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How to Take a Good Profile Picture

Say cheese! I remember lining up for school photos and thinking, "I have to look good this year! I just have to!" Digital photography has freed us from those cringe-worthy moments (and the desire to burn photos!) because we can always pose again, try better light, and edit without wasting film.

Of course, getting that perfect photo is critical in an age of social networking and dating sites. I was cruising the Canon website (cause you know, that's what I do) and I came across the company's suggestions for taking better online dating portraits. It says:

  • Keep it Simple: Posing, Cropping, Framing, and Backgrounds —Your online dating portrait should be about you. That means no one else should be in the shot, and you should avoid distracting elements that will take attention away from the most important thing in the frame – YOU! Try turning the camera 90 degrees, and shoot a vertical picture. The longer vertical frame is better suited to capture a single person, without too much 'empty space' in the background.
  • Photo Techniques: Lighting, Lenses, and Camera Settings — One of the biggest mistakes in online dating portraits is poor lighting. Again, the photo is all about letting others see what you look like. The goal is to make sure the image is well (brightly) lit, but with no harsh shadows.

To see my tips for looking good in your pretty profile pic,


  • Say No to Mug and Lingerie Shots — Profile pics that look like mug shots are the worst! Don't take a picture specifically for the purpose of being your profile image (you know, like the ones where you can tell the subject held out her arm to take the shot?!). Pictures taken in the mirror (unless they are incredibly artistic), or pictures taken on a camera phone are also discouraged. Also, think twice before you use that sexy one of yourself on the beach in Hawaii with a barely-there bikini (especially for a dating profile!).
  • Act Natural! — Whether you are looking for a dating profile picture, or a pic to use for your Facebook or Sugar account select a fun, natural picture. It doesn't have to be a glamor shot, just an image that shows your personality. Sure it's an ego boost to show off how cute you looked in that bridesmaid dress, but you don't look like that every day. Try a pic in your natural element. Or a casual photo from your last vacation. I love nancita's carefree and happy look in her TeamSugar profile image.
Image Source: Getty
Alexandra7487861 Alexandra7487861 4 years
Here are some great tips from photographer Peter Hurley demonstrating how to get the best head shot ;)
EvilDorkGirl EvilDorkGirl 8 years
Another great tip is to turn and look over your shoulder, and to have the person taking the picture be a little higher than you are (standing on a stepstool, chair, etc.). That prevents the dreaded double-chin, and I learned that trick from a model when I lived in NYC.
mondaymoos mondaymoos 8 years
Ugh... it's been forever since I've been on vacation... too paranoid about the economy. :( Those used to be my favorite pictures though.
bethinabox bethinabox 8 years
I really need new pictures of myself... People I hang out with most often don't really have/use cameras, so I don't get a lot of pictures taken. Plus I don't actually enjoy having my picture taken. lol.
TidalWave TidalWave 8 years
I like to use travel photos as profile pictures because they definitely add a bit of personality and and aren't just all about you. Do try to have it be a close-up of yourself though. I don't like group photos for profile pictures at all. Also, hate hate hate the mugshots. Especially if you know the girl took the picture in her bedroom or bathroom. It just looks really really boring.
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