Buzzwords such as “Personal Branding” and “Business Identity” are becoming ever more popular in the professional world. One of the primary components of a brand or identity is the profile picture. If you need to be convinced of the validity of this importance, have a read of any number of articles, such as the ones from The Wall Street Journal or Inc. Alright, now that they've done the easy part of telling you why, I’m going to give you the how. Here’s my Top 5 Tips for a Professional Profile Picture:

What NOT to use as a profile picture.

What NOT to use as a profile picture.

1. Take a Quality Photo 

Nothing says amateur as clearly as an unclear photo. Ditch the pixely, cropped iPhone picture from that party two years ago and take a decent, well lit photo of yourself. It doesn't necessarily have to be taken by a professional photographer (though, if you are interested in such a thing, I may know a certain blogger who moonlights as one). Grab your buddy who recently got their first DSLR (we all have them) and ask them if they would like to try their hand at some portraiture.

Without going into a full photo lesson, just try to avoid using the on camera flash and having a background that is too distracting. If you want to get creative, take one that shows you in your element. If you’re a photographer, hold a camera. If you’re a dog walker, hold a leash (the dogs themselves don’t always cooperate). If you want to keep it simple, a plain background will do just fine. Finally, follow the next four steps.


2. It’s All About You

You are your identity. Don’t confuse your audience with pictures of you with your significant other, brother or sister, cat, or the President. Don’t crop someone out of your picture and have some mysterious arm reaching over your shoulder. Have the subject of the photo be all about you. Any other discernible items in the photo should help tell your story. If they don’t, ditch them.



3. Smile

A smile makes you approachable … and frankly, more attractive. People like happy, people want to work with attractive. Unless you’re a model, there’s really no need for the ever-so-slightly-glancing-away-with-a-contemplative-look look. Be natural, look like yourself, and crack a smile. It’s science.


4. Look at the Camera or to the Left

Again, you’re trying to connect with your viewers. Eye contact forms a very strong connection. It’s pretty straight forward. Technique-wise, try pulling your jaw towards the camera while keeping your body upright and shoulders back. It may feel a little awkward at first and may take a couple tries to look natural, but it will give you that distinguishable jaw line you are always hoping for in pictures. Always avoid pulling your chin into your neck.


Alternatively, looking slightly to the left has also proven to be an attractive profile photo. I suppose it’s a little less confrontational. Why specifically to the left? Because your left is the viewer’s right and information in your profiles are generally to the right of your profile picture. Your eyes will be guiding them to the pertinent information on the page.


5. Consistency Across All Profiles

Once you have that perfect picture that embodies your professional being, put on your marketing hat and realize that this will be the key vehicle for people recognizing your personal brand. You want there to be no question that they've arrived at your Twitter, LinkedIn, or G+ page. Put it up and don’t be afraid to leave it there for a significant amount of time. Changing it every week will only confuse your personal brand.

Examples:  LinkedIn | Twitter | Google + | Meetup | Quora | Instagram | Foursquare

My most recent profile picture. Better than my example above.

My most recent profile picture. Better than my example above.

That’s it! You should be well on your way to having perfect professional profile picture. 

This article was written in preparation for the From Idea to Launch Meetup group's Bringing Ideas to Life conference on Thursday, October 24th at the CapitalOne 360 Cafe in San Francisco. Sponsored by Next Impression, B.Larson Photography & Design provided free head-shots to the attending entrepreneurs. The photographs have been posted below and can be downloaded for use by the subject only. Click to enlarge image; right click to save. All copyrights reserved by NextImpression, B.Larson Inc., and the subject of the photo. For any questions regarding the photos or services, please email

AuthorBen Larson