This article, from Matthew Stibbe, originally appeared on his Bad Language site on 9/9/09.
A good picture of yourself is essential if you want to build your brand online. It really is worth a thousand words.
A few years ago, I hired a professional photographer to take my picture. It didn’t cost much (£200, I think) but I think it was the best marketing investment I have made. It puts a human face on all my interactions online.
(I’m no model so this is making the best of a bad job!. I have more books and less hair now.)
Here are some tips for getting and using a good photo:
- Find a photographer you like. The most important thing is to be relaxed and happy while you’re doing it. Most people dislike posing for photos so you’ll need moral and practical support while you do it. I talked to three or four different photographers. I found a couple online and the others were recommended to me. Back then, I was writing for business magazines and the chap I used (Graham Fudger) took a lot of portraits for them. This is a good thing. Anyone who can make a man in a suit look semi-interesting is a good photographer.
- DIY if you have to. A professional photographer is best but even a DIY picture or the services of a patient and artistic friend with a tripod and nice camera will do if you can’t afford to pay. Just don’t use grainy snaps from a phone camera.
- Choose a natural location. I tried a studio photograph and it was just too formal. I took my picture at my club but any well-lit location that you like will work. The focus should be on you, of course, but a matching setting helps. Guy Kawasaki uses an outdoor location very well in his picture:
- Be yourself. Avoid joke pictures. Don’t dress up too much or be too casual. Choose the clothes you would normally wear if you were trying to make a good impression. Take a selection of different items and take advice from the photographer.
- Colour balance for onscreen use. A photographer can tweak a picture in Photoshop so it works better onscreen. Get a print version as well, just in case.
- Crop out the boring bits. Focus in on the expressive bits of your face – eyes, mouth, forehead, cheeks. The rest of it is irrelevant, especially if you only have a 32×32 pixel icon to play with. If you look at the image I use on this blog, it’s just my face cropped out of the picture in this post. Seth Godin is, of course, an exception but his picture uses his eyes very expressively: