Skip to main content

Your Profile Picture: 20 Things To Avoid

Imagine ... you are missing out on opportunities because of a poor profile picture. How would you feel? 

Are you one of those people who think it doesn’t really matter what profile picture you display on your social media accounts? Well, for many people your profile picture is the first thing that they will notice about you. What impression do you really want to leave? Your picture (and your bio) will have an impact on whether people are prepared to follow you, comment on your posts, retweet you, eventually hire you, or to connect with you.

Did you know that according to a study conducted by Belgium’s Ghent University, the candidate with the most favourable Facebook profile picture received roughly 21 % more positive feedbacks in comparison with other job candidates with their less favourable profile picture? The chances of being immediately invited to a job interview also increased to almost 40 %. These differences make clear that employers do screen their candidates via Facebook.

When I’m reviewing people’s online presence I’m still surprised to see a very small number of good profile pictures. You would think it’s something that common sense tells you, but apparently it’s not. I’m not even talking about the technical quality and sharpness of a picture but generally the way people choose to present themselves online.

20 Things you should avoid in your Profile Picture

# 1 — Do you really want to be an egghead? Instead show your real photo. The thoughts that come to my mind every time I spot an egghead are: Does the person not like their appearance? Does the person have something to hide? Does the person not have any gadget or technical equipment to take and upload a recent picture?

# 2 — Don’t show your whole body, focus on your face only. Also pictures that show your side profile are not suitable. I would think “Are you not proud on how you look from the front?”

# 3 — Don’t display yourself with your whole family or your best friends. No matter how family-oriented you are or how much you love your friends, bear in mind, this is about YOU. People want to connect with you, not necessarily with your friends or your spouse or kids. You can put your nice family/friends portraits on your desk at home or in your office. Why making other people guess who the real account holder is?

# 4 — Don’t show your pets, such as dogs or cats. People might get the impression that you are not very confident or happy with your appearance or that you are trying to hide something. No matter how much you love your pets, be proud of how you look and show it off.

# 5 — When choosing a background for your profile picture consider a bright coloured background. Or do you want that your background looks more interesting than yourself? And forget all those bathroom, bedroom and kitchen backgrounds!

# 6 — Don’t block your eyes. Many people think they look better or cool with sunglasses on, but why do you want to hide behind sunglasses? No matter how fancy you look wearing them, take them off. Don’t obstruct your eyes with hair, glare or shadow. Research has shown that doing so, reduces your level of competence and influence in the eyes of others.

# 7 — Don’t smile too much as if you were a circus clown. Show your teeth but don’t overdo it. A smile makes you always look more likeable, approachable and positive. Smile but in moderation.

# 8 — Don’t shy away from the camera by looking away. If you want to come across as SOCIAL on social media and you want people to connect with you, do it as you would do in real life. Look people in the eyes. In that case look into the camera.

# 9 — Don’t take your profile picture in the dark. Face the light. The source of light should come in front of you. Lighting can also make a difference.

# 10 — When it comes to the technical quality of your profile picture consider of having it as a 600 Pixel image.

# 11 — Don’t show too much flesh. Ladies, do you really need to wear low-cut dresses and show your cleavage? Men, do you really need to show your six-pack? What attention do you want to attract and what goals do you want to achieve with that? Instead, look professional, avoid any kind of sexiness and wear appropriate clothes. Think about it: you want to be perceived as credible, competent, professional, trustworthy and confident. There is no room for romantic or dreamy looks.

# 12 — Avoid wearing any hats. If you are bald, then show it or do you want to hide it? If you are wearing headwear for religious reasons, then you can obviously keep them on.

# 13 — Avoid wearing too fancy jewelry. It can be very distracting. Do you want to be remembered for your jewelry or for the person you are?

# 14 — Avoid profile pictures that are cartoonish. Show your real face, at least in the profile picture.

# 15 — Don’t take a selfie which looks like a selfie. If you can’t or don’t want to ask other people to take a picture of you, try to shoot it in a way that does not instantly tell you that it is a selfie.

