You are absolutely right. I've been planning to take a professional picture but after reading this, it's become a priority. Thanks.
Personal Image Online
Consider the image you use online as carefully as any other part of your business.
There is a certain language that we are developing around business and our expectations as owners and customers. They include terms like relevancy, authenticity, and accountability. The days of hiding behind a logo or a companies policies are waning as more information, and the speed and accuracy of that information becomes accessible not only to your customers but the whole world. It is more important than ever to look to the local community to build trust and develop relationships based on openness. Images build trust faster than any other medium in business, trust translates to business.
How many ignore the importance of images online? It is the purpose of any portrait to capture that moment when you are most human, most yourself and exactly like you imagine yourself at your best. A good portrait will develop trust and convey meaning beyond what you can tell people about you or your brand, in this way a photo is a 1000 words.
Q: Is your profile image or avatar accomplishing this?
(def) Avatar: An incarnation, embodiment or manifestation of a person or idea.
A traditional headshot in the past was used to present an image of professionalism to potential clients and business partners. The likelihood of anyone outside of this narrow group ever seeing the image remained minimal at best, your PR firm may have used it in a brochure or even put it on your business card. Traditionally these business portraits were used to build trust with people who may not have constant contact with you, professions like lawyers and real estate agents frequently updated their headshot to show their client they can still smile. (okay that last part was a dig from me.)Google changed everything. Now it is standard practice to google new hires and potential clients prior to meeting them and see the drunken pictures from that frat party in college on your myspace page *and* the business headshot in the brochure. There is a merging of personal and professional lives that is more often than not referred to as Personal Branding
The avatar becomes an easy to manage solution, especially if you are involved in the communities on twitter, facebook, linkedin, etc. With people actively tweeting on average 10-20 times a day, that is a lot of seeing your poorly chopped and shopped photo for your followers and it makes a difference.
Consider the image you use online as carefully as any other part of your business. Living in a highly visual culture clients rarely read anymore they just look and make a snap association. Nearly every member of your audience will make highly sophisticated judgements about you and your business in the first few seconds. The quality, style and uniqueness of your brand will translate instantly to new followers, clients and customers directly through your profile photo.
Look, the truth just feels different
Chances are you have a photo snapped by a family member or friend that encapsulates your identity (how you perceive yourself and imagine others to perceive you). However if you decide to hire a photographer keep this in mind: A photographer should take an honest portrait; to see that part of you that is authentic, beautiful and true. If you look at their work and it all feels plasitc or cookie cutter they will handle your portriat in the same way.
An honest portrait may seem idealistic or lofty as a goal and I would agree most photographers are more concerned about time, equipment and selling you pictures after the shoot. Avoid them, and seek the value in being true to yourself and open with your audience.
Learn more about the author, Tyson Crosbie.
Comment on this article
Posted by Will Peters, Charlotte, North Carolina |
Oct 13, 2008
Posted by Steve MacDonald, Phoenix, Arizona |
Oct 14, 2008
Tyson, it is amazing how many times your photo comes up online and represents you. I love the idea of the avatar and changing up the look. I have also seen your work and would love to have 5-7 shots that could be rotated in my profiles to change things up a bit and keep it fresh.
Thanks for the inspiration to make sure that we are focusing attention to this area!
Posted by Charlene Kingston, Higley, Arizona |
Oct 18, 2008
As a small business owner, I see the potential and advantages of the social media realm. At the same time, some aspects of this new world are foreign to my current business sensibilities. As a result, I have had a push/pull relationship with the inherent transparency social media requires. I am in a technical field, and having a photo has not been part of my business setup. However, after reading your article, I have a deeper understanding of the role of an avatar, and clearly see the value and importance of having an honest portrait to represent me online.
Posted by Thomas Willa, Renton, Washington |
Oct 19, 2008
Tyson, I agree that the image one picks to represent one self is very important. I find your image posted an interesting example. It has great composition, dynamic light and some solid simultaneous contrast. I just changed from to a self portrait head shot from a shot of me and one of my cameras. I am slightly concerned about the sterness of the image but wanted to post a new image.
I found Elizabeth Lee, Seattle another great photoghaphic creation. I get a sense of openess from it. I think that both yours and hers are beautiful artisitic expressions but ponder the marketing concept of identifiable image. Perhaps presenting a true image should be tempered with the ability to communicate visually and recognize the individual.
I work with the individuals to create honest excellent portraits that capture an essence of spirit. I have often heard," You're the photographer what do you think? " I like to reccomend some eye contact to help others recognize the client. I like poses that are non-traditional but believe that body language messages should be considered.
Posted by Kate Phillips, Seattle, Washington |
Oct 21, 2008
Thanks Tyson. I agree that the old posed-in-front-of-cloudy-backdrop photos (think senior pic, circa 1990) are out. But I also wonder what people are thinking when they post some casual snapshot that looks like something your neice snapped on a $7 camera.... out of focus, flat, and boring. Our photo represents us and our business, and it's the first impression we get. Whether it's a great shot a family member took or one we paid a photographer to take, we probably don't want the first impression to be "I'm either too cheap or lazy to have a half-decent picture!"
Posted by Pam Hoelzle, Kirkland, Washington |
Oct 22, 2008
Okay I'm updating my photo's this week- watch out- so if we have an old look we need to ditch the old photo's. Seems obvious but many of us me included are moving at warp speed and you bring a timely reminder to me if I am now a short haired brunette better ditch the long blonde hair photos...Smile!
Posted by Hazel Grace Dircksen, Seattle, Washington |
Dec 07, 2008
Great advice. I think one of the most important things you touched on is using an honest photo that represents authenticity... depending on which website you're using it's important to think about who your audience is and what the user culture is... Biznik & LinkedIn are different from Facebook or Yelp for example, because on business networks most people still expect you to be a little more polished (thus, the semi-professional shot I use here), versus on Facebook or Yelp, where being "real" is key and people don't trust you if you do use a professional headshot - it's considered cheesy and demonstrates that you don't really understand the user culture...
On Twitter, your photo should align with your content - all too often I see people with polished business head shots who use their Twitter to post about little more then their kids, petting the dog, etc.... on the other hand, many of the most successful Twitter members understand that content is key and sometimes, the best visual brand is not trying to hard, because your content speaks for itself (this is a very common belief among successful techies here in Silicon Valley). For example, Techcrunch first started Twittering using their logo, but then Michael Arrington switched it out to this informal, but real photo that puts a face behind the brand and is more approachable: http://twitter.com/TechCrunch
Other good examples of successful Twitter users "keeping it real" are:
Keeping your image real, or at least appearing to be "real" on SOCIAL sites that are not business networks, helps to make you more approachable, trusted and demonstrates that you understand that our social and business images are very quickly merging into one and it’s up to us to slap some personality on it and make it memorable among the millions of other users out there!
- social media
- profile picture
- personal brand
- online branding
- business image