When thinking of updating your online photo, the obvious temptation is to pick up your own camera and snap a picture without much thought or planning.  Just point, click, and shoot.  But as the subject matter, your goal is to have a picture that best represents your personal brand and image.  Solid planning goes a long way toward helping you get that visual message across to others.

Through my personal branding and image consulting work, clients always seek advice about what their online portraits should look like.  What to wear, how to pose, and where to be photographed are central to how you are perceived, whether your portrait hangs on your virtual wall, or even on a real one in a gorgeous frame.

The idea that you can just point, click, and shoot, may have you saying, “Oh s%#t!,” when the results don’t send a consistent message getting you positive attention across all social media platforms.

Think in terms of displaying a quality image.  Just because your portrait is to be posted online, doesn’t mean it should not be as good as one that could be framed and hanging on a wall.  Whether you are socializing with friends and family, networking with business colleagues, job hunting, or a combination of these, your virtual image is just as important as what these people experience about you in person.

Each different social media platform seems to serve different needs.  Facebook is the most personal.  Depending on your privacy settings, a wide audience may have access to your photo image.  LinkedIn is the more professional-minded social media space.  Strangely enough, the image size the site allows is quite small on LinkedIn, leaving options for only a head and shoulders image or a close up of your face.  If you work for a corporation, you may use an internal networking directory where your image also appears.  You could also have a blog, or belong to other networking or dating sites where leaving others your best impressions is the entrée to future life-changing introductions.

Don’t point, click, and shoot.  Plan, pose, and be photographed.

What you wear when you have your photo portrait taken is very important.  Your clothes need to enhance your physical traits, fit very well, and you need to wear them properly.  It’s very smart to repeat or bring out the coloring of your eyes or hair, for example.  While it’s true that wearing a lapelled garment conveys professionalism, options like fabric, color, and silhouette further affect your overall message.  What you wear needs to enhance the parts of your body that will appear in the photograph.  Be sure nothing is inside your pockets when your photograph is taken.  Sometimes photographers suggest doing something unconventional with your clothing, like buttoning all of the buttons.  Resist these ideas if it’s not the right way to wear the garment because it will make you look unsophisticated.  Someone at an executive level knows how or will learn how to dress appropriately.  Dressing to that level visually conveys something about your knowledge and attention-to-detail.  More focus may be paid than normal to your hairstyle and makeup because studio lighting can be harsh.  In fact, I even recommend that men wear a natural blend of face powder for this very reason.  It may feel unnatural in the moment, but the result looks more natural.

Posing for photographs is not so easy because you’re not used to it, unless you’re a model.  It’s important to go with the flow and get comfortable with the camera.  But it’s also important to behave naturally and to wear a natural smile.  I suggest putting thoughts into your mind that help you think about the messages you want to convey about your brand to your audience.  It’s important to have a myriad of posing choices, but also that you pose in ways that appear authentic to you.  However, it’s your time to put your “best face forward.”  So you want to stand tall, have good posture, and fix the things you may need to pay more attention to when the camera isn’t focusing on you.

Where you are photographed is also crucial to conveying your visual brand.  Photographers often like to take outdoor shots, relying on natural light and scenery.  But this has to work with your personal brand message, with your clothing, and with other technicalities.  For instance, if you wear transitional eyeglasses and they darken outside, your eyes will be covered.  It will look like you’re hiding behind your eyewear.  If you remove your eyewear, but you wear it all the time, you won’t even look like yourself.  Indoor photo studios keep the focus on you, allowing the “authentic you” to come through in the photo. This is the whole point of having a professionally taken portrait.

Joseph Rosenfeld helps high-profile individuals revitalize, manage, and be secure in their personal visual brand. Visit JosephRosenfeld.com for details.