The Art of the Profile Pic (the vainest post ever)


So before I began doing “Photography,” before I had a “real” camera, and long before I was making money off it, I was taking pictures. Mostly of myself. It didn’t take me long to acquire a reputation as the “girl with the cool profile pics.”

Now this isn’t to toot my own horn, because honestly it is a double edged sword. I have to admit I look pretty vain when I change my profile pic three or four times a week (at its worst) and I am. Also, I really should own one of those shirts that says “I look hotter on myspace” because this is also true lol. But hey, when you are good at something why not use it, eh?

Anyway, the point is that there is something to be said for a well done profile pic. Notice that I am not saying I take great self portraits. It takes only moments on flickr to find an entire culture of really talented and inventive self portrait artists who are constantly pushing the limit of the genre. I am not in this club, but can I take a hella-good facebook pic? I think so.

So besides, vanity, what good is a profile pic? Well, believe it or not, taking pictures of myself in my bathroom with a crappy point and shoot taught me more about photographing people in general, than any college course or youtube tutorial has to-date.

It forced me to think about angles, lighting, depth of field, composition, styling, and post-processing long before I ever pointed my lens at anyone else. I am convinced that if I hadn’t started with myself as a model, I would have never learned the attention to detail that I apply in my other work. So how does one take an awesome profile pic? Here are a few tips and tricks I have learned over the years…

1. The Bathroom is your best friend:


Seriously, what other room in your house or apartment is small and filled with (usually) direct artificial and side natural light? The bathroom is fantastic for self portraits for this reason. Also, you can check your angles by watching your camera’s LCD in the mirror, and shower curtains can make cool backgrounds.

2. Strike a pose or a million:


It’s a digital age, and that means no film to worry over wasting. So practice, change poses, try on multiple outfits, go nuts! Put on some sun glasses, make kissy lips, do whatever. The important thing is to show personality. Pretty is awesome, but fun AND pretty is even better! I am anything but skinny, so I have to watch what angles I shoot from. If you have a double chin shoot from above, if you have a round face but a strong chin try profile (just make sure your eyes always follow the line of your nose), if you have small eyes shoot straight on and look just above the camera lens, if you want cheek bones make a slight “O” with your lips and play up the coquettish flirty thing, to look sexy, try clenching your jaw while pointing your head downward and looking straight on. Don’t be afraid to cut off part of your head, or to be out of center of the image.

3. Use macro setting:

If you camera has one, a macro setting is awesome because you can get the sharpness in the eyes yet maintain nice soft skin. Sometimes this can result in funny looks with wide angle lenses so just go pinch the pic in Photoshops’s lens corrector.

4. Play around with split-toning and cool effects:

Don’t go over board with picnik and other photo editors. I see so many people add goofy text, or over soften their photos with glowing effects, and it looks amateur, but don’t be afraid to try pushing your colors in some interesting directions. The key is to keep the skin tones looking natural and the saturation from being too high. Adjust your colors to the tints you like then play with vibrancy and saturation levels to keep them in the “real” world.

5. Add texture

One cool way to make your profile pic stand out is to add textures to them. This can be done rather simply in photoshop or picnik pro. You just open your photo, then place another texture image on top of it. Choose a blending mode that works without over powering the actual picture of YOU, then merge and voila! Or go even farther and make a collage! Add all sorts of other images to it for a really unique picture that says something about who you are.

6. Location, location, location

If you tire of the bathroom try some cool outdoor shots. No fancy equipment needed. Just grab your point and shoot and head for the great outdoors. Lay in fields, pull leaves down in front of you, or find interesting textures to lean against.

7. When all else fails: Black and White

Every photographer knows that most people will look at least slightly better in black and white photos, especially if you push the contrast way up. Bonus: People will think you oh so artsy!

8. Spread the love

When you have these down, move on to fresher subjects! It turns out that other people are way more interesting to shoot anyway, but using your self as a Guinea pig/model will help you in a multitude of ways. Also, who doesn’t want a fresh profile pic once and a while?

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2 thoughts on “The Art of the Profile Pic (the vainest post ever)

  1. I enjoyed that you named the Self-Portrait as a genre. It’s true though, artists can revel in the self-portrait and make it flourish. In conclusion, I concur!

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