Monday, August 20, 2012

Profile Pics--by Linda Kozar

Profile pictures aren't such a big deal, right? You post a picture on Facebook or Twitter or any other social network so people know it's you. But your profile picture tells people who you are. Your picture can invite or repel. The choice is yours.

First things first. Everyone should have a nice headshot. If you know someone who is fairly good at taking pictures, have them take a slew of pictures outdoors in different settings and backgrounds. Choose your favorites. Voila! Fast and inexpensive, this is the best way to go. Or if you prefer, find a photographer. Headshots are not usually that expensive. Shop around for the best deal, but do find a good photographer.

Not a good one...
Unflattering Pictures: 

Browse through Facebook and you are likely to find what could only be described as "unflattering" pictures of folks--like they just glared into the computer on their camera and snapped, resulting in a pale and pasty-faced, no smile, deer-in-the-headlights look. Do people want to visit your page? Nooooo. They'd have to come back and see that welcoming look. Helen of Troy had a face that launched a thousand ships but the face in your profile pic won't even launch your website.

Goofy Pictures:

Don't play around with the iPhotobooth...

Many people think it's kind of fun to post a goofy picture of themselves. For instance, my husband. One Thanksgiving I bought a silly turkey hat for giggles and grins. We all took turns trying it on and having our picture taken. For most of us--that was that. But not for my husband. He posted that picture of him with a turkey hat on Facebook and made it his profile picture! He kept that as his profile pic for quite a while too, loooooong past the holiday season. But in his case it didn't matter much. His Facebook page is only home to family and close friends. No big deal.

Half-Baked Pictures:

Michael in the infamous Turkey Hat

So you've been to one of those photography studios in the mall, right? They teased and coifed your hair, took a makeup trowel to your face and slathered your lips with color and gloss. Why, they even glammed you up in a feather boa! And you chose that as your profile pic? And let's touch on the pose. Some photographers are keen on having you rest your elbows on the table, then resting your chin on your hands. Like that hasn't been done before. You could probably go back through your grammar school pictures and find a similar shot. Which brings me to the next in our line of bad shots...

Vintage Pictures:

Why do some folks live in the past? Because they looked better. They scan and post pictures from ten or twenty years ago and use 'em for profile pics. Not that I'm saying that's a bad thing. If you're reconnecting with a lot of high school or college pals through social media, that might be the most effective way of having them recognize you.

Me in silly hat years ago...

Our wedding pic--1989

But there are other reasons people post vintage photos of themselves--vanity. We all want to look our best, but that's what Photoshop is for. If you don't like how you look, learn how to edit your pictures a bit. Not too much, just enough to soften things a bit. Too much Photoshopping is as bad as too much plastic surgery. Your individual, unique look is replaced by an image that looks nothing like the real you.

This is a hard thing to swallow, but people want to get to know the person you are now--the way you look, the way you smile--not the man or woman you were thirty years ago. I once contacted a real estate agent about selling our home and was surprised at the woman who rang my doorbell. She looking nothing like the picture on her business card. She saw the look on my face and responded. "Sorry, that picture was taken ten years ago."

Icons or Cartoon Characters or Pets: 

Patches' Birthday...

C'mon. Do you really want a cartoon or anime character to serve as your profile pic? Instead of just being personable, many folks choose a personna. When people come to your blog or page, they want to know who they're dealing with. First impressions leave lasting impressions. If the "Roadrunner" or "Porky Pig" represent the real you, then you have more to be worried about than a photo.
And unless your pet is posting on your FB or Twitter page, a picture of your cat or dog or hamster or iguana, is not cool. Period.

Timbucthree Pictures: 
Family Pic at Horsetail Falls

Pictures of you or you and your spouse from a distance are not personable, PLUS they don't look good sized down into a headshot square. Long distance pics do not invite folks to want to visit you and your blog or page. When people have to squint to make out your face, or guess whether or not they're on the right FB page, you've picked the wrong profile photo. The picture might have a breathtaking landscape in the background, or be the best picture ever taken of you and your spouse, but regardless of quality or artistic value, it's not a headshot and is therefore inappropriate for the venue.

If this article hit home for you, it's time to get a nice headshot. I hope you'll take full advantage of gifted friends and relatives or find a great photographer. And by all means, use Photoshop as well. Be the best you, you can be (within reason). Here's hoping your new profile picture is a thumbs-up!


Linda Kozar is the co-author of Babes With A Beatitude—Devotions For Smart, Savvy Women of Faith (Hardcover/Ebook, Howard/Simon & Schuster 2009) and author of Misfortune Cookies (Print, Barbour Publishing 2008), Misfortune Cookies, A Tisket, A Casket, and Dead As A Doornail, (“When The Fat Ladies Sing Series,” Ebooks, Spyglass Lane Mysteries, 2012). She received the ACFW Mentor of the Year Award in 2007, founded and served as president of Writers On The Storm, a local ACFW chapter for three years. In 2003, she co-founded, co-directed and later served as Southwest Texas Director of Words For The Journey Christian Writers Guild. She and her husband Michael, married 23 years, have two lovely daughters, Katie and Lauren and a Rat Terrier princess named Patches.


  1. What if you only use part of your face? ;)

  2. Dear Lisa, That might suggest you have something to hide--unless of course you're going for something artsy. But for an author, a straightforward photo is best.

  3. Cute post! New authors don't realize how important a good first impression can be. The first thing I did was to go to Glamor Shots and have my author photo made. I bought the CD and copyrights, too.

    ~Nancy Jill Thames
    Author of the Jillian Bradley Mysteries
    "Queen of Afternoon Tea" Celebrity Author Interviews

  4. Great post. This is important, but most people don't think about it. I want an up to date photo of the author. I've been disappointed so many times when I meet an author and they don't even resemble their book photo. Good job Linda!

    Debbie Malone
    "Death in Dahlonega"

  5. Thanks Deborah--it's especially important to portray a professional image to readers, publishing houses and agents. Writing is a business like any other and we have to conduct ourselves accordingly.

  6. Linda, great post. I'm good on this and plan to update once a year. But, I read recently that a true glamor shot isn't the way to go because that doesn't look like you. So for conference, I'll be in hair and makeup similar to my photo. So if the agent sees my card later they recognize me. Except for the gala. I'll be all dolled up for the gala. =)

  7. Goodness I am behind on my comments. Great post Linda. You sure know a lot. I will be thinking about getting a new head shot myself, but the thing about the one I have now is that it does look exactly like me. As for the hat, well I love hats and am not so crazy about my hair. Maybe I will show my hair next time. Maybe.


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