Why your picture says more about you than you think

Think of any issue long enough, and from many angles and you will indeed find that perhaps you have not thought it through as well as you should have.
Social media is not just a growing part of our lives, it has become so intertwined in what we do and how we present ourselves that we really owe it to ourselves to put our best foot forward. The problem is that sometimes, in our rush to keep up with what everyone else is doing, we might tend to just follow along. Sometimes, the consequences become apparent quickly but the danger is when it does not.
Let’s look at this purely from one angle  – your picture. Let’s also consider this in the context of how you put yourself forward professionally. Whether you’d like to accept this or not, your picture says more about you than you’d perhaps care about. While we can’t control everything, we can at least do our best with the things we can control. Not all of this requires a ton of cash or needs our hiring the best photographer in town. Here are some simple things to keep in mind when you decide that you’re posting a photo of yourself or even submitting one for public use ie when submitting a profile to be used when presenting at a conference or when submitting an article for publication.
1.People are affected by first impressions. Ask yourself honestly – when considering a particular scenario (eg submitting a photo as part of your resume or LinkedIn profile upload), what would you say if you saw a picture of yourself? In effect, what does the picture say about you? You don’t need to ask anyone else this question, although it would certainly help to get lots of varied opinions on this. Rely on your own intuition about this as well.
2. Taking a picture is about thinking about the basics. It is about things like :-
i.  What is the purpose of this shot?
ii. Who is likely to use this and to what end?
iii. What are they hoping to gain from seeing this picture?
iv. What impression do I want to create and how can I compose the picture to achieve that desired effect?
v. What does a far-away shot say about me?
vi. What does a close-up shot say about me?
vii. What do the colours I wear say about me?
Then take these into account when preparing to have your picture taken.
3. Good lighting is critical to a well taken shot.
Lighting is as important to your picture as language is to your paragraph. So ensure that your lighting is adequate, yet not harsh.
4. Angle of the shot.
You want to put your best face forward. Sit up straight or better yet, stand. It enables you to look more positive, energetic and perhaps, driven. You can either look away from the camera into the distance or look directly at the camera. For profile shots, it’s best when you take a close-up shot where head and shoulders only are featured.
5. Make it professional.
This is probably better explained by describing what an unprofessional shot is. If this is for your resume or LinkedIn profile, the only person in the photo should be yourself. No group, family or loved ones in your frame. The photo should aim to be straight, not cutesy or lovey dovey. Save the funny shots for Facebook.
6. Grooming. It goes without saying that you should be well dressed and your surroundings neutral. Neutral does not mean boring – so avoid the static harsh blue background of your typical passport photo shot.
7. High resolution image. There have been countless times when in the course of my work, I have had people submitting photos to me to accompany an article, interview or story. Many are happy to send passport photos, low resolution, grainy images that do no justice to the person. This is how you are presenting yourself to the world, especially if social media or publication is the intended channel. Your image of yourself will make as much impact as the words you are quoted on. Ensure that the photo taken is high resolution ie at least 1MB or more in file size. Ensure that the photo taken is sharp, bright and clear.
8. Ask someone, anyone.
There’s no harm in asking at least five people what they think of the shot taken. Listen to what they say and make adjustments accordingly.
You may feel that ultimately this is your life and you should be free to represent yourself however you please. You may argue that people shouldn’t judge you based on how you look. But the reality is that people do make judgement calls, with or without your knowledge. The best way to prepare is to ensure you account for this.
What you don’t want is to be placed in a position where you are being judged and yet, you are not aware of this and therefore, not able to address it. Is this really the call you want to make?

Do :

1. Not make funny faces or gestures at the camera. It may not be understood or may even be misunderstood. It also does not look professional.
2. Not take the shot yourself. Who are you kidding? Your focus should be on ensuring the best angle and lighting and presentation of yourself. Get someone else to focus on taking the shot.
3. Not go for effects like the faded photograph look, sepia tones or soft glow effects.
The list of tips could probably be longer than this so let this be your guiding rule : consider how you look at photos and the kind of self talk you indulge in when looking at pictures. It’s probably no different than how others are considering your picture as well.

About rowena morais

Media Communications and Editorial Specialist. With my strong professional network of contacts, I help individuals and organisations, particularly those within Human Resource and Technology, strengthen their skill-base and brand through compelling writing, beautiful design, content marketing and publishing. Let's talk.

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