12 Must-Try Profile Picture Ideas for a Flattering Online Presence

From flattering poses to perfect lighting, we've got you (and your online self) covered.

Published November 2, 2023


Your profile picture is how people experience you online, so it's important that you look like your best self. It's all about showing who you really are in the most flattering and inspiring way, and we've got lots of profile picture ideas to inspire you.

From the background you use to the pose you strike, it all says something to everyone who sees it. Here's how you control that message.

Include Your Face in Your Profile Pic


Start by choosing or taking a profile picture that has your face in it. You'd be surprised how many people take profile pictures that don't include their face, but leaving your face out of the frame can actually send the wrong message. It can look like a lack of confidence.

Your face doesn't have to be the only thing in the picture (bring in friends, pets, your favorite mountain scene, whatever you like), but it should be in the photo.

Try Rembrandt Lighting for an Instantly Flattering Pic


Remember being a kid and holding a flashlight under your face to look extra creepy while telling spooky stories? Lighting makes a huge difference in how you look, so choose (or take) a profile picture with flattering lighting. Here's a setup that will work every time.

  1. Stand in a shady spot outside or near a large window inside.
  2. Grab your phone and turn the camera so you can see yourself.
  3. Turn your head and body until the light is shining on your face, but a little more on one side than the other. Your nose should be making a small, faint shadow on your cheek.
  4. Take the photo with this light.
Fast Fact

This type of lighting is called Rembrandt lighting after the great artist. It's considered one of the most universally flattering styles of lighting. Other lighting can work too, but this is a proven winner.

Play With Different Camera Angles


Anyone who has seen their grandma take a selfie with the camera looking up her nose is well aware that camera angles matter. It's all about what's flattering and the message you want to send. If you're taking a new picture of yourself, try some of these camera angles for your profile pic:

  • Above - If the camera looks down on you from above, it can really accent your eyes and look super cute. This has the potential to feel a little like a grown-up looking down on a kid, though, so don't put it too high.
  • Below - We're not talking up the nose here, but if you put the camera a little lower than you, it can feel powerful. This is great for a profile photo.
  • Straight - Straight works just fine, but it can feel a little boring. It sends a neutral message.

Use Complementary Colors in Your Profile Pic


Do you remember learning about the color wheel in art class? Colors that are opposite each other are complementary and can really draw the eye of the viewer. If you bring two of these colors together in your profile photo, you can get more attention. Choose one for the background and one for your outfit, or just work both into your outfit or accessories.

These are the combos to go for:

  • Red and green (like a red sweater in front of trees)
  • Blue and orange (for example, an orange top in front of a blue wall)
  • Purple and yellow (like purple hair in front of yellow flowers)

Pose With Confidence (We'll Tell You How)


Your profile photo should be the best version of you, which means you really need to own it. This can be tricky, though, unless you've spent a ton of time practicing in front of the mirror (we won't tell if you have). The secret to a confident pose is in the angles. Here's a surefire formula:

  • Stand with your weight on your back foot (even if you won't have your feet in the photo, this matters).
  • Rest your hand on your hip. Let your other arm hang by your side or hold something.
  • Bring a little tension into your arm muscles so it doesn't feel too sloppy.
  • Don't forget to smile.

Take a Ton of Photos to Get the Perfect Profile Pic


Sometimes the best picture of someone is one out of series. We like to take a ton of photos at a time and choose the best one. For this profile picture idea, try having someone else take the photos and just keep moving and changing poses. It's even better if you can chat a little so you can smile and laugh naturally.

Find a Simple Background


A simple background lets your profile picture really shine as the focal point. Anything too cluttered or crazy behind you can be distracting, so choose (or take) a photo with the background blurred or just super clean. A plain wall is great, but so is a beach, a favorite view in the distance, or even a field of flowers.

Quick Tip

One great way to get a clean background is to use your phone in "portrait mode" and make sure there's a lot of distance between you and whatever is behind you. The blur will soften anything that's cluttered.

Let the Background Frame You


You can also frame yourself with a background that draws attention to you. This is sort of next-level when it comes to profile photos, but you can totally do it. Here's how:

  1. Choose a bridge, building arch, shoreline, or anything with converging lines.
  2. Position yourself under this or with the lines leading right to you.
  3. Let the background blur a little bit if you can.
  4. Snap a great profile pic.

Do What Makes You You


Knowing how to take a good profile picture means more than just looking super polished and having a great background. It's also about showing who you really are. Show off your hobbies, your friends, your pets, or anything else that's really important to you.

Fast Fact

Turns out, having an artistic or creative-looking profile picture can actually signal to people that you have a high level of openness in your personality. That can be attractive and interesting to other people, so it's definitely something to keep in mind when you're choosing a photo.

Look Right at the Camera (or Not)


When it comes to profile pics, there are no rules about whether you should be looking at the camera. It can feel confident if you do (and that's a good idea for things like business headshots), but it's not the only way to look great. If you're looking off to the side, it can feel spontaneous. In fact, you may find people have taken candid photos of you that work well this way. It's all about what you like.

Quick Tip

A handy tip we like to use for flattering photos is making sure your shoulders and head aren't pointed in the same direction. Basically, have your shoulders turned a little away from the camera and your head turned toward it. This eliminates any risk of the dreaded double chin and just looks really good.

Include People You Love if You Want


Your profile photo should be about you, but there's no reason you can't include other people in it. If you're in a serious relationship, you might want your partner in your photo. Same goes for kids or friends.

If you do include more than one person in your profile pic, make sure you're prominent in the photo. You don't want to be just a random person in the background.

Consider How a Photo Will Crop


Most profile pictures are squares or circles that are based off of squares. Chances are, your phone or camera takes pictures that are rectangular. This means you're going to lose some of the edges of the photo to get that square crop. This is no big deal for most photos, but for some, it does matter. Keep these cropping tips in mind:

  • Don't crop off limbs. We're not alone in feeling like that looks creepy.
  • Avoid crops that make you look like just a head. You need shoulders and a little space over your head.
  • If you're cropping off the top of your head, do that at the widest spot in the forehead.
  • Don't crop out part of anything like another person or an element in the background.

The Best Profile Photo Idea Is Being Uniquely You


Ultimately, knowing how to take a great profile picture comes down to showing who you are. This can mean incorporating a bunch of different profile pic ideas at the same time (like a clean background, a great pose, and good lighting), but the most important thing is making sure the picture represents you as a person. If you're doing that, you're set.

12 Must-Try Profile Picture Ideas for a Flattering Online Presence