As you increase your social presence across the web, you’ll probably want to start using a standard image so that your followers will start to recognize your profile picture. While you may not have the cash to go for a professional head shot, there’s no reason you can’t look your best – even if you just take a photo from your camera phone. Marketing professionals are often the face of their company, and in order to make sure you put your best digital face forward, here are some easy ways to improve your appearance in a head shot:

Just one more reason not to take pictures of yourself in a bathroom...

Just one more reason not to take pictures of yourself in a bathroom…

1. Use a clean, light-colored background

I’m sure you’ve seen a thousand self-taken photos that are clearly in front of a bathroom mirror, right? Don’t do that. Besides the fact that it’s unprofessional, bathrooms are rarely the kind of place you want people to think in association with you (well, unless you’re gunning for that janitorial job, but still…).

Instead, use a plain wall or even drape a sheet over a door if you have to. Just make sure it doesn’t have any obvious stains or holes. Even if you are a poor college student with one set of old sheets, you don’t want people to know that’s the case.

2. Smile all over

People can usually tell if your smile is forced or unnatural. A genuine smile is seen as much in the eyes and cheeks as it is in the mouth. Rather than force yourself to let off a big cheesy grin, just think about something that makes you happy and open your mouth just a little bit. Your eyes will naturally do their thing, and for goodness’ sake, don’t yell out “Macaroni and Cheese!” when you get your picture taken. You’re not 5.

3. Get help from a friend

Taking a good photo of yourself can be tough, so I’d recommend grabbing a friend or family member to help you out. Make sure they stand far enough away to let you turn to a slight angle. If you want to take a full body shot, that’s fine, but remember that for many social networks, you may have to crop it down significantly.

4. Choose your wardrobe wisely

Even if viewers aren’t going to see your whole body in the photo, your choice of attire will actually affect the way you present yourself subconsciously. Choose a professional, but comfortable outfit, but remember that the focus in a head shot is on your face. If the collar of your shirt or jacket show in the photo, make sure that they’re a neutral tone, and that they complement your skin coloration as well.

5. Show your best features, but don’t hide identifying ones

Everybody has one or two features that really stand out – maybe it’s your chin, choice of facial hair, or eyes – but don’t be afraid to show those features off. Even things that might be seen as blemishes can be turned to your advantage if they make you stand out in someone’s mind. For instance, I have a big nose, long hair, and I only shave about once a week. While my appearance might throw some more conservative employers off, most of those features have worked to my advantage in networking.

6. Be careful if you try to touch it up

Let’s be honest, you’re not a Photoshop expert, right? Unless you are, be very careful when trying to retouch head shots. You’re better off just retaking the picture with better lighting or a better camera than trying to fix it after the fact. Retouching pictures can make them look unnatural, and it might make people think you’re trying to hide something.

Want more tips? Check out this infographic from Infographics on Google+:

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