With online interactions becoming commonplace in the small business world, your online profile is one of the first pieces of information that a future collaborator, business partner or customer will have about you. Your profile picture is the focal point of your online profile, so it deserves the same prudent attention you would devote to any type of marketing material. Whether you use Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or LinkedIn, having a professional quality profile picture is a sure-fire way to make a stellar first impression.

Don’t get bogged down in technicality, either. Getting a professional looking profile picture doesn’t need to be costly or time consuming; in fact, taking a good photo only needs a friend, a steady hand and a little bit of natural light. Although it’s easy to use a photo you already have, in doing so, you neglect any semblance of professionalism.

First, a roundup of things to avoid when choosing a profile photo:

Profile Pictures .jpg

The cropped out friend photo. Though you may have looked super-cute at your best friend’s wedding last month, chances are, you weren’t dressed for a professional-looking photo and weren’t posing for solo shots (unless you’re big on stealing the spotlight).

Using filters or unnatural editing. What might be Instagram-worthy won’t look quite so cool in the office. Sure, Valencia and Mayfair filters will help you to rack up the likes on personal social media, but in a professional setting, you want your online appearance to match your appearance in real life. Save the filters for your private account and opt for natural lighting instead.

A selfie. Save the selfies for Snapchat and ask a close friend to take a quick shot of you. Pick someone you’re comfortable with—by getting another person involved you’ll be able to get a second opinion on your outfit (make sure you dress for the industry in which you hope to work) and appearance, plus feel confident that you’re getting a decent head shot from an appropriate angle.

The way too serious look. Though you may be serious about your work, a photo where you look pleasant and friendly is much more likely to resonate positively with your profile viewers than something resembling a mug shot. Smile and relax, then before uploading your picture to your profile, send it to a few friends and make sure they think the photo you’ve chosen makes you look both amicable and accessible.

No picture at all. LinkedIn says that profiles are seven times more likely to get views if the user has a profile picture—by adding one, you’re instantly boosting your career prospects. Almost as bad as skipping the photo: using a picture of your pet or your baby, particularly if you’re a mother trying to get back into the workforce. Though your newborn is, without a doubt, adorable, a picture of someone besides yourself doesn’t convey you’re serious about business.

So, what do you need to know to make your picture appropriate for a professional online profile?


No need to be a photographer or geek.  As far as the technical aspects of photography go, it doesn’t take a professional photographer to achieve professional looking results for a profile photo (although if you can afford one, go for it). Grab a friend and find a solid colored wall with good natural light (a window with soft light coming in is ideal), then get going. A few tips: shift your shoulders so you aren’t facing the camera head on to add an element of visual interest to your photo (plus, you’ll look slimmer), have the picture taken three to six inches above eye level, and stand at a 30 degree angle to your photographer.

Keep it simple. All you need for a good photo is a natural smile, a classic outfit in a solid color (remember: dress for the work you want, not the work you have), and a friend who will keep you calm. Body language reads like a book, and future employers will notice your confidence and approachability if you feel relaxed when you’re having your new profile picture taken.With these tips in mind, you’ll have a professional quality photo in no time.

(Feature Image: Flickr)

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