There is a wrong way to crop your Facebook Profile Picture
...and you're probably doing it! #Busted #SorryNotSorry
Have you ever seen someone's Facebook Profile Picture that just looked kind of weird or dated for some reason and you couldn't quite put your finger on why?
9 times out of 10 it's because their crop is seriously bonkers!
(Like, OMG, why is there so much empty space above her head in that profile picture??? Is she about to do a trick?)
Yikes! Here are some quick tips to make sure this doesn't happen to you.
Don't leave room for a can of chicken soup on top of your head
(Ramen is ok. . . sometimes)
Photographers call this the "soup can crop" because there's enough room at the top of the frame to balance a soup can on the subject's head.
I'm honestly not sure why people feel the need to do this, but STOP IT!
If it really makes you happy, you can leave a tiny bit of space at the top of your photo, but only if it's a wider shot. Closely cropped photos DON'T NEED HEADROOM!
When I say "a tiny bit of space" I mean the size of a Ramen noodle package, NOT a can of Campbell's:
The truth of the matter is, your Facebook profile picture is TINY - Don't waste any real estate on empty space!
It's rare that anyone will click through to your actual Facebook profile page. Usually, they will see your posts in their newsfeed, where your profile picture is displayed pretty small. Or even worse, they'll see your profile pic next to a comment you leave in a group or on someone else's post, which is REALLY teeny tiny!
You need to make your profile pic a VERY close crop of your face and not waste any room on nonsense. That includes your outfit. I know you worked hard on it, but it's not important here.
Business portraits are great for your website or marketing materials, but on social media your profile picture should be a HEADSHOT, meaning: your HEAD and a little bit of your shoulders.
You want people to be able to glance at it and instantly recognize you, not have to squint to see who the heck you are!
Your Eyes Are The Most Important Part
Keep in mind that your eyes, not your outfit or your jewelry or the background, are the most important part of your profile picture. Yes, this applies to you even if you sell clothing or jewelry!
This is important: What you need to understand is that people can buy clothing or jewelry or kitchen gadgets at WalMart, probably at a fraction of the cost of what you sell them for. They can probably even find pretty good quality products at a store or online for less money.
Whatever product or service you offer, there will always be someone who offers it cheaper, so. . . .
You're not selling stuff at all - you're selling YOU!!!
People need to be able to relate to you. Trust you. Why should they spend more to buy from you instead of WalMart or BB&B??
Because look how darn friendly you look! Surely you'll take great care of them - they can see it in your eyes!
Bullseye vs. Rule of Thirds
Now that we know how important the eyes are, we should make sure to place them right smack in the middle of our Facebook profile picture, right? WRONG!
If you've ever taken an Art History class, you might remember hearing about the "Rule of Thirds" (or the Golden Mean, which ends up being very similar for our purposes). This rule tells us that the most interesting and compelling area of an image is NOT the bullseye, smack in the middle, but is instead, the intersection of the imaginary lines that divide the image into thirds, both vertically and horizontally.
Let me show you an example:
This is Molly. I've added lines to Molly's picture to cut it into thirds. By placing her eye at the intersection of two of these lines, we ensure the most interesting and appealing crop possible.
The eyes should always be at or above that top line, putting them in the top 1/3 of the image.
Now for an example of what NOT to do. . . .
This is my friend, Valerie. Valerie isn't crazy, so she'd never really crop her headshot like this, but for the sake of this article, let's just say she's lost her marbles. This is what I like to call the "Red Queen crop" because I can almost hear the Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland shouting "Off with her head!"
Doesn't this give you the uncomfortable feeling that Val's head isn't actually attached to anything??
That's what can happen when you "Bullseye" your eyes in the center of your profile picture. It's a little weird, right?
Here's a look at that off-with-her-head crop shown with rule-of-thirds grid lines. Can you see why this doesn't work?
How do we fix this?
Here is a much more engaging crop of the exact same photo. We've placed Valerie's eye on the intersection of two of the lines for maximum visual interest. See the difference?
Doesn't it look like she's really engaging with you now?
It's also important to note that since we can see a bit of Val's neck and shoulder area in this photo, it no longer appears that someone has chopped her head off with an axe. Ew.
#TruthBomb: You are the only one who cares about your hair
Every so often I'll get an email from a headshot client asking "Why is the very top of my hair cut off? Can you put it back?"
The answer is usually no. I generally shoot headshots pretty tightly in-camera for exactly the reasons discussed above. Plus, NOBODY CARES ABOUT YOUR TOP THREE STRANDS OF HAIR!
You don't need to show the very tip top of your head - everyone knows you have one, and we can all assume it doesn't come to a point!
This goes right along with "don't leave room for a can of soup." The top of your hairdo isn't the focus of your photo, so don't dwell on this. Cut off the top of your hair if it means getting your eyes in that upper 1/3 of the image. Do it!
You can even crop all the way into your forehead if you need to!
What?? YES! Look at this:
Look at that very top left picture of Leo and tell me that wouldn't make the best Facebook profile picture in the world, I dare you!
I think you get the point.
Facebook Profile Picture Cropping Guide
I'll leave you with this quick cropping guide for your square social media profile pictures, and these little pearls of wisdom:
- Focus on the eyes
- Use the Rule of Thirds
- Don't leave room for a soup can
- Don't be afraid to cut off the top of your hair
If you need more help cropping your Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, or Pinterest Profile Picture, or if reading this article has made you realize how badly you need a new headshot, click on over to my contact page and let me know!