I was talking to a friend a few weeks ago about why it is that people prefer to have a less than flattering selfie as their social media profile picture, rather than paying quite a modest amount for a decent professional one. ‘They don’t want to seem vain” she told me, “those posh pictures are just for show-offs”. Aside from my initial bristly reaction (my own profile pic is a professional one and I love it!) I then got to thinking about this a bit more. I can understand the view, but I think it’s a rather outdated and short-sighted one. I’ve always thought it a little odd when people have a lot of professional shots of themselves on the walls at home, but I think this says more about me and the fact I definitely don’t want to see my own face all over my walls, than it does about them.
In the internet age, our online persona has probably become the main way most of us engage with new people. Whether it’s your business page on Facebook, your online dating profile on Tinder, your professional profile on LinkedIn or your personal blog – most of us are looking to make an impression of some sort in the digital world. While the content you post and how well you promote it are key to success online, human beings are inherently a visual species and we want to see who it is we are engaging with. There’s something untrustworthy feeling about those profiles without profile pictures, or whose profile pictures are something abstract like a cat or a tree. We find ourselves asking why the person is hiding, is there something they’re not telling us?
So having a profile picture of yourself is a good start for sure. However, it’s a competitive digital world, so that picture needs to ‘stop the scroll’. We all do it, scrolling through Facebook or Instagram, passing by most of what we are shown. If you want people to notice you online, your picture has to make them stop scrolling and look.
Ok so I’ve maybe sold you on the profile picture thing, but you hate having your photo taken right? So much easier to do a selfie, you can keep trying until you get one you like and no-one will laugh at you right? (well as long as you’re not taking that selfie on Westminster Bridge when your iPhone falls off the selfie stick into the Thames – then people will laugh for sure!). So, I grabbed my friend Lucy, famous selfie taker, local celebrity and distinctly not impressed at the idea of me taking her photo – perfect!
So – we started with Lucy taking a selfie in the studio – Here it is.
Then without changing Lucy’s clothing, makeup or hair we worked on some headshots – here’s the one Lucy chose.
Full disclosure – this image has been processed in Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. The colours have been balanced, the contrast boosted and I’ve evened out Lucy’s skin tone and faded some lines but not removed them. I have not changed the shape of her face in any way! Getting this image was about careful lighting, choice of lens and focal point, depth of field and positioning of the head and body – oh and having a laugh at the same time!
Lucy is my friend, but even so I know this wasn’t the most comfortable of experiences for her and it was crucial to keep the mood light and fun in order to get a picture that shows who she is – a fun, lively, mischievous and professional personal trainer (www.sun-fit.co.uk).
Next we posted both the images on Facebook and asked people which they preferred – and that’s probably how you came to be reading this blog – so now you know! Universally people preferred the professional shot. I have a theory that this is because they don’t see having a beautiful picture as vain, they just see a beautiful picture which they enjoy!
PS – just to prove this wasn’t a one off, here’s another of Lucy’s selfies
And my shot a few minutes before