For many of us, Instagram is a key tool for staying connected with friends and family. It’s also a platform where anyone can build a personal brand or promote a business. Whatever you use the app for, you’re going to want a good Instagram profile picture.
On paper, that sounds like an easy task — you could just pick out a decent selfie from your gallery or zoom in on a group photo. Right?
Well, that could work. However, you might need to do a little editing to make an existing photo look the part. Alternatively, many people now choose to take a profile photo specifically for Instagram.
In this guide, we’re going to take a look at your options here, and visit some top trade secrets from social media pros.
Whenever someone lands on your Instagram profile, your profile photo is one of the first things they will see. In fact, it might be the very first element that their eye is drawn towards.
If the visitor to your profile is a new friend, they may use your profile pic to figure out if you’re the person they know, or just someone with the same name.
On business accounts, visitors might be checking out your brand and deciding whether to give you a follow. In most cases, people use everything they can see — including your profile photo — to make a rapid judgment.
If your profile looks slick and professional, and they have an interest in your content, there is an excellent chance that you will gain a new follower.
On the flip side, a low-quality profile photo will make you look amateurish, and it could discourage some potential fans.
In other words: your profile photo can have a major impact on your ability to connect with people on Instagram.
Ready to upgrade your Instagram profile photo? We have you covered. Here are seven key principles and techniques to guide the process:
The best Instagram profile photos are not generally recycled. The vast majority are “headshot” portraits that have been taken specifically for social media platforms and other online channels.
The reason for adopting this approach is that you can optimize your profile pic before you even hit the shutter button.
There are several points to bear in mind during the shoot, and we will look at these later. But for now, let’s put away the holiday snaps and party pics, and focus on creating something new!
As you may have noticed, Instagram profile photos are circular. Even if you upload an image in a different aspect ratio, the app will crop it to have even-length sides, and then round off the corners.
So, when you come to capture your new Instagram profile photo, we highly recommend using square mode on your camera. Utilizing this option essentially allows you to preview what your profile pic will look like as you’re lining up the shot.
You can access square mode in the iPhone Camera app by tapping the ⌃ and selecting square mode from the pop-up menu. Many Android devices provide this feature in the default camera app, but this varies according to the make, model, and OS version of your phone.
On both platforms, you can also use square mode in specialist third-party apps like Pixelcut.
The advantage of using these apps is that you may get extra creative control; in the case of Pixelcut, you can take a photo and jump straight into editing.
Take a quick look at your profile on Instagram, and take note of how tiny the profile photo is. In real-world terms, it’s probably smaller than your fingerprint.
With such a small area to work with, we need to make sure that every pixel counts.
To make best use of the minuscule space, we recommend snapping a simple photo of your face. And we don’t mean your face at a moderate distance. Your head should pretty much fill the circular frame.
The reason behind this is simple: unless your face takes up most of the picture, even your close friends won’t be able to recognize you within that pokey circle. Your features will simply be too small.
So, when you take your new profile photo, make sure you get in nice and close with the camera. Alternatively, take a slightly wider shot and crop the image down. This will often be more flattering.
It might feel a little daunting posing for what feels like an extreme close-up. But if you feel self-conscious, just remember that your face will still be very small on your Instagram account profile.
As you compose your new profile photo, it might be tempting to get creative by posing a little off-center. It worked for the Mona Lisa, so why not for the rest of us? Placing the subject so they are looking into the frame is also a technique that is often used by professional portrait photographers.
But as we mentioned before, your Instagram profile photo is going to be really, really small. If you move your head to one side of the frame, the other side is going to be filled with wasted pixels — and we have very few pixels to start with!
For this reason, we suggest sticking with good old center alignment. You can rotate your head a little, but keep it right in the middle to make best use of the available space.
Of course, a great IG photo isn’t about showing off your face. The overall aim here is to create something bold and eye-catching enough to get people to stop scrolling and start following.
One way to achieve this is by making your profile photo punchy.
No, put away the boxing gloves. We are talking about visual punch here: bold colors and strong contrast.
For your profile picture photoshoot, consider wearing something colorful that still complements your complexion.
Afterwards, use your favorite editing app to introduce a little extra contrast. This will add more light and shadow to your photo, accentuating your features and helping to make your photo stand out on a busy profile page.
You can do this using an adjustment slider, or by applying photo filters and presets. You can find both of these features in Pixelcut.
Bear in mind that you won’t always need to add extra contrast. If you shoot in really good light, you should have plenty of contrast right off the bat.
When we say good light, we’re talking about a bright, warm glow that highlights your face.
Natural light is usually the best option, but a carefully aimed indoor lamp can also work well. If you go down this route, be sure to keep the lamp above eye level — lighting your face from below is rarely flattering.
For a really professional look, you could introduce a reflector. This could be a specialist photographic accessory or a large piece of white card. Either way, it’s there to bounce light back onto your face where there are shadows.
As you take the shot, set up your reflector on the opposite side of your face from the predominant light source. Get it in the right spot, and you will be amazed at the difference it makes.
Most of the tips above are designed to make you the star of your tiny circle. The last thing you want is the background taking some of the attention.
This might not seem like a major problem — but it only takes one bright ornament or sweet wrapper in the room behind you to reduce the overall quality of your image.
There are two ways to avoid this issue. The more labor-intensive way is to set up a photo background. This could be a dedicated photography backdrop, or just a white sheet.
The easier route is to snap and edit your photo with Pixelcut. The app uses AI technology to separate you from the background in seconds, leaving you with a perfect white backdrop.
If you want to switch it up a little, you can choose any color, design a background pattern, or choose from thousands of photos. Because it’s all automatic, you don’t need any editing knowledge to achieve professional results.
The tips above should help you with capturing and editing the ideal profile photo. But if you still have questions about the process, we have answers:
Tap on your current profile photo in the bottom-right of the Instagram app. Then hit Edit Profile, followed by Change profile photo, and select your chosen image.
It might be because you have cropped your photo too much, or because iCloud is storing a low-resolution version of your image.
Try to avoid cropping your photos by more than 50%, and in your iCloud settings, choose the Keep Originals option instead of Optimize Photo Storage to make sure you have the high-quality, full size version of your profile image.
This largely depends on the type of account you are running. If you’re aiming for a company IG profile, feel free to use a logo. Otherwise, stick with a headshot.
Instagram uses an exact 1:1 square ratio for profile pics, cropped to the shape of a circle. No matter what shape of photo you upload, it will always end up chopped down to this ratio.
Instagram profile photos are displayed at 110 × 110 pixels. However, it’s worth noting that these images are saved at 320 × 320 pixels on Instagram’s servers.
We think Pixelcut offers the best workflow. Available on iOS and Android, our app allows you to snap your photo, remove or replace the background, adjust the contrast, and export your shot at the perfect size — all within a couple of minutes.
Want to give it a try? Download Pixelcut today to discover why 10 million small businesses already use the app!