# 16 — Avoid any funny grimaces. What might look funny to you might be considered unprofessional, childish and immature by others. Do you really want to come across as such? (Just a note: I’m amazed to see so many people with pictures sticking out their tongues on several social media accounts. I just don’t get it!)

# 17 — Avoid having eyes that are too wide open. They make you look fearful. Having slightly squinted eyes reflect more confidence and comfort.

# 18 — Forget holding phones or drinks in your hand, smoking cigarettes or you sitting/driving your car. It’s all distracting and not professional.

# 19 — Avoid using a picture that is blurred, unsharp or highlights particular features in an unrealistic way. For example, your nose looking longer than it actually is.

# 20 — Don’t use a profile picture which is 10 or 20 years old. It looks odd and how do you think that people will perceive you when they find out that you are considerably older as what you really are? Keep your picture instead fresh and update it regularly. Also this shows that you invest in your branding. Keep ideally the same picture consistently across various social media platforms.

Another last tip, if you know how to use photo editing software (e.g. PhotoShop), make use of it. By making small changes (without distorting any of your real features) you can make the picture look much better. Give it a try or ask someone to do it for you, if you feel less familiar with this kind of software.

Have you heard of

This is a free profile photo testing tool which allows you to get feedback from internet users with regard to your profile picture. Depending on the purpose of your profile photo (for professional, dating or social reasons) you will get the following answers:

  • How competent do I look?
  • How likable do I look?
  • How influential do I look?
  • How smart do I look?
  • How authentic do I look?
  • How fun do I look?
  • How attractive do I look?
  • How confident do I look?
  • How trustworthy do I look?

Some years ago I did an experiment. I wanted to know how I would score on PhotoFeeler?

I really wanted to find out how my pictures came across and submitted various profile pictures to PhotoFeeler. See what the outcome was and how people rated me.

Many people still have this prejudice that blond women (apparently never blond men and I wonder why!?) are considered as less intelligent, less bright and less smart. I wanted to really put it to the test by submitting the same picture, but this time with black hair (using a software manipulation tool). 

To be honest, I’m not surprised about the result because I knew that this would be the outcome. Does the hair colour make a difference in the level of competence and influence on how people would perceive you? According to the result it’s a YES, even though with just a little difference! Now I even have the official proof.

Can you really resist the temptation of not knowing how others would perceive you? 

How does PhotoFeeler work? You can sign up on their website ( and submit one or more photos of yourself. Then you have 2 options. Either you buy credits (minimum 7 Dollars for 50 credits) or you can gain free credits if you vote on other peoples’ profile pictures (depending on how many feedbacks you wish to get). Give it a try now! It might help you to look at your own personal profile with different eyes and make changes accordingly. I hope the advice given earlier helps you to present yourself in the best light.

Liked what you read? 

I'd appreciate if you bought me a coffee - 

it encourages me to keep writing helpful articles like this one. 

Just click the link below to send a small tip my way. It's quick and secure! Thank you! 

Popular posts from this blog

Understanding The Meaning of Hand Gestures In Germany

Imagine ... you are going to Germany and people use hand gestures that you are unfamiliar with. How would you feel? Not knowing whether it is a positive hand gesture or a negative one? It's time to find out more about the real meaning of some unspoken communication.

Understanding The Meaning of 60 Hand Gestures in Italy

Imagine .... you are on holiday in Italy and you notice that the locals talking to you are using extensively hand gestures (which they are very well-known for!). You start feeling uncomfortable and nervous because you are not absolutely sure what certain hand gestures actually mean. Are they supposed to be polite or rude gestures? Thus, you decide to learn more about Italian body language so that you will always feel confident and at ease. 

Don't Look For A Job, Do This Instead ...

Imagine ...  You've been applying for jobs for months with little success. Sending out application after application yields only a handful of interviews, each one followed by a rejection letter. It's clear this strategy isn't working.