A Selfie is Worth 1,000 Words

by Jazmin Idakaar
previously published 10/9/13 & 5/30/14

A Selfie is Worth 1,000 Words

JazminIPutting your best face forward can be tough when it comes to the web. You know you need a photo for your website or LinkedIn profile to help make it stand out, but you don’t have any professional shots so you grab the “selfie” that’s the least worst: you in a t-shirt standing in front of your shower curtain or one from an event where you’re hugging someone famous. Although those pictures have merit on Facebook, they won’t really do the trick.

You want to choose a photo that makes you look professional and polished, but if you can’t afford a pro photo shoot, you’ll need to do it yourself. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to wear  a suit or your pearls, but it does mean you need to follow a few steps to make it look right.

Backgrounds are important! No shower curtains, messy bedrooms, living rooms, or other cluttered scenery behind you. Instead, pick something like a painted or brick wall, library stacks, or other neutral scenery as your backdrop.

Good lighting! Bad lighting leads to grainy photos at best, or very unflattering images at worst. Good lighting makes you look good, makes your background look good, and makes your shot look more professional.

Craft your appearance carefully! Whether you go for the full-on executive look with a suit and tie or blouse, or you prefer a more relaxed look in a polo and khakis, choose your look before you start your solo shoot. Make sure the colors coordinate if you’re taking a color photo. Check clothes for things like tears and stains. If you wear makeup, read these tips for makeup best practices.

Consider going monochromatic! For the color-challenged among us, or for those looking to boost the professional appearance of their photos, consider taking them (or retouching them) in black & white. Color can be a distraction, but going for shades of gray helps put the focus on you rather than clothing or scenery.

Bet you can’t snap just one! The margin for error (blur, thumb in the shot, weird angles, etc) is pretty high when it comes to taking a picture of yourself. Even if you have a handy assistant, odds are that they’re no pro. You (or they) aren’t likely to nail the picture with the first click of the shutter. Do yourself a favor and take multiple shots, adjusting your pose, chin tilt, and smile in each shot. You’ll be a lot more likely to end up with a picture you like in just one session if you take 10-20 photos, instead of only 1-2.

Choose your camera wisely! Most of us rely on our smartphones for photos these days, but it can be tough to take a good photo by holding your phone out at the right angle so it doesn’t look obvious that you’re taking your own photo. Using a real camera is best! If possible, enlist the aid of a friend or family member to shoot the photos for you. If that isn’t possible, consider borrowing or investing in a basic camera with a timer. Add in a tripod or eye level shelf for stability of the shots.

Retouch! If you take your own photos, don’t forget to retouch them with programs like Photoshop, The Gimp 2.0, or Pixlr (advanced). There are often buttons that do things like fix red eye, whiten teeth, and the like, but you can also use simple tools like blur to help fix the background or get rid of a small flaw. If you are unfamiliar with these image editors, ask a friend, or submit your photos to a pro for retouching (which is still cheaper than a whole photo shoot).

Smile! Smiling makes you look friendly and approachable, even if it’s just a slight smile.

These tips are budget-friendly and can help you take better photos of yourself for online networking, but once you are an established professional, consider having professional photos and headshots taken!

Here are a few other resources that can help:

Posing Tips

Retouching Tips

DIY Lighting Tips



*A “selfie” is a self-portrait, usually taken with one’s phone’s camera.