Four EASY Steps to a Great Profile Pic

Having a killer profile pic is one of the best ways to attract callers.

The average caller looks at the photos first, then clicks through to read your profile only if the picture grabs their attention.  So it makes sense that you want your profile pic to be as enticing as possible.

Our resident shutter bugs have come up with a simple 4-step plan to help you put your best pic forward.

STEP ONE: Lighting

Great profile pics require great light.  Lighting is probably the most important thing you need for a good photo so keep this in mind when choosing your setting.  You’re looking for soft light, with gentle transitions between light & dark.  Take a look at your shadow — it should appear faded, blurry or diffuse.  Don’t confuse this with dim lighting, though, which creates dark or grainy shots.

So where do you find good, soft light? Go natural!  Stand by a window when the sun is shining brightly but not directly upon you. Try to pick a time when the sun is low in the sky, either shoot in the early morning or late afternoon.  A nice side effect of shooting in the early morning or late afternoon is that the color of the light is ‘warmer’, reds and yellows are stronger which generally gives a more pleasing effect.  Outside can also work at sunset, when the light tends to be rich & golden.  The goal is to have soft light all around you.  If you are photographing in sunlight, try to position yourself so that the sun hits you from the side, this will give you nice ‘modeling’ and help create a 3D effect in the picture

No strong shadows on your face, no heavy silhouettes distracting from your bodies graceful outline.

Without doubt, the ugliest way to light a scene is with the little flash that comes built into most cameras. The in-camera flash produces lighting that is flat, giving the impression that your subject has just been run over.  Shadows appear very harsh and look more like an outline than a shadow and, if you are looking straight into a camera using a flash, you will probably wind up with red eye.  This is due to the fact that the flash is way too close to the subject (you).  Also the closer the flash is to the lens, the worse it gets.  Now since not everyone has access to high-end studio lighting, most people wind up using the built-in flash.  So what can you do to make the best of this situation?  Well your best bet is to try and get as much natural lighting into the scene as possible.  Open windows, pull back the curtains and let the light shine in.  Stand so that you are bathed in natural light.  If no natural light is available, light up the room as much as possible.  Soft incandescent bulbs placed around the room with give fill lighting that may allow you to shoot without a flash.  In low light conditions, try changing your exposure mode to shutter priority and set a shutter speed of about 1/30th of a second, if you have a steady hand and there is not too much movement in the scene, this may well give you a sharp enough photo.

Studio lighting is the way to go if you have to shoot indoors.  A studio setup can be anything from a few table lamps and a spare sheet for the background to an elaborate multi flash system.  If you’re not interested in a hobby in photography, go with a couple of table lamps or work lights like you find in garages.  These are inexpensive, and you probably have lamps already in your home.  You’ll need a minimum of 2 lights.  Think of the two lights as a main and a fill, then light the object (you) with the main light first.   Move the main light around to get different effects and see how the shadows fall.  When you get the main light set the way you want, use the second light, on a lower setting or further away to soften the shadows from the main light.  Just be careful not to eliminate them altogether.

Whichever lighting technique you choose, make sure that you pose yourself in a way utilizing the lighting in a positive way.  Experiment with holding your head at various angles, until you find your most flattering viewpoint.  Everyone has a “best side” — take your time finding the position that highlights your best features.  Ask a friend to review your photos, if you’re not sure.

Some other tips for striking a good pose:

  • To thin yourself out, try angling your body about 45 degrees from the camera, while keeping your head turned to face the lens.
  • Arms can be tricky — holding them by your side often appears stiff or unnatural in photos. Instead, pose with one hand on your hips and on straight to your side or behind you. Try crossing your arms, but stay relaxed so you don’t look standoffish.
  • For full-body shots, it’s hard to beat the classic model’s pose: body three-quarters toward the camera, with one foot in front of the other and one shoulder closer to the camera than the other. If you turn your head slightly to the side while keeping your eyes focused straight ahead, you’ll appear to be looking straight at the viewer no matter what angle — kinda like George Washington on the dollar bill.

STEP TWO: Background

Once you find your photographic sweet spot, turn around and really take a good look behind you. Ideally, you want the lighting to be as even as possible, so a blank wall (or even one with patterned wallpaper) usually works great. It’s OK, too, if the area behind you is dark, but significantly brighter backgrounds will distract attention from your face/body.   This probably goes without saying but make sure there’s nothing in your photo’s background that detracts from the image you’re trying to convey. For instance, no laundry, toilets, dirty dishes, stacks of magazines, children or other family members… you get the idea.   You also want to avoid including anything in the image that could give away your identity, you are after all going to post this on the internet.  Look around for anything in the photo that might have your address or real name on it.  Be sure to remove photos of your kids & husband, anything personal should be left out of the scene.

