Choosing your own profile pictures is a lot like choosing a boyfriend in high school.
Remember that boyfriend Wayne you had in high school you were obsessed with? You lay awake dreaming of your wedding. You picked out the dress in your head (Disney princess vibes). You named your future children (Sarah & Joel). You thought you would literally die if it ended with him. Like, literally die.
There was only one problem.
All your friends hated him.
They could see the real him: the lyin’ cheatin’ lazy bum everyone except you could see plain as day.
You know where I’m going with this. You were too close to the situation and too inexperienced in matters of the heart to see him for who he really was. And that’s why you suck at choosing your own profile pictures or headshots. You’re too close to be objective.
Um, hello? How much of your life do you spend online? You do most of your business online. I have friends who literally met their soul mates on dating sites online (not Grindr, nothing good comes from Grindr). You use LinkedIn to build your personal brand. Your headshot is plastered all over your website, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat…
Don’t just take my word for it:
“Research suggests that choosing the right image may be critical – people’s first impressions from profile photos shape important decisions, such as choices of whom to date, befriend, or employ.” White, D., Sutherland, C.A.M. & Burton, A.L. Choosing face: The curse of self in profile image selection. Cogn. Research 2, 23 (2017) https://rdcu.be/ddzyF
You know that’s some legit info because they use fancy words like ‘whom’.
So yeah, choosing a flattering profile picture matters. And by flattering I mean the profile picture that is going to appeal to the most number of people.
Choosing the right profile picture also means the right picture for the right social platform. You might want to look a bit saucy on Hinge but you need to look professional on LinkedIn.
All sorts of weird emotional baggage comes into play when you look at photos of your own face. Your perception of yourself, your history, your biases and your preferences to name a few. I deal with this every day as a headshot and personal branding photographer at Photoform*. I can objectively look at a photo and say omg I love that picture! My client however is looking at it and all they can see is a slightly crooked eyebrow or some other random weird thing no-one is looking at or cares about.
I know this is true from my own anecdotal evidence. When I was younger I would look at photos of myself and think “yuck”. I look at those photos now and think “damn, I wish I looked like that now”. I often say that to clients, you might not like these pictures now, but when you get to my age you will!
Though I’ve long suspected personal biases when it comes to choosing pictures, no direct research had been done. But that’s all changed now. Some clever scientists studied 2 groups: group 1 chose their own profile pictures and group 2 chose profile pictures for someone else.
Their conclusion is clear.
Other people will choose a more flattering profile picture of you than you.
“We conclude that people make suboptimal choices when selecting their own profile pictures, such that self-perception places important limits on facial first impressions formed by others.” https://rdcu.be/ddzyF
Sub optimal choices. LOL. You could say my life is defined by sub optimal choices. It’s also a nicer way of saying your profile picture choices aren’t great.
We’ve established you’re not the best at making profile picture choices, so who should do it then? Pretty much anyone else but you. Run it past some friends. You could even do a little poll on Facebook – ‘which profile picture should I use?’
My suggestion? If you’ve hired a photographer for your headshots or profile pictures, listen to their photo selection choices. Your friends might be well intentioned, but they aren’t trained image professionals.
Photo editing and selection is as much a part of photography as lighting, posing and direction. I’ve probably made a million image selection choices over my career and can assess a photo pretty quickly.
Looking to elevate your LinkedIn profile picture? Then these tips are for you:
Need headshot and personal branding photography in Melbourne? Click click on the image below to take you to the Photoform* mothership. We low key love choosing your photos for you!
All images and text except where credited to other authors are the copyright of Myles Formby of Photoform*.