In the world of social media, nothing’s more important than your profile pic. It’s the first thing that everyone sees, so having a good one will help you make a positive first impression.
But what makes for the BEST profile pic? Lots of things! What your wear, how you smile, what kind of background you use—they all go into making you shine. We’ve got top-tier tools and tips to help you shoot, edit, and post your best profile pic so you can make a splash on all your favorite social networks.
Shooting your profile pic
Great profile pics start with the shoot. Here are a few tips and tricks:
Use a neutral or muted background. White backgrounds can wash out lighter skin tones, and brightly colored backgrounds can cast an uncomplimentary hue across the skin.
Use soft, natural light and avoid harsh flashes. This will ensure you look your best and will avoid obvious shadows.
Show your brightest, most natural smile. Don’t be afraid to flash your pearly whites!
Avoid selfies where you can see or sense that your arm is holding the camera. Instead, use a self-timer or have someone else take your picture.
Experiment with angles. Some people say shooting from above works best, but everybody has a good side. Try different angles and positions to find yours.
Profile pics for professional sites
Profile pics on professional sites like LinkedIn should look, well, professional. Here are some ideas on how to achieve that I-will-be-the-best-employee-you’ve-ever-had look:
Wear clothes that are appropriate for your profession. But if you feel like dressing up a bit, go for it. Going the extra mile by wearing a suit can give the impression that you’re capable and competent.
Smile, but don’t go overboard. You want to appear approachable and inviting without looking like you’re laughing.
Squinch. Yes, you heard that right. Everyone’s talking about squinching, which is basically what happens to your eyes when you smile. According to psychological research, wide eyes denote fear while slightly squinting denotes competence.
Avoid hats, glasses, and other accessories. They not only make you look too casual, they tend to hide or obscure your eyes, which are the most important part of a great portrait.
Stick with the tried and true head-and-shoulders shot. Close-cropped headshots can feel a little overwhelming for the viewer, and full-body shots don’t work well in the confines of a small profile pic.
Avoid using effects or filters. However, if you’d like to use a simple black and white effect like we did in the pic above, feel free. Traditional black and white lends a nice touch of class to your professional portrait.
Our ultimate recommendation? Put yourself in a prospective employer's shoes. What would you hope to see and feel from someone's profile pic? What does professionalism look like? Let your intuition guide you and leave the lax feel for personal Instagram profile pics, YouTube profile pics, and some dating sites, when appropriate.
Read more: Look Like a Professional With Your LinkedIn Profile Pic
Profile pics for dating sites
Speaking of dating sites, there’s been plenty of research on what makes a perfect profile pic in this context. Here’s a look at what science—and good old common sense—says:
Women do best when they smile with teeth, while men are better off with a closed-mouth smile. Some research shows that unsmiling men looking away from the camera are well-liked as well.
Sports shots are a big hit among both sexes, as are candid pics, outdoor shots, and photos of people out on the town.
Everyone should stay away from selfies, particularly the dreaded “bathroom selfie.”
Even though black and white pics are rare on dating sites, they’re hugely popular.
Don’t use pictures of yourself when it’s obvious you’ve cropped someone out.
One study suggests showing the left side of your face because it expresses more emotion.
Most studies say that putting other people in your pics is not a good idea. However, men do well with animals in their shots.
One study says you should look away from the camera, while another says you should look straight ahead. And yet another says that not only should you look at the camera, you should flirt with it. Bottom line? Take this research with a giant grain of salt and be sure to use your own best judgment.
In the profile pic above, we used some light touch ups to fade out a few wrinkles and dial down the redness of the man’s face.
Profile pics for social sites
When it comes to your profile pic on Facebook, Instagram, and other social sites, you’ve got a lot more leeway, since you’re not necessarily looking to land a job, a new client, a date, or a life partner. That said, if you use these platforms for your business, career, or love life, being attentive to the above advice is a good idea.
If you want to try out some fun effects for your profile pic, this is the place to do it. For this photo, we used the Tranquil effect. While not changing the woman’s general appearance, this effect gives her a bright glow and a fun, airy feel. You could also try throwing in some fun graphics, like hearts, flowers, or stars.
Using Touch Up on your profile pic
One thing that all types of profile pictures can benefit from is a dose of touching up. The key is using the right amount. You don’t want to transform yourself so much that you become unrecognizable. Instead, just give your appearance a boost.
For more on upgrading blemishes, whitening teeth, and getting the digital makeover that'll leave you lookin' sharp, check out: Retouch Photos
Make your best profile pic with a template
Another option for achieving profile pic greatness? One of our designer-made profile picture templates. These come pre-sized for Instagram, but you can use PicMonkey's Smart Resize tool to easily size your image for other purposes.
To capture one of these sleek pre-cropped circular looks in PicMonkey:
Select the profile image template that you want to use.
Click Edit image fill in the left tools menu and replace the template's image with your own.
Customize the look even more, if desired.
Download as a JPG or PNG file. Done!
Creating on the go? Check out our tutorial: How to Get Great Social Media Profile Pictures with Your Phone or iPad
Need the mobile app first? We got you!
All set, Creator! Now you're ready to go out and face the world (literally) head-on!
Explore what else you can do in PicMonkey: use our reshape photo tools, make a color splash image, or get fresh ideas for your Instagram backgrounds!