What use are profile pictures?

A recent comment on the Bunchberry and Fern blog has caused me yet again to question what value – if any – my profile photo has. It said – tongue in cheek – that I looked ‘rampant’.

They were being nice.

I’ve had plenty of worse things said about that picture, which comes from a three-quarter length shot taken 3 years ago:

 All this has made me question the value of profile pics at all. Jay Cross was also being kind (I think) when he said it looked nothing like me. Others have simply said … well, I won’t repeat them.

The point is that your photo is a bit like a personal, on-line logo. Ideally you’d use the same picture everywhere to re-inforce the same positive, strong brand image that summed up your personality in a few pixels.

On the other hand, you can just go with the best choice from a bad bunch of snaps, which is what I did, and is what I suspsect most of us do.

Re-examining this photo, though, led me to a terrible revelation. Subconsciously when this photo was taken, I think I may have been modelling myself on a suave alter-ego of the 1970s and ’80s.

So, just who is my smooth doppelganger?

Yes, dapper Roger Moore, arch eyebrow raiser and former 007.

I think it may be time for a new photo shoot ….

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14 responses to “What use are profile pictures?

  1. Ha ha ha! Just so everybody’s clear, I was talking about ‘rampant’ in the sense of the ‘lion rampant’ in heraldry.

    And, you’re right. I was being nice.

    I don’t have my face in any of my web profiles having an eye, a doll and a screen from Mario Karts as my three favourite motifs. And you’re right again – they were just pictures I’d saved on my desktop.

    If you really want to go for the Roger Moore, I suggest a safari suit or a patterned woolly jumper. Although Mr Moore is the only man on record who has ever ‘busted’ this particular look.

  2. The value of great profile photo?

    Your profile photo is often the first stage of building a rapport with potential clients, associates and employers, especially with so many of us using social media as a tool for networking purposes. Therefore it is essential you get it right if you want to make the right first impression.

    I think profile pics (or hero shots) should be PPE, which stands for Professional. Personable and Engaging and not FFF (Fuzzy Faraway and Forgetful)

    An image which portrays you as a confident professional within your area of expertise. It should capture your personality (not just a generic headshot) and it should draw the viewer in and make them want to find out more about you.

    It should also look like you – i.e recent, taken within the last 12-18 mths. People who use old photos are just kidding themselves (and the people they connect with)

    I wouldn’t say your looked “rampant” but your photo does appear a bit cold and a bit too serious – a bit “Faraway”

    When you do get it re-shot make sure your photographer is a “people” photographer with great personal skills, someone who is able to draw out your personality and then capture it -Then you should have a great choice of images to choose from and not have to use the best of a bad bunch

    Remember your face is your brand…

  3. John – thanks for your very professional comment on a light-hearted muse. You are of course correct in everything you say. I just need to find a very patient pro to work with.

    Simon – I get the ‘rampant’ now. And I’m going straight out to invest in a Safari suit.

  4. Having just uploaded my usual profile picture to the Learning and Skills Group site I discovered a problem. On Twitter, LinkedIn et al my cropped black and white picture usually works quite well because of the small size allowed for profile pics. However, when I went to ‘My Page’ on the Learning and Skills Group site, the size of the picture is suddenly huge! And subsequently really rather fuzzy and a lot less effective.

    So I actually made a note to go away and find a better picture to use. But if I change my LSG profile I’d prefer to change it everywhere I use it.

    I also need to change my name everywhere having just got married, but that’s a different story…

    And Don I’ve always liked your profile picture and thought it works really well as your brand image. My description would be ‘dashing’.

    P.S: I have no idea if I have a profile picture loaded up to appear alongside this comment….

  5. If you need help in resizing your images Kate let me know. Its best to keep high, medium and low resolution jpeg versions for different uses, generally a 500 x 500 pixel image is the biggest you’d need for an online profile but you’d need a high res one for any print media

  6. Good point – as you say, your face is your brand and I do exactly that with the company logos so why not my own picture?!

    Thanks John.

  7. Damn. Thought I had the James Bond bit nailed with the online photo of me in a DJ… Chosen for the simple reason that is was the the only half-decent photo I could find of myself.

    I’m with John though – I think a good photo really helps with predominently online communications.

    P.S. If it’s any consolation Don, I thought you looked more like Grace Jones…:-)

  8. Thanks for the comments, guys (although I’m not sure about Grace Jones , Matt).

    There’s no doubt that having *any* picture makes a huge difference in online networking, and if you’re going to have one, you might as well make it a ‘dashing’ one (thanks, Kate).

  9. An interesting discussion, about your present photo, yes it is a bit aloof and cold. People would be apprehensive to approach you casually, you look too professional and suave. Personally, I think a photo should be honest, portraying what you really are. If you like to keep distances and don’t like people coming to you often for friendly advise, the present picture does the job well. Think well before you change it as a soft picture, what they refer to as peoples picture will draw much more attention from the people who were hesitant in approaching you earlier for help or guidance. By the way, the pose and the cut of the suit does look like the classic 007 guy stuff, though I would say like Craig as Daniel Craig is hotter than Moore any day!

  10. Well, Don, I stand by my original observation. I think I said you looked like a snob — and that’s not who you are at all. I change the photo of me on my sites all the time: because I’m changing all the time.

    Go to a professional photographer, or a really good amateur, and have them take 50 shots. Pick your favorite. It will change the way people see you.

  11. Jay, thanks for the comment – and I’m rather afraid that you’re right. As for 50 shots, though, I think that’s a little optimistic. My guess is that it will take a few more than that!

  12. Well, I’m astounded. Persoanlly I love the picture you use for your avatar. Now having seen the full image I’m even more appreciative of it. It might ont convey your full personality but it has an element of class to it that can only be found in 70s and 80s characters (not that I’m saying you are old!).

    Could you start the next webinar I attend by announcing your self as “My name is Taylor, Donald Taylor” just so I can get the full persona. The Sean Connery / Roger Moore impression is optional of course 😉

  13. When it comes to photos, you can’t please everyone, though sometimes you can over-please yourself.

    On Facebook and Twitter, I used this photo, which is not in fact me. When I chose it, I didn’t have John Cassidy’s advice, so it’s also not new.

    I don’t know whether John would agree, but I think it hits at least two out of three PPE points: it’s personable (since the man in the photo is actually my dad, at age 21) and it’s reasonably engaging (the Royal Canadian Mounted Police still have a better reputation than many similar groups).

    For the informal linking that I see Twitter and Facebook enabling, and the quick recognition I think the photo allows for those who know me in those channels, Dad’s picture is just right.

    There’s a more conventional shot on the About page of my blog. No one’s remarked on it at all in 40 months, though.

  14. Sorry Dave but I don’t quite agree with your self assessment of my PPE analogy. Although its a very a nice portrait and one that obviously holds personal and sentimental value to you it isn’t a photo of you. Your profile image, wherever it is on twitter, Linkedin or Facebook etc should be you.

    Family images have their place but they should be in galleries that you are happy to share but people want to see you, the real Dave Ferguson and your photo will entice people to find out more about you and what you do.

    I’ve had a look at the profile photo on your blog and get a much better impression of you. I’d say this photo is very close to PPE. Here I can see a person who looks professional, someone with personality and someone I’d like to connect with.

    Technically its not quite perfect but its a much better photo to use as your avatar as it gives me a good overall first visual impression of who you are. I’d add this one to your twitter profile as its a much better and truer image. If I were you though I’d also write a fantastic blog about your dad and his RCMP service which you are obviously very proud of. Include this image as part of that blog and that will enable people to see another part of you.

    Send me the link once you’ve done it as I am intrigued to find out more……

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