My Top Ten Tips for doing your own Profile Photos


A large percentage of my work is photographing people and due to the rise of social media, the business headshot has taken on even more significance than before.

A lot of people in business, employed or self employed, have a headshot and I spend a lot of time talking and pitching for people and businesses to book me for their portraits.

Naturally I want you to call and book; I don’t want you to collectively do them yourselves, each of you passing a smartphone along to each other! However, many will, so I thought I’d put together my top ten tips. These tips cover basic considerations, there are more ingredients to getting that great shot, but that is where a photographer should be employed. My plan here is to just potentially help you improve on the home grown photo you might be using. I am assuming that your phone or camera is set on ‘auto’.


Assuming you’re using your phone don’t stand too close. The lens is wide angle and if too close it might distort your colleagues features. So stand back a bit and crop the photo afterwards if needed. If your phone allows select a square frame since all the social media profile boxes are square.


Turn off the phone or camera pop-up flash. You don’t want to use the phone or pop-up flash for the portrait, far better to look for natural light.


The light. Oh, the light. This is make or break. Get your colleague to stand where there is plenty of window light. Make sure the light is soft or diffused. On a sunny day a North facing window should do the trick. On cloudy days likely any window. If your window has strong sunlight pouring through try stringing up a white sheet, muslin would work but anything to diffuse the harshness.


Get your colleague to stand facing the window and experiment with position to look for a nice soft light fall.


Check out the background. A smartphone doesn’t give you the control I have with my cameras so it’s unlikely you’ll be able to blur the background enough to loose details. I am assuming you’re on ‘auto’ with your camera so it will decide on background blur!

So, either position your colleague so there is little in the background, embrace the environment and think about moving furniture and general office stuff to create a nice tidy background, or find a plain flat ‘something’ to position behind your colleague, if not a wall. If you go for the plain flat ‘something’ remember that you’re going to crop so think about framing everything so as to crop out the unwanted background.


Get your colleague to pose so that in the frame, they are dynamically positioned with the flow going to the right or square on to the camera. LinkedIN put the profile photo on page left so ideally you want to be looking to the inside of the page, not the edge. Research suggests people are more dynamically engaged with the page text if the profile photo flows into the page.


Have your colleague look into the lens. In my opinion a profile photo headshot should engage with the viewer, which means making eye contact. Looking off camera steps over to character portraits, which are a different thing altogether.


Don’t say ‘cheese’! Oh, please don’t say ’cheese’!  Basically don’t ask people to smile, let them go with their own expression which makes them feel comfortable. If that’s a big toothy smile fair play, but some people prefer a more subdued or serious image. Most work so long as they don’t scowl!


Position the lens at eye level. This is a business portrait not a dating site profile and I personally avoid the higher angles looking down on my subject. Psychologically the person in the photo loses authority if the camera is too high above eye level and the subject can start to look coy. Check out the ‘power portraits’ of business leaders, politicians, entrepreneurs making waves and more often than not the camera is below eye level, though again, not necessarily too much. Safe zone is eye level, but theirs, not yours!


Edit. Either download a photo editing app for your phone or move the picture to your computer. Check each photo for sharpness in the face, edit the lighting levels if needed and crop if you have stuff in the photo you don’t want, but look to keep shoulders visible or there will be too much face.


An extra tip for free! Have fun. Make it fun. If you’re going to do this yourselves do as a group and have a laugh!


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