Your profile photo is the first point of contact between you and your potentially new clients. It’s the element that will initially grab their attention to read your short summary and then view your entire profile. Existing clients who are new to your online sessions will also feel better with an approachable image they feel reflects the person they need you to be.
Oftentimes, a good profile picture makes the difference between a client clicking on your profile or not. That's why we've dedicated a whole article on this. You probably already have an image you use for your clients, but by the end of this article, you might have some ideas for taking a new one that you could use for all of your social profiles online.
First impressions matter
All the time, we judge a new person by how they look. By this we don't just mean their natural looks - we mean the things you express nonverbally, the setting you're in, and the way you're dressed. In some ways, people judge profile photos in additional ways to how they do it in real-life meetings, particularly if you're running a business and promoting yourself. Your photo expresses what your business is about, how much you invest in your business (for example, a poor-quality image can signal poor quality service), and your personality. Clients associate your photo with your professional abilities, and unfortunately, they judge your personality from it.
Of course, people don’t consciously believe you can be 'read' entirely from your looks - getting the photo right is important just because people don't often take the time to read numerous profiles, so judging by looks is the quickest way to decline or choose to read more. For example, if you have a badly cropped image, too many things in the background and are not portraying a happy, approachable person (big smile!), you may have already lost their interest.
Let's see what you can do to make your photo as successful as possible.
Things to consider before the shot
The first question you need to address is this: who are you to your clients? Think about this for a minute. What type of therapist are you? How do you connect with them? Write this down on a piece of paper and imagine yourself in this therapist-client relationship to help you think about the following.
Decide what clothes you have that represent this image. Is wearing a white-collar shirt the best way to relate to, for example, insecure teenagers who feel like a mess and don't want to feel judged by a conservative-looking adult? And vice versa - will your fluffy sweater appeal to the busy business person who wants to relate to someone like herself? There are no right and wrongs, and the best clothes
can vary hugely between people and niches. You probably have a good idea about the way you want to come across to your face-to-face clients. Try to replicate that in your profile photo, and choose something that matches what you feel comfortable in.
Decide on which setting and background
you think appeals to your clients the most. Do you think a clean headshot of yourself sitting in a therapy setting will appeal to your target group? A natural, relaxed setting such as where you usually have your sessions could work fine, or even in your living room. A plain, white background could be good too, but because it doesn't express anything about your work, it places the emphasis on how you look and appear. If you appear stiff and unnatural against the white background, you will look less approachable than if you had a warm and homely background. Backgrounds that are too "busy" have their downsides too: do you really want your surroundings to be more dominant than yourself? Keep things simple enough so people don't instantly dismiss you just because you failed to show yourself effectively.
Posture and face
It's proven that smiling people
are more likeable than serious-looking people. It's also well-established that maintaining eye contact
is essential for expressing interest in other people. Those two things are crucial for conversion rates. You don't look as approachable if you look too serious or don't look straight at the camera. By looking elsewhere, you appear unfocused and mysterious, which is fine if it's your casual profile photo for personal accounts shared with people who know you. However, in a professional context, you need to maximise conversion rates, and even if you don't smile at all in sessions with clients, smiling warmly and naturally directly to the camera still attracts potential clients to pick you above someone else who looks less approachable. Imagine looking at a friend when you have your photo taken, and you will exude the friendly, genuine self you are!
The setup of your shot
The best profile photos are ones that show your face (and often your upper body) clearly, in a well-lit environment. We really cannot emphasise the lighting aspects
too much - get as much light as possible (as long as it’s not over-exposed), and you will get better photos. Not having enough light in images is the single biggest factor that contributes to low-quality images. If the end-result is too bright, you can always edit it afterwards so it looks better.
Avoid having large spaces of background in the picture - YOU'RE the star, not the bookshelves or wallpaper. You appear most natural and can get the best shots of yourself if someone else takes the picture of you. People can often tell if a picture is a selfie, while a portrait of you taken by someone else will give a more professional and relaxed appearance. Make sure there are no areas in the photo that are too dark, and that the colours are not too distracting or grey (colour shots are often the most appealing).
A good or decent quality camera is essential for professional-looking photos. A DSLR camera would be ideal, but many phones today can also produce high-quality images
, provided the lighting is good in the shot. Using a tripod is also great if you’re on your own and can set a timer on your camera so you have enough time between activating it and settling within your camera view. Tripods (including mini ones for phones) are generally great for preventing blur, particularly as often, the camera is given a little shake when you push the button, resulting in potential blur in the image.
Editing the photo
So you’ve taken some photos and uploaded the images on your computer. Now comes the time to pick the best one! Keep these things in mind when you choose:
Pixelated or blurry images make potential clients more inclined to distrust your credibility, so bear that in mind as an important factor for your success online.
You don’t have to reject a really good photo if it’s not completely straight. Editing software can rotate it until it’s straight, and the result could happen to be the best of your shots.
Look at the nuances in your eyes and facial expressions. In which of the images do you look most natural, approachable and friendly?
Last, you might want to edit the image in some way (not always, if you happen to nail the ideal shot with just the camera!). There are several good editing apps and software out there you can use. If you used your smartphone to take the picture, you can use the inbuilt editing options it has, or download one of these apps for iPhones
or these apps for Android
A good reason you may need to edit your portrait is that different websites have different sizing requirements for images. For example, a website could require you to use image files of less than 2MB, so if your photo is 6MB, you’d need to resize it so it takes up less than 2MB space. Most editing software gives you the option to do this - if not, you can use this free tool
to do it quickly and easily.
Your face is your personal window to your clients. People seeking therapy may feel like they don't want to expose themselves to you, but many expect to see your face to feel you're a person they can connect with, and not a disinterested online being. A profile photo can therefore be a deal breaker if done poorly, or magnet for clients if done well.
Photo shot checklist
Write down the answers to the following questions. These answers will help you decide what you want your photo to convey.
Who are your clients?
What kind of person would your targets like to speak to?
Based on the answers, decide on what clothes to wear in the photo.
Based on the answers, decide on the setting, props (if any) and style of the photo.
Convince someone else to take the photos of you.
Look the part, smile, and don't just rely on one photo - take as many as you think necessary to pick a great one from the crowd.
Upload the photo, edit and crop as you find necessary, and possibly convert it to a smaller size if the image file is too large.