Social Media Profile Pictures – Advice from Paul Harrison Photography about creating the right first impression with your social media profile pictures.


What do social media sites and dating sites have in common?

Your brand can draw some valuable lessons from dating websites (bear with me). Imagine your social media profile picture brand is on that dating page competing against all the other ‘brand’ pictures… which one is the client going to pick and what is going through their head? Are they going to ask you on a date…?

Image is everything. Twitter, Google, Facebook, LinkedIn…etc, are all windows to your brand and it’s still common for businesses to not think twice about which picture they upload.

twitter profiles


Neat hey? Me with a Gorilla in the background and Olly posing as a monkey!

No, not at all. At Curveball we frequently preach about your video representing your brand, but not much about your thumbnail picture.

Recently Cyrus Shepard did some tests using his Google Plus thumbnail picture against his blogs and got some incredible results (read the full report here)

Essentially he found that his click through rate rose by 35% and his bounce rate dropped simply by using a professional looking photograph opposed to an obviously self shot one.

“Nothing is more important than a first impression and you only get one chance to make it. A potential client’s decision to do business with you is based on many things but one of the biggest factors will be the sense of professionalism, competence and demeanor portrayed in your picture.” Paul Harrison, photographer.

Curveball Media



So exactly how important is a photograph?

A recent study by NYU found that simply by looking at a photograph you can gauge 9 out of 10 personality characteristics accurately (read that report here)


“A lot of people don’t like to admit that they make judgments based on appearance, but it’s inherent in everything that we do” says Laura Naumann, director of the Personality Lab at the University of California, Berkeley, and an author of the study. “Anywhere you have a profile and pictures are being posted, people are using that information.”

From the brain’s point of view, 90% of the information we receive is visual and we process this information 60,000 times faster than we process text.


Dan and Olly


To Logo or not to Logo?

And don’t think that you can get out of it by just posting up a picture of your logo.
People relate to people. We’re talking about social media here.

“People buy from people, and they make that decision on who to do business with pretty quickly. The internet has transformed how people interact and network. It is not uncommon for a potential customer to do some research on you before deciding to set up that first meeting…or not. During this research they will no doubt come across your LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook or company bio page. When they land on this page they are not going to go straight into reading your CV, testimonials, work experience or references. They are going to look straight in the top left hand corner at your profile picture. They may well make a split second decision as to if you look like the kind of person they want to do business with. Of course, the rest of the contents of your Bio or profile will play a huge role in securing that connection, but allowing the potential customer to put a professional and approachable face to the name will help no end.” Paul Harrison




The photograph: a window to your soul…and your brand

Quality is very important. On many social networks you might have a square 48×48 pixel picture. You need to fill that tiny amount of screen real estate with the strongest image possible. This is where you need to think about investing in a professional shoot. It might seem like a luxury at the time, but the lighting and posing techniques offered by a professional will result in a far more pleasing image than you could manage with an iPhone self shot, for example. It could also double up and be used for other purposes, like in the company brochure. You might even get asked to speak at an event and they need an image for the hand-out.




Here’s some advice from Paul Harrison about your thumbnails:

Things to avoid for social media profile pictures. 

  • Keeping the default picture. Most people will think you are a “Bot” or spam account. Plus by not having a picture at all might make people think you have something to hide.
  • Holiday photos. Sharing on your personal Facebook page is one thing, but not many people looking to do business with you will want to see you on a beach in Spain in your sunglasses with a bit of suntan lotion on your nose.
  • Group shots. The focus should be about you and unless you are putting a caption on it, people are going to struggle to work out who is who!
  • Cropped images. Nine times out of ten, it’ll be obvious that you have cropped yourself out of a group shot by the random hand on your shoulder or a mysterious floating ear. Doesn’t show you in the greatest light.
  • Photos from the work party or a night out. Potential customers don’t have to think you are a saint, but just be selective.

Curveball Olly


Things to consider for social media profile pictures.

  • Fill the frame. It’s all about you, so make it about you. The image isn’t going to be that big so full length shots are not going to work that well. Head and shoulders are all that are needed.
  • Think about your background.  Something plain and clean will really make your image stand out. Colour can be added to tie in with company branding. Avoid the school photo style grey or green 1970’s cloudy colour backgrounds at all costs!
  • Make sure its well lit. Soft light, either natural or from professional flashes is much more flattering than direct flash from a point and shoot or the harsh midday sun.
  • Good quality. Make sure it is clear and not a low quality pixelated mess that people have to squint to see.
  • Match images. Try to make your images match across your social media profiles. It creates a continuity and enforces a strong online identity.


Paul Harrison is a Norfolk based freelance portrait and event photographer. Having worked for many years in the television industry, he is currently pursuing his life long passion for all things photographic.

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Comments to "Social Media Profile Pictures | Does it really matter?"

  1. Pingback: Improve your picture… Get more clicks! | Paul Harrison Photography

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