What Makes a Good Instagram Profile Picture?

    September 17 2021

    Ever heard the saying, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression?” Well, the same goes for Instagram profile pictures.

    When it comes to attracting new users to your feed, your profile picture is working the front lines. It might be a tiny stamp, but it’s the first chance you get to show Instagram users what your brand is all about. 

    The Department of Psychology at the University of York performed a study researching what facial tactics make for the best first impression. Basically, you want to look approachable, helpful, and attractive. The full study provides a chart of facial expressions to reference.

    Here are some tips to follow: 

    • Show off your eyes. Slightly squinting your eyes (it’s called a squinch) can make you look comfortable and confident.
    • Emphasize your jawline.
    • Smile big (and show teeth).
    • Crop the photos to show only your head and shoulders or from your head to your waist. 

    How you present your brand in your profile picture will dictate whether or not someone clicks on your Instagram feed to see more. In fact, our profile picture might be the one instance where you have total control over how you present your first impression. In this post, we’re going to show you how to make it count. 

    Logo vs. Face?

    Whether or not you should use your logo or a photo as your profile pic will depend on your brand. If your logo is already super recognizable, you might want to use it as your profile picture. However, since Instagram is all about connecting with brands on a more personal (and visual) level so it might be easier for your followers to connect with you when your friendly face is the first visual they see, not a logo. 

    It really comes down to how you want to be perceived on the platform. Businesses with lots of employees will likely opt for a logo as they’ll want people interacting with their company rather than an individual. 

    Keep in mind that you might have to design a new logo specifically for your Instagram profile picture. Your logo will need to fit in that tiny circle and still be legible. This format makes horizontal logos small and hard to read. Opt for something that resembles a circle or a square for optimal visibility.    

    How to Sneak Brand Elements Into Your Profile Pic

    Here are 3 ways to sneak brands elements into your profile pic:

    Match your aesthetic

    Your profile picture should match the aesthetic of your feed. Apply the same color palette, filter, or editing style you use on your feed to your profile picture. Wearing your brand colors is a great way to incorporate your brand’s overall personality. You can also do this by including the brand colors in your background. If you want to sneak your logo into the profile picture, you can try adding it to your background image. 

    Live the brand

    George LeClaire is a photographer and it’s obvious from his profile picture because he’s holding a camera. Adding industry-relevant props to your profile pic shows newcomers exactly what your feed is all about.  

    Add a little spice

    Adding personality to your profile picture is a fun way to make your brand look authentic and relatable to Instagram users. The brands that really stand out on Instagram have loads of personality. What’s your flair? 

    How to take a good profile picture, the easy way

    You don’t need professional help to get a good profile picture. Follow these tips, and you’re all set! 

    Remember the dimensions when choosing an angle

    You’ll need to use a square image of at least 320 x 320-pixels for your Instagram profile photo. When you upload it to the platform, it will display as a circle. Snapping your shots from odd angles will make your life harder when it’s time to choose what shows in that tiny circle.

    Make it visible (no full body pics)

    Remember-- you want to show your head and shoulders (or your head to your waist) but no more. In addition to this being the most likable format for profile pictures, it’s also the best way to display your face. 

    If you post a full-body photo, your followers might as well be looking at a stick figure. It’s so hard to pick out details when the photo is that zoomed out and details are what make up first impressions. 

    Highlight you or your company, not the background

    Sure, that graffiti wall is super cute-- but would you rather Instagram users remember your face or the wall? The answer is simple. You’re taking a pic to show off your business or personal brand, so you should be the focus. Every tiny pixel of that photo is prime real estate for attracting new followers. Opt for a neutral background to steer attention toward you. Wearing clothing that contrasts with your skin is another way to help your face pop. 

    Prioritize lighting and contrast

    Get in front of a window and face the light. Natural light is your best friend! If you’re outside, opt for a bright patch of shade. Overcast days are perfect for outdoor photography. Selfies are okay as long as they’re taken from the right angles, but you can also enlist a coworker, friend, or trusty tripod to play photographer for the day. 

    Strike an approachable pose

    Play around with a head tilt and angle your head slightly away from the camera. This little positioning tip goes a long way in making you appear sincere and approachable. 

    Now that you know the tips and tricks to turn heads on Instagram, it’s time to put it all to work for you. Lights, Camera, Action!

    Learn more about Claire Dollen, on PLANOLY

    Claire Dollen

    Claire Dollen is a graphic designer at PLANOLY. She is our go-to for design trends and finding inspiration on how to use our product design features.

    More by Claire Dollen

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