How to Take a Great ‘About Me’ Photo

December 13, 2013

TQ-Day 03_154

I don’t know if it’s just because I’m incredibly nosey, but whenever I go to a new blog or website and enjoy the content, the next thing I want to do is find out what the author looks like. It always nice to put a face to the name after all. A lot of us are afraid of having our photos taken or showing the world what we look like (why!? you are beautiful!) but having one is super important. Using a photo of yourself not only builds trust and makes people feel like they’re talking to/ reading the words of a real person but it’s a great way to filter out your non-ideal clients.

I obviously have quite a strong ‘look’. Some people will love the pink hair and tattoos and that’s awesome, we’ll probably get on great and I want them to keep reading my site. Others will look at me and think “What a hot mess, pink hair is tacky and tattoos are gross!” and that’s fine too, why would I want someone to keep reading my site if they think that? They clearly aren’t going to enjoy my content. It’s actually a great filtration method.

Even if your personal style isn’t a polarising as mine, having photos of yourself on your About page and as your social media profile photo is imperative. So stop being scared of the camera and start embracing the chance to show the world who you are and what you look like!

When it comes to taking a great About Me photo, here are some of the most important things to think about:

The light

Photography is essentially painting with light so it is crucial for taking a great shot. There is no point trying to take the photo when it’s dark. If you schedule in a shoot, make sure you give yourself plenty of time before the sun goes down.

At the other end of the scale, never stand in direct sunlight. The harsh shadows on your face will not only be incredibly unflattering, but you’ll be squinting. Never a good look. If it’s a bright day, find a patch of shade to stand in. The diffused light will be a lot more forgiving.

If the day is overcast or gloomy, look for natural reflectors. A natural reflector is basically anything that reflects light back onto the subject. If there is a pool of light on the ground, stand just behind it so it can bounce up and illuminate you. If the light is limited, get someone to hold up something white next to your face (off frame obviously). This will bounce some light back towards you. A pillow or a blank sheet of paper is perfect for this.

In an ideal world, you want to be shooting in natural light. Tungsten light photographs really yellow and fluorescent or strip lighting is just a gross nightmare. If you are indoors, stand facing or near a window. Natural light is an amazing natural airbrusher and the glass of the window will also nicely diffuse it as it hits your face.

Your background

Standing in front of something interesting, even if the shot is going to be a close up, will create a much more dynamic final picture. I personally love coloured walls or striking wallpaper.

Make sure there is nothing ugly or distracting in the background. Even if you’re shooting with a shallow depth of field (so the background is blurry) it’s better to not have anything too obnoxious back there.

TQ-Day 03_160

Using props

Props can be a great way to get your personality across but can also give you something to do or hold if you’re nervous about being photographed. Don’t just grab something for the sake of it though, think about the story that it tells.

It is a little cheesy to hold a camera if you’re a photographer or a wooden spoon if you’re a baker. It is an option but try to think of something less obvious. What story do you want to tell and what do you want people to know about you? If it’s that you’re fun and wacky, how about rocking a weird hat or some crazy sunglasses? If it’s that you’re whimsical and thoughtful, why don’t you hold a balloon or a bunch of flowers?

Turn off that flash!

Flash is not the devil. There are some amazing photographers out there who kill it every time with incredible flash techniques, but unless you really know what you’re doing, turn off that on-camera flash. It will wash you out, irradiate anything pretty or subtle from the shot and will make you look like a sick person.

If your photos are turning out too dark, put the ISO up on your camera a notch to compensate, wait for a brighter day or use some natural reflectors!

Hair and make up

You will feel a million times better and more confident if you feel good about how you look. If this is a photo you’re going to be using over and over then of course you want to look your best. Booking a hair and make up artist should be top of your list.

Hiring a pro

Similarly if these are photos you are going to use a lot (on your About page, in the press, on your social media) then they are worth investing in. If you don’t fancy struggling through with getting the knack of your camera, posing well and thinking about light all at the same time, then for goodness sake hire a professional to do it for you!

Someone who has a good camera and lens (and crucially knows how to use them) will always take a better photo than you can do yourself with a tripod and remote or a well meaning friend. A great professional photographer will also know how to pose you in the most flattering way, will be able to put you at ease in front of the camera and will know how to get the very best shot every time.

I personally love working with wedding photographers because it’s their job to make people look good! A lot of them will also take head shot or portrait session bookings and you’ll be surprised at how affordable it can be if you only need them for a few hours.

TQ-Day 03_169

Keeping it up to date

If you change your hair, get new glasses or have a nose job, make sure you take new profile photos. Yes, you might look beautiful, young and slim in that prom photo from 1987 but if you look nothing like that any more people will get a bit of a shock when they meet you in the real world! I personally think you should update your profile photo at least once a year but then I am a big massive poser after all…

As a side note you should also keep your profile photo consistent across all your social media platforms and on your About page. It can be tempting to use a different one for each, but people often recognise images before they do text so keeping them all the same will make it a lot easier for your followers to know which accounts are yours.

A few simple posing tips:

I’ve written extensively about how to pose in photos before, but here are a few more tips to make sure you look your best.

If you stand there like a rabbit in the headlights, you will look that way in the photos! If you are nervous, don’t try to look straight down the barrel of the lens. Why not try looking off to one side or downwards? Also, give yourself something to do. Movement looks great in photos. The result will be a much more natural and you’ll feel less self-conscious if you’re actually doing something as you’re being shot.

If, like me, you are paranoid about the dreaded double chin effect, stick your neck out ever so slightly (yes, like a bird!) and angle your chin down a little bit. Think long and lean! Elongate your neck and pop your collar bone out. It sounds odd (you might need to practice in the mirror a few times so you don’t look like a demented pigeon) but exaggerating the angles of your jaw can really make a difference to how you look in the final photo.

If you’re having a full body shot and you want to look slimmer, twist your body to a 45 degree angle, put one leg forwards and put all your weight onto your back foot. This will give the illusion of a slimmer waist and longer legs!

Finally, if you get into a pose and you feel awkward (as in physically uncomfortable not just uncomfortable about the fact that you’re in front of a camera) you will look that way in the photo. Move into a position that’s more natural for you.

Take a lot of photos. I drive Gareth mad when I want him to take a photo of me because I need at least 50 shots in order to pull one semi-decent one out of the bag! No-one gets it right first time so keep snapping away until you get one that you like.

Like anything, the more you have your photo taken, the easier it becomes. So stop being scared of the camera and go and get your pose on!