Of course your cat/dog/bird/ferret/toddler is incredibly cute, but you probably already know that an actual picture of you makes connecting on social media a lot easier. As an online community manager, I've seen thousands of self-made profile pictures. It's not very hard to take a good self-portrait, considering how advanced the cameras are on most phones, yet I'm surprised at how often I see unflattering or just plain bad “selfies” (self-portraits). While you don't need to have a professional photographer take your profile picture, taking the following thoughts into consideration before snapping can improve how you look to the rest of your social media world.
Consider what's behind you before you take your picture. (Seriously, you would not believe how many bathrooms I've seen in profile pictures.) All you need is a blank wall or a closed door. If you are indoors, make sure that there is plenty of light in the room before you take the picture. Another good background can be a famous monument or favorite outdoor location, being mindful of the sun's position since you want the sun to shine on you and not on the camera (or you'll be in the dark).
One of the best ways to get a good selfie is to have someone else take the picture, especially if you're doing something you enjoy. I know, it may not quite qualify as a selfie if you get someone else to take it, but stay with me on this. Riding a bike, learning to juggle, playing piano, pushing a child on a swing, or playing with puppies can all elicit a variety of good, natural smiles. If you have a friend willing to snap a few pictures (always take several, just in case your eyes are closed or something), these can be easily cropped and edited for a profile picture.
Speaking of smiling, there is no federal regulation that requires you to say "Cheese" to get a good smile. Getting a natural smile (without resorting to a duckface or other silly expressions) is simple: just thinking of the punchline to a good joke, remembering a recent good time you had or recalling a favorite moment from a TV sitcom is usually enough to bring a casual, relaxed smile to your face, naturally.
If it's not convenient to get a friend to take your picture, you don't have to hold your camera up to a mirror to get the shot. (Remember what I said about bathrooms?) You can always use the timer function on your camera or phone to give you a few seconds to “get your smile on” before the picture is taken. To avoid blurring the picture, it's best to have the camera on a stable surface, such as a shelf or table, rather than holding it out at arm's length. A lot of phones now have cameras on both the front and back, so it is easier than ever to see how you'll look before taking the picture.
Finally, be sure to dress appropriately. Some social media sites are more casual (Facebook) than others (LinkedIn). Be mindful of who is likely to be your audience and check the site's policy on profile pictures or community standards before you post.
You don't have to go pro to get a good profile picture, and the suggestions above can help improve your image in your next selfie.
Do you have some additional tips for making a good self-portrait? Share them with us in the comments below, or in a tweet us using the hashtag #mcgblog.