A recent Instagram post had me wondering why a close cropped profile shot – as a post, not as a profile pic update – was so incredibly captivating.
I showed some others to make sure I wasn’t alone in thinking so. Then researched further on the web. Turns out, the close-cropped-profile-pic-as-a-post is a proven winner on social media. Time and time again.
It works because it’s visually simple and therefore powerful. Free of distractions. And implicitly warm, open and accessible. I want to reply to the post.
Here’s a prime example that unsurprisingly had very high engagement.
You can see that the posts’ narrative perfectly suits a profile image. It is personal in nature and quite candid. There’s a pervasive openness and optimism that you can’t ignore.
And the portrait speaks for itself. Expressive and open. No background distraction whatsoever.
It’s no wonder it has been seen by thousands, even without any spend behind it to boost reach. It’s all about generating genuine engagement.
When a portrait makes sense
The intimacy of a personal portrait makes you feel like you are getting a personal introduction. It’s a warm and open gesture. It encourages reciprocity on the part of followers via interactions online.
It’s only logical then that a personal portrait should accompany a post that is somewhat personal in nature. Make sure the caption tells a story that is consistent with the emotion conveyed in the photo.
It could be the reason you do what you do. The subjects’ thoughts on an important topic or matter. Or a statement about reaching a milestone that carries significance.
Tips for taking the perfect portrait
Emotion is key
Each face tells its own story. You’re not taking a mug shot (which is a story in itself), so make sure the subject is at ease and expressing in the right way.
If you are shooting customers or strangers, take plenty. It’s likely the ‘winning’ shot will come when they’ve got their guard down and are more at ease. A posed photo will likely look too stiff and staged.
Try a low depth of field (and watch your backgrounds)
We all love portraits with that sweet low depth of field, which makes everything blurry in the background.
It removes distraction, and makes the subject ‘pop’. Amongst photographers, it’s a tried and true strategy to get an impactful profile pic.
And while we’re on the topic, even if you aren’t going for a blurry background, make sure it’s free of distractions. No strange patterns, weird objects or movements.
Never use a flash
As we mentioned before here, don’t use a flash when shooting people and especially when taking close ups. The light is too harsh and unflattering, especially when taken with modern smartphones.
Get customers to relax first
Obviously if you have rapport with your subject already this is less of an issue. But if you are meeting the subject for the first time there’s a few tricks to make them at ease.
Firstly, reassurance. Let them know why you want the photo and where it’s going, so long as they are happy with it. You need to allay their fear they will have a horrible photo distributed across the web.
Have them inhale deeply and audibly, then exhale. At the same time they should slowly raise their arms above their heads before lowering. This expansive gesture is proven to make people more confident.
If your subject is too tense ask them to take a deep breath, close their lips gently, and then exhale. Vocal coaches call this ‘lip bubbles’ or ‘motorboating’. It will instantly dissolve facial tension and you’ll get a way better shot after.
For more tips on putting subjects at ease, check this out
Don’t tell your subject it’s a close-up
There’s no need to tell your subject you want an intimate close-up. You’ll just make them uneasy.
By all means tell them you want a shot of them and what it’s for, but that’s all they need to know. You’ll get a far better result if they stay relaxed and don’t start overthinking it.