looking goodI got an email today from a highly respected business person.  But instead of reading the note, I was focused on his picture.  Too often, people online look like inmates instead of innovators.  He looked more penal than prosperous.

When I queried the business exec about the picture, his response was, “I hate my picture!  I never take good pictures!”

Another of my contacts uses a wide shot in front of a Chicago landmark.  It may be striking, but on the Internet it looks more like dot in front of a pole.  When asked, he said, “You mean people see that?”

Sayings like “a picture is worth a thousand words” or “first impressions are lasting” are true online, too.  On the Internet, pictures of you show up everywhere.

Control your personal brand.

First, look at places where you post pictures.  What does your picture on LinkedIn look like?  What would you think if you were looking at you for the first time?  (Hint: You want to look friendly and professional – not like you are going to bite someone’s head off.)

Then, check out other social media platforms where you have built profiles.  Often, people add a picture as an afterthought, not realizing that it will be displayed every time.  That picture of you at the beach may work on Facebook, but think of the impression it makes when it shows up attached to your cell phone number.

Years ago, people used caricatures or avatars.  Recently, a business consultant with a long-standing drawing of himself asked his network if he should continue using the drawing or post a photo.  Most people voted for a photo.

If there are pictures of you posted as a member of an organization or a staff member of your business, check them out.  These pictures are often picked up by news organizations and used with a mention in articles.  In the press, a surly looking picture can negate a brilliant quote.

Example: A senior-level person was sitting at his desk when the web guy came in with a camera, interrupting and grabbing a shot for the new website.  The executive was annoyed and it came across in the picture, which everyone who visited the site saw. 

Go for “authentic perfection.”

Consider having a professional portrait taken.  Professional photographers know how to make you look good.

Before you go for your photo session, consider the impression that you want to make.  I would suggest that you aim for “authentic perfection.”  The picture should look like you, but the best version of you.

Example: A woman with curly hair decided that straight hair looked more “professional” so she had her hair blown out straight before her photo shoot.  The pictures looked great but they didn’t look like her. 

Before you go, think about what you want to wear.  Talk to the photographer before the session and review the story you want to tell with the picture, and how and where you will be using it.

Remember to manage the moment.

Understand what it takes to create a good picture.  Help compose the picture for the photographer, especially if they are not a professional photographer.

Move people closer together if posing with others.  Put yourself in a position where you are visible (short in the front, tall in the back).  If you are especially short or tall, suggest that the picture be taken with everybody seated to even things out.

Be aware of lighting.  Avoid pictures in front of windows.  We’ve all seen those shots where you are in the dark and there is a great picture of the cars parked outside.  Take a few minutes and move to a well-lit, empty spot.

Also, avoid crowds so you don’t have people in the background growing out of your head.  This helps when you go to crop the picture.

If you wear glasses, avoid the lenses that automatically darken in the sun.  Dark lenses, especially indoors, make you look untrustworthy. Think of Tom Cruise in Risky Business.

Even outside dark lenses can be problematic.  People want to see your eyes (the eyes are the window to the soul).

Say “cheese!”

Lastly, take the time to get a good picture and smile.  I spent an hour with a business executive covering the visit of a foreign dignitary.  The executive wanted pictures of him with the dignitary, but during the entire session he did not smile once.

Remember: The camera does not know that you are busy.  And the viewer doesn’t care that you were up at 4:00 a.m.  For that one moment be joyful, and work to take a good picture.

Often, I will ask to have the picture taken again.  This will give you and the other subjects a few seconds more to be ready.  We have all seen the first-time “goofy” picture, and then the second one when everyone settles down.

If you have the time, look at the shot, and if it’s important and not good enough, shoot it again.

Or maybe the third time will be the charm.

Try, try again.

If you are not sure about how to take a great picture – practice!  Every time a family picture is taken, look at it as an opportunity to do better.

Or maybe even practice with a few “selfies.”

What tips do you have to take a great picture? Please share them below.