there only to indicate that you should insert “your photo here.”
Neglecting to include a headshot says, “I don’t care,” “I don’t want people to know what I look like,” “I don’t really think this promotion-thing is going to work” or, “I’m too lazy to go to the effort of getting some photography done and uploading it to my a) social media profile, b) website, c) other promotional materials.” You wouldn’t leave your education or work experience off of your profile…your photo needs to be there, too.
Visually, you’re using a photo to tell part of your brand story. Your portrait plays a big part in how people relate to you, whether you look trustworthy, if they want to get to know you or wouldn’t give you the time of day. What image are you projecting? Serious, goofy, professional, enthusiastic, lazy, credible or crackpot? Of course, you want viewers to read about you, too, but don’t negate that possibility by not putting your best face forward.
Whenever possible, it’s best to hire a professional photographer. Ask friends or co-workers for referrals or check out Yelp. Aside from hiring a pro, here are some other tips to remember.
Picture this — tips for a good profile photo:
- Dress…and pose…professionally — no goofy headwear, wrinkled shirts, tank tops or crazy hairstyles; sex might sell, but the workplace is not that marketplace
- No “selfies” — don’t shoot yourself with a handheld phone or your computer camera; an outstretched arm, light from a computer screen or a view up your nose are rookie moves
- Make eye contact — look at the viewer…gazing off into the distance makes you appear remote, aloof, disinterested or bored. And no sunglasses!
- Good lighting is flattering— if it’s a DIY photograph, try shooting outside, in afternoon light
- Anything that looks like a passport photo or a mug shot doesn’t belong in your promotion
- Use a current shot, one taken within at least the last few years — the last thing you want is to walk into a room of people expecting someone 20 years younger, 50 pounds lighter or with a lot more hair
- A head and shoulders crop is best — too far away and you’re but a speck in the 1” square frame that many platforms offer
- Keep gestures to a minimum; don’t pose so that it looks like you’re modeling a new watch or have just heard a hysterical joke; steepled fingers or the pensive “hand under chin” poses are too dramatic
- Location, location — don’t use a photo taken at a bar, party, coffee house or on vacation; remember, you’re working here. Keep the background simple, in a muted color, and without distractions.
- It’s your profile — don’t use a photo where you have to crop others out of the shot (someone else’s arm slung over your shoulder might say “friendly” but doesn’t say business)
- No dogs, cats, catch of the day or other props — we know you talk on the phone and use a computer
- Size your photo so it takes up all the available space provided…no one can appreciate your good looks when your head is less than a 1/2” high
- Smile and engage the viewer…you could be saying “hello” to your next employer or a new referral
The worst offense? No photo at all. We’re all aware how important one’s print and online profiles are to furthering (or at least documenting) one’s career. And we all know, by the popularity of Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram, how prominently visuals feature in our day-to-day lives.
Sometimes you only get one shot — make it count!
Need help with your personal or company branding? Contact Martha. Martha Spelman is a Los Angeles-based branding and marketing expert. She is the author of The Cure for Blogophobia: How to Easily Create, Publish & Promote Your Business Blog. Martha has written about branding and marketing for Business Week, Business2Community, Yahoo! Small Business, LinkedIn, Technorati, BuiltinLA and Alltop.com.