Do you know how to shoot a great social media profile photo?
In today’s visual world, I can’t stress enough the importance of having an AMAZING social media profile photo for both social media and job-hunting purposes.
That brings us to the real question: How good are you at shooting social media profile photos that REALLY work?
A great social media profile photo has to meet several important criteria.
The photograph should communicate the person’s personality – are they likeable, competent, an influencer? These are all judgments that are being made when people view these photographs online.
There is a lot of cognitive psychology that deals with everything from body language to color preferences that gives us some very clear guidelines as to what works and what doesn’t. The problem of course is that we are photographers, not cognitive psychologists.
That is where PhotoFeeler comes to the rescue. Guided by science (one of the co-founders of PhotoFeeler has a PhD in Optimization Algorithms and a background writing artificial intelligence) they have developed a fun tool that uses humans to evaluate the effectiveness of headshots for professional and even dating purposes.
They have been kind enough to share some of their results in this infographic:
**Be sure to read to the bottom – I have provided a summary along with some tips that I find very useful.
A few important tips that we can take away from the information that PhotoFeeler has gathered:
• Eye contact is VERY important.
• Choose camera angles that show defined jawlines whenever possible.
• REAL smiles even soft laughs are very engaging.
• For business use, business attire is extremely important.
• The background doesn’t matter, as long as it is not distracting.
• Don’t over saturate your images.
My tips for great social media profile photos:
Remember that “first-glance” of these images will generally be as VERY small thumbnails and even on a profile page, they will generally still appear no more than three inches tall. Don’t go cropping off the tops of heads and stuff like that, but also don’t shoot a ¾ length or head to toe image for a profile photo.
Consider the persons position in life.
If you are photographing a corporate executive, don’t shoot down on them. Use a camera angle that is slightly below the nose so that the camera is looking up at their eyes. It put them is a position of power. Avoid shooting down on anyone unless you are shooting an attractive young woman for a dating website.
Keep the backgrounds simple.
The research from PhotoFeeler shows that the setting doesn’t matter, studio, urban, natural and home – they all score the same. The important part is – make sure you understand and use Depth of Field to your advantage and keep the backgrounds soft and simple. The photograph is meant to sell the person – not the background, so it doesn’t matter how cool the setting is.
Work with simple lighting.
These photos are not about “how good is the photographer”. Simple, soft and flattering is the way to go.
Stick with solid colors for the clothing.
How many times has a subject who is paying you to shoot a headshot or portrait showed up for the shoot with clothing that makes you want to puke? You know the prints, patterns or florals that make you want to say REALLY????
Trust me – I understand your pain. For years I have heard this frustration from new and young photographers who are starting to shoot portraits. This has become an even bigger issue in this social media era where headshots and portraits appear very small on a screen.
The solution – “grow a pair” and become the expert in your customer’s eyes.
The customer is NOT always right and just because they want it – doesn’t mean you should do it. My experience has shown that clients will respect you more for good advice and commitment to your beliefs. Regardless of what they say, clients do not want “yes men / women”, they want to work with a photographer who is going to deliver what they need.
Establish a relationship.
I frequently explain that my job is 80% psychology and 20% photography. Invest some time and show a genuine interest in your subject. Photographing people is a relationship business and in order to get great photos, you need to be able to put your subjects at ease and allow them to relax and enjoy the process. Don’t think that you are going to get great results by just saying “ok, relax and give me a smile”.
If you are photographing an adult woman, encourage them to use a makeup artist and hair stylist. These photos are serving a very important purpose and will potentially impact their future earning potential. Hiring someone for hair and makeup is a small investment in that future.