If you can’t find a good empty location to shoot at, a great idea is to use a sheet as a backdrop.  Simply tack it to a wall, and stand in front of it.  Use a light colored sheet if you a low on room lighting.  A dark colored sheet works well with ample light, and helps to make your stand out.

There are a lot of great ideas for outdoor backdrops.  Standing in field or park provides a naturally lit and uncluttered background.  Stand against a brick wall for a grittier image.  Try to avoid standing against objects like cars and boats; these detract from the image of you.

While you should keep the background simple and uncluttered it’s ok to be creative.

STEP THREE: Camera Magic

The easiest way to take a photo is in “automatic” mode. But why be generic when with just a few tweaks, you can create a standout photo.   Zoom in all the way, then step back until your image fills the frame.   Nice, right?

Another trick is to turn your camera on “Aperture Priority” mode (or “Av” on most digital cameras).  Dial the aperture number as low as it will go — some higher-end/DSLR cameras will go down to 2.8 but often point-and-shoot cameras only go to 5.6. No matter, even a small tweak will usually create the close, intimate shot we’re after.

Many new digital cameras have a plethora of onboard filters and effects.  Try out that sepia tone filter for an old fashioned look.  Play around with the filters and see what kind of look you can achieve.  Just don’t get crazy with it.  You still want callers to recognize you as human.

While many new cameras make it easy to take a good picture, take some time to get to know your specific camera.  Learn to use its features and functions.

STEP FOUR:  Make it Work

So you managed to light your scene, find a great location and backdrop, and snap one of the best pics of all time.  Are you happy with your image?  Don’t worry if you’re not, you can still refine it.   Image editing allows you to take a good photo and make it great.  It also allows you to take a bad photo and turn it into gold, well sometimes.  There’s a wealth of image editing software available these days.  You’re camera may have even come with editing software.  Image editing software allows you to do some really amazing things.  You can remove red-eye, crop, resize, and adjust the brightness, contrast, color levels, saturation and hue.  You can equalize, posterize, quantatize, rasterize, it can all be a bit overwhelming.  Since every editing package is different we aren’t going to tell you how to use your software, but we are going to list a couple of pointers.

Level adjustment can move and stretch the brightness levels of an image’s histogram.  It’s ok if you don’t understand histograms, just thing of them as a graph of the individual elements in an image.  Level adjustment has the power to adjust brightness, contrast, and tonal range by specifying the location of complete black, complete white, and midtones in a histogram.  Since every photo’s histogram is unique, there is no single way to adjust the levels for all your photos.  A proper understanding of how to adjust the levels of an image histogram will help you better represent tones in the final image.  Adjusting the black and white levels allows you to lower and raise the contrast in an image.  Be careful not to remove highlights while softening the contrast.  Adjusting the midtone levels allows you pronounce features of the image like a sky in the background, or the texture of the skin.

Use color balance to adjust for color imperfections in your photo.  A very common issue with outdoor shots is getting a washed out or yellow look to the image. Color balance allows you to correct for this usually by altering the different color channels individually.  Color balance allows you to increase or decrease the red, green and blue components of an image.  Often just a minor tweak is all it takes to make a washed out image look more realistic.

Brightness and Contrast settings are available in almost all image editing software packages.  These allow you to correct the brightness and contrast of a photo.   Brightness is how bright or dull an image is, contrast is how the darks in the image compare against the lights in the image.   These are the most common image adjustments people use in image correction.  A common mistake is to immediately go into the contrast/brightness settings to correct for a washed out image.  Try using the color balance first.  Then come back and tweak the brightness and contrast.

Adjusting image Hue and image Saturation.  Hue is the overall color of the image.  Saturation is how much of that color comes through.   If you completely desaturate an image, it will be black and white.  Many images taken with a camera’s default settings can come out over saturated.  The saturation adjustment allows you to dial that down a bit to provide a more natural image.  I would avoid using the hue adjustment, unless you really know what you are doing.  The hue adjustment affects the entire image, so if you increase the red hue, your entire image will become redder.  It is much better to use color balance for these types of changes.

Cropping an image is a great way to place focus on the most important part of the image.  Let’s say you took a banging shot of your gorgeous body, but your image is widescreen, and your standing body only takes up a portion of the middle of the image.  What you want to do is crop your body out of the large image.  Cropping is a cutting tool.  In most applications you draw a box around the area you want to cut out, hit a button, and you have a new image with just the section you wanted.

You’ll often find yourself in a situation where you need to resize your image.  Maybe the file size is too large, or maybe the physical dimensions of the image are too big to view on a computer screen.  Resizing is very simple in most image editing software, and often takes only 1 or 2 clicks.

We recommend the following programs that are easily acquired:

Canva (free)

Gimp (free) 

Picasa (free)

Photoscape (free) 

Paint.net (free

Photoshop

iPhoto