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How to take the perfect professional portrait for your social channels

Within two to three seconds of meeting a person, you will have subconsciously measured and judged their intelligence, conscientiousness and attractiveness.Social media provides informal platforms by which potential employees and employers can subtly vet and evaluate each other from a distance. Providing a relaxed environment which reflects the personal qualities of individuals in a natural and honest way Facebook and Instagram have become legitimate scouting grounds for companies to hunt out fresh talent. Number one in the online recruitment industry, professional social hub LinkedIn boasts 332 million members, with 2 new users joining every second and 42 million unique mobile visitors added every month. All platforms focus on one thumbnail image of the account owner, each user opting for his or her unique pose, attire and expression in an attempt to reflect an idealised version of themselves.

Creative director of Virgin Airlines, Michael Stephens believes that a perfect professional portrait is best achieved when the an individual is feeling comfortable and therefore communicating a warm sense of self. “I think poised, but not too rigid, relaxed but not slouching, happy but not jovial, welcoming but not alluring. It’s tough! I wouldn't use a selfie in any professional capacity (personally). Ask someone who you feel comfortable to take the photos get lots of options for you to review on your own and then get a second opinion.” Michael believes kindness is also key when appealing to employers. “It is hard to come across as 'hardworking' in a photo but you can portray a 'kindness' which is always appealing. I think colours can express individuality, making you stand out from the crowd.”

Professor and psychologist Jennifer Aaker from Stanford University believes colour is a truly valuable tool by which to assess individuals personality. The key colours she recommends for backgrounds and outfits? Red communicates excitement and blue communicate trust. Orange communicates optimism and green is peaceful, these latter two are useful colours to consider as they express positive personal attributes.

Method Design’s very own in-house photographer Paul believes the clarity and situational aspects of a professional portrait are of utmost importance. He comments “Using a non-sharp image is a mistake people commonly make with their professional social profile pictures. Also, picking a photo they think they look best in which was taken on holiday, or at a party is not good to accompany your paper or digital CV. A head and shoulders image works best as the profile photo window is small, so a full or 3/4 length photo won't be clear. Use a recent photo and try to get balanced light across yourself. This may sound obvious but your profile picture should show you and only you.”

Benefitting from substantial experience working behind the lens, capturing people who are uncomfortable in front the camera Paul suggests recruiting the help of a friend or a photographer with a camera help you achieve that winning shot. “When shooting profile pictures or any photo involving people I try to put them at ease by talking to them. You can tell when a person really doesn’t feel at ease when they have their photo taken, so talking to them about something else and explaining what you’re doing helps. What also helps is showing them the photo on the back of the camera and showing them the difference that smiling versus not smiling makes. A smile changes the shape of the face so completely that often the subject feels better posing.”

Today we are more socially exposed than ever before. Anything uploaded to Instagram, Snapchat or Facebook is accessible, despite how private you keep your settings. Next time you upload a boozy profile picture, think about the prospect of that image surfacing in an interview scenario and hang back on the post button. Instead, think fun, sophistication and being breezy, but that’s you on the regular anyway…right?