7 tips for taking business profile photograph on a mobile

7 tips for taking business photos on a mobile

If a picture speaks a thousand words, then your business profile photograph is surely an entire book’s worth. As one of the first points of online contact with clients and future associates your visual profile should be clear, direct and friendly, however I see so many poorly taken, darkly lit or casual attempts on LinkedIn and other social media. The reason may be that those of us who grew up before the trend of selfie-taking took hold simply don’t know where to start with taking one. Or perhaps the very word ‘selfie’, particularly in a business context, makes you cringe.

However, there’s no getting away from it. We all need (and want) to put our best foot forward, particularly in business. Vanity aside, a well-taken headshot can mean the difference between client conversion or a successful job application. For the majority who aren’t in the know, there are some golden photography and styling rules you can draw from to self-take a flattering, polished, seemingly effortless profile pic with just your phone camera. Absolutely anyone can apply these simple principles, and to prove the point I’ve used an iPhone 6S to take the images that illustrate this introduction. Keep reading for the seven steps to selfie excellence!

1. Preparation and a polished appearance

Try a few clothing options to see what best flatters you and also suits your business branding. Do you work in the creative sector, or have a naturally gregarious character? Then by all means go with a bright pop of colour to express yourself and stand out.

Avoid anything too strapless or revealing, as once you’ve cropped or framed
yourself in the photograph you may find it gives you the illusion you’re wearing a lot less than you actually are! On the other hand, swamping your body with high necklines and baggy clothes can look claustrophobic and obliterate your form, whatever your body shape.

I’ve found that what works best for both men and women is a simple round or v-neckline, tailored shirts, and tops with full-length fitted sleeves.

Paying attention to the details means clean and styled hair, as well as lint-free, stain-free, crease-free clothes, and a touch of makeup if you like to wear it. (The camera can drain the colour from your face, so you can afford to add a little more colour than usual.) As you’re not a professional photographer, removing marks and stay hairs after the fact is a daunting task, so the objective is to minimise them as best you can in-camera.
Although it may seem like a huge pain to prepare for a photograph in this way, keep in mind this photo is going to be displayed for all to see for some time to come. Factoring in an extra half an hour to take your business profile photograph when you’re already getting ready for a meeting or appointment may be the best way of conserving your time!

2. Find your light

Which is preferable – daylight or indoor ambient lighting?

Contrary to popular opinion, if you want to flatter yourself, especially with a camera phone, then you shouldn’t hide your face away in soft, ambient lighting. It can cast shadows, yellow the eyes and teeth, and the camera on a phone will struggle to expose you sharply in low light. Phone flash is a definite no-no for a business profile as it can look unprofessional.
On the opposite end of the scale, if you have a very active profession then an outdoor headshot can look amazing, but leave this type of ‘lifestyle portrait’ to a professional photographer! It’s not always easy to adjust a phone camera to outdoor light and the end result will look more amateurish than you perhaps intended.

As a general rule, for self-portrait phone headshots with a sharp finish and a more professional feel, I recommend choosing an indoor location with a decent sized window facing you, that you can stand as close to as possible without any direct sunlight falling on you. (You must avoid direct sunlight on any part of the photograph.) These optimum conditions will work to your advantage despite your phone camera’s limitations, helping you achieve an even, bright, flat light on your face and make best use of both natural and artificial light sources. Once you’re stood in the window and holding your phone in front of you, you’ll see your camera phone automatically brighten up as it exposes for your face rather than the surroundings.

You’ll hopefully also now see expressive catch lights in your eyes and your smile will get whiter! You can now experiment by switching the lights on in the room behind you to see if this gives a more pleasing colour balance to the photograph by adding some warmth to your background.

3. Neutralise your background

Once you’ve chosen your desired location based on the best light, take a look around you.

Is there clutter in the background? Do the objects surrounding you reflect a professional working environment, or reveal too much of your personal life? If in doubt, clear it all away or choose a neutral coloured wall to stand in front of. There simply isn’t the space on a LinkedIn avatar for background fuss.

4. Expression is key

So you’re dressed for success, you’ve polished your look, you’ve picked your perfect location and found your light. Now comes the bit everyone is intimidated by!

As a rule of thumb, eye contact and a warm, open smile are more attractive
professionally and personally, and will get you the most attention. But there’s nothing worse than forcing it! To make eye contact with the viewer, look at the tiny hole at the top of your phone (the lens) rather than at yourself on the screen. It will make a subtle but significant difference to the sense of self-absorption in a selfie.

Now imagine something that makes you happy; a joyful memory, your pet, your children, family, a loved one, or even your favourite food! And then smile. You don’t have to show your teeth if you’re self-conscious, however recalling thoughts that you have a fond association with will encourage you to smile with your eyes as well as your mouth – the surest sign of a sincere expression.

5. Posing

Try turning your torso to a 45-degree angle whilst keeping your face straight to camera. It will flatter you and help banish any ‘mugshot’ vibes.
If it suits you, experiment by putting one hand on your hip as you use the other hand to take the photograph. You could even grab a stool or chair and adjust your posture this way, which will allow you to lift your phone without straining.

Try to avoid holding the camera too low or angling it upward; holding the phone slightly above eye level at forehead height and looking up into the lens is the optimum angle to flatter most people.

6. Learn to use the timer

Once you become more comfortable with seeing your face on the screen, you can free your hands by taking advantage of the self-timer on your camera phone.

If you don’t have a holder to secure the phone, wedge your camera between two books or lean it as upright as you can against the window pane.
Most iPhone users will be given a choice of three or ten seconds delay on their timer. In my experience, three seconds is preferable to allow freedom of movement without too much time to overthink your expression!
Using a timer isn’t for everyone, and you may find that your more natural
expressions occur when you have command of the shutter, so try it for yourself.

7. Keep Clicking

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is thinking you can just click once or twice and achieve a great result!

I’m not suggesting for one second you follow the Kardashian’s advice of 300 clicks every time you want just one image! But do keep in mind that social media influencers will genuinely invest extensive time and effort to look comfortable and confident, and you should therefore give yourself a fair chance by taking a series of at least a dozen.

Even during a professional portrait shoot I will take several shots of the same person from which I can choose the sincerest expression, best pose and most flattering portrait.

Similarly, in your selfie sequence there’ll be one image in a series of clicks that really stands out to you as genuine, flattering or more in focus than the rest.