Headshots for fun or profit?


When you meet somebody you have about 30 seconds to make a good first impression, but what about on-line? When you interact via social networks the first thing people will look at is your “avatar” (headshot) and whether they admit it or not they will form an initial impression of you. So what should your headshot say about you? Ultimately you want people to feel that they can engage with you. Your headshot needs to show you as professional, friendly and open, quite a lot to ask of a few thousand pixels.

These are some common sense guidelines;

  • Above all else your image needs to be well lit, in focus and clear. With today’s digital cameras, phones etc this shouldn’t be too difficult.
  • Your image needs to be recognisably you! However tempting it is to use a 10 year old photo don’t, also make sure you can be seen so avoid dark glasses, fancy dress etc. Remember as well if you change your appearance, e.g. start/stop wearing glasses, change your hair colour, grow a beard or just get older update your image.
  • If you use different images for different networks make sure they are similar, don’t be blonde in one and brunette in another. Some people will advise using the same image for all networks, personally I think a bit of variety is good.
  • A simple pose of body at a, small, angle to the camera, head looking into it, against a plain background works best. Try to avoid it looking like a police photo fit or a bad passport photo.

A couple of things to really avoid;

  • Using a Webcam, this includes Skype, they normally produce an awful image, the camera is pointing up your nose and you’re trying to squint down at the screen, typically with a light behind you.
  • Going too professional it looks like you’re trying too hard to make an impression.
  • Having a blank where the image should be, it just looks like you don’t care.
  • Avoid al all costs cartoons, images of toys, buildings, other people etc. This may be OK for forums but not professional networking.

I could have raked up a set of examples from LinkedIn or whatever but as I don’t fancy going to court over libel I didn’t. However here’s a related example, like many of us I’ve worked for organisations with a photo I.D. normally produced by being stood up against a wall by facilities and snapped with a small camera. This wasn’t good enough for a couple of senior managers, one of whom had an obvious studio portrait, styled hair, studio lighting etc on her their I.D. card and the other a picture from when they received a PHd complete with cap and gown. They were both equally ridiculed.

Oh and the images at the top, all avatars I’ve used, or am using, on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr. Yes what a load of old cobblers (as in son of).

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