Portraits for Social Media

9th October 2014

For many of us, having our picture taken is a painful affair. One we try to avoid at any cost. Unfortunately, for those of us running our own business or being part of a larger organisation, we need a face to go with our trade. Whether solicitor or farmer, photographer or yoga teacher, showing who you are can have a big influence on how you and your business are perceived.

We all know the websites that are great with text and then have a link to an ‘About Us’ page – but there are no pictures. Nothing to show there is a human being behind the site. Most of us respond well to seeing a picture of the people we’re dealing with. Someone we’d be able to contact and communicate with. Maybe even do business with!

We all need a portrait for social media. Our Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and blog profile pictures can all benefit from  the following simple guidelines.

It’s You!: Make sure that the picture of you also looks like you. Don’t try to be too clever with you profile picture. Getting too arty with the lighting, cropping, fancy filters and composition may just end up hiding your best features. You can save your creative expression for your Flickr gallery! You really do want people to recognise you.


Pose to Please: Arms crossed, face happy, chin up! Beware that some combinations simply don’t work. Arms crossed, face unhappy mostly results in the ‘bouncer’ look and will make you appear defensive. Hands on face could just make it look like you’re hiding. Chin up too far makes you appear arrogant – too low and you’ll look shy. Play it safe and do some alternatives so that you have a choice.

Keep it Clean: By this I mean uncluttered, plain but smart. The image may be used very small and any fine detail will be lost. Wear contrasting colours and think of how they will show against the background – white shirt on a white background = floating heads!


Light and Simple: Go for an image that is not too flat but has a bit of ‘punch’ to it. This may mean strong lighting or adding contrast when you process the image. But watch out.. making it too contrasty will wipe away your features.

Shades of Grey: Colour or black and white is fine. This will depend on the design of your website and using a monochrome image may be perfect. When going for colour, it may be good to have bright colours but take some care not to turn your complexion into a blush by over saturating them.

Left or Right: Your face should be looking into the ‘page’. This means if your pic is positioned on the right, you should look to the left – and vice-versa. This rule can be broken but will depend on the design and layout of your page. Looking at the camera is not always important although it can give a more direct feel to the images if viewers can look into your beautiful eyes and make a connection! For some subjects, it is more flattering if the camera view is from a slightly higher angle looking down. Nothing too steep, mind. All subtle and considered.

Part of the Team: When you’re considering a series of portraits of employees or members of the team. It pays to spend some time thinking about a consistent look and feel. This could mean simply using the same background and lighting. Consistency can also be created by processing the images in a certain way. Mostly it can be done by a combination of these. You may consider making the look replicable for future sessions. A consistent style and look will make you appear more like a team. It adds professionalism, care and tidiness. It shows that you’ve made an effort.


Selfie: I love taking self-portraits with my iPhone and I can get some pretty good results – at least, that’s what I think! The temptation to create a home-made portrait is understandable and in many instances, can look stunning but having the keen eye of a professional will give you some additional benefits. Apart from the fact that a pro has the right equipment, he/she can also tell you when your expression is inappropriate or something else (!) needs a little attention. In other words, a pro can provide you with that subjective view that none of us have when we look at ourselves.