Your profile picture says more about your brand that you’d think. In fact, research has shown that it only takes one tenth of a second to form a first impression of a stranger from their face alone. So before you choose the photo that represents your brand, take some time to dive into the science behind picking the right profile photo to represent you in every detail.
My best advice is to hire a professional photographer that can capture the essence of your brand. Your brand is all about authenticity so use great photography to reinforce your true self. A professional photographer will know how to make your brand and your photos work in harmony.
The two most important questions
Whether you like it or not, people are judging your profile picture online. But not in the way might think. Most often, people are just trying to answer two critical questions about your brand:
- Can I trust this person?
- Does this person have experience that relates to mine?
If your profile picture can answer those two questions with an unequivocal “Yes!”, then you’re off to a great start!
Begin with the basics
Your brand’s first audition comes with a few simple rules. But first, think about your decisions as an online consumer. Are you more likely to put your trust into a brand that puts their best foot forward with high-quality photos or one that struggles to put together a cohesive brand identity? Hopefully, you would choose the former.
Make the choice crystal clear for your tribe by avoiding these common mistakes with profile pictures:
- Just say no to pixelated images – In a world obsessed with 1080p, 4k, and 5k definition, it is abundantly clear when a brand skips this simple rule. Not sure if your profile picture finalists pass the test? Try out the 200% test to narrow down your choices.
- No wedding photos, please – Yes, you looked amazing at your cousin’s wedding but that doesn’t mean it’s the best choice for your brand.
- Put the crop tool down – If you need to crop others out of your profile picture, your best bet is to eliminate that choice altogether. Cropping out entire groups of people emits a sense of unprofessionalism.
- Sunglasses off – Not peaking over your hairline, not clipped on your collar… off, period. Don’t hide behind a slick pair of shades for your headshot unless you own a sunglass company. Let the world see that beautiful face! Keeping clear eye contact with the camera lets your tribe know that you are trusted and respected.
What is your profile picture saying?
From the colors of your outfit to the smile on your face, your profile picture says a lot about you. But how do you make it express everything you stand for? First, choose a few of the most important adjectives that you’d like your profile picture to convey.
Here are a few contenders:
Once you’ve put together a handful of adjectives, you can start planning the colors, backgrounds, and lighting that match your brand.
Colors that pop
Color psychology encompasses everything our brains do to understand the mental and emotional effects of colors. You might not even notice color psychology at work, but brands across the globe use these theories to send hidden messages to their consumers. Each color tends to convey a specific emotion. Here’s a quick synopsis of the feelings that brands evoke using colors:
Black – tranquility, calmness, composure, steadiness, authority, strength.
White – purity, neutrality, cleanliness, balance.
Green – natural, tranquility, calmness, growth, cool, envy
Blue – calmness, serenity, wisdom, focused, loyal, truthful
Purple – sophistication, exotic, spiritual, respect, royalty, wisdom
Red – excitement, intensity, comfort, warmth, love
Orange – energetic, enthusiastic, sophistication, warmth
Yellow – happiness, cheery, optimism, intensity, warmth, attention-getting
Gray – neutral, timeless, practical
Pink – love, gentle, calming
Brown – reliability, stability, comfort, security, natural, friendship
While these colors can be a great tool to help express your brand through a creative outfit or attractive background, make sure that you remember to match your colors to your brand. If your brand colors are pastel blues and pinks, don’t wear a dark red and black top or use a deep purple and orange backdrop in your profile picture.
It’s OK to wear something that doesn’t match your brand colors if they’ll complement each other, but make sure not to mix the feelings that your brand conveys with colors that are too opposite.
Dress the part
Your colors aren’t the only things that have to match. If your brand caters to CEOs and top executives, you probably want to wear a blouse or dress shirt – but if your brand revolves around being a full-time daddy-o, try something more casual that other dads can relate to.
According to PhotoFeeler’s research team, formal dress tends to raise the perception that the person in the photo is competent and influential. While you can never go wrong with a clean, formal look, make sure you are not dressing up your brand too much, causing your tribe to feel disconnected with the authenticity they love and admire.
Backgrounds that embolden you
The background of your picture can be just as important and influential as you are. It’s okay to take your profile picture outside, but make sure that there isn’t too much going on in the background. If the outdoor look isn’t your style, try going simple with a solid color in the background. I know what you’re thinking, “solid color backgrounds are soooo boring,” but that doesn’t have to be the case!
Your background doesn’t have to be white or black. As I’ve discussed, colors can have a lot of influence and hidden messages that our brains subconsciously pick up! Try posing in front of a bright colored background and set yourself apart from the crowd!
Take Rachel Hollis for example. On the cover of both of her new books, you’ll find her signature look, recognizable by anyone who’s ventured onto her website or social media. Her beautiful strawberry blonde locks are parted down the middle, her background is as simple as can be, and her contrasting outfit reflects her brand and her audience as “the Tony Robbins for women”.
Shine a light on your good side
It doesn’t matter how fantastic you look – and you do look fantastic – if you can’t see yourself in the picture. Lighting is probably the most crucial factor in taking a show-stopping profile picture.
Make sure the lighting you’re using illuminates your best features for your closeup! Avoid being backlit by making sure that you’re always facing the light. However, too much light is a thing and you should be mindful to avoid direct light from overhead light fixtures and the sunlight so your face doesn’t reflect the light and make you look shiny. The most ideal photo spot is if you position yourself in front of a light that’s being filtered through a window or if you pose in a room lit by high-quality lamps to give your photo a warm glow.
Lighting can make or break your profile picture. So if you really love learning about getting the lighting just right, dive into all the lighting techniques that make a good photo great.
Show those pearly whites!
Your profile picture is going to be the first image of you that pops into your followers’ heads, so make sure it represents your brand accurately. Surprisingly, if you smile with a closed mouth, you only appear half as likable as someone who shows off their pearly whites. If you really hate smiling with teeth, it’s actually better to snap a photo of you with a friendly, but neutral face than to smile without teeth – so when it comes to your smile, either go big or go home.
Keep it simple
Unless your children, pet, spouse, or anything else, is an integral part of your brand, leave them for the Instagram posts – not your profile picture. Your profile picture should be all about you – and only you. That includes props and other objects that could make your picture appear too busy. This time, the focus is on you.
Consistency is key
We all have that friend who changes their profile picture more often than they change socks. But when it comes to your brand, choose a profile picture and stick to it. Every time you post anything on social media, the one thing that stays consistent is your profile picture. And while it’s good to change things up every now and then, leave your profile picture alone for a good while.
Have you ever had a friend who changed their last name of Facebook after getting married and then it took you a few moments to realize who they were the next time they commented on one of your posts? Changing your profile picture has almost the exact effect. Get a professional photo taken and go as long as possible – even years – without changing it. The last thing you want is to confuse your tribe by changing your profile picture waayyy too often.
One of my all-time favorite brands, The Bucket List Family, has perfected this. Since they came to fame, the family’s social media accounts have kept the same profile picture (with one exception). Take a look, can you guess why they eventually updated their original profile picture?
When their family grew, their brand grew with it and they kept their profile picture just as recognizable as the last one!
Pro Tip: Keep your profile picture consistent across all social media accounts, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, you name it. Not only does this keep your brand’s representation consistent, but it also helps your tribe find your content faster than searching for a needle in a haystack of social media posts.
How’s your search for the right profile picture coming along? I’d love to hear your thoughts + dilemmas! There’s nothing I enjoy more than learning from your experiences. Shoot me a quick message on Instagram and let’s connect!