Social media craves images that are windows to our souls.  Do you want to find someone to share your life with? Or perhaps you are applying for a new job or a promotion. People in the world of social media, whether they are potential lovers or employers, want to play “I Spy” before they decide to approach you directly and make your acquaintance.

So, what does your profile image really say about you?  Have you ever carefully considered what the outside world looking in sees and thinks about you?  This is an important question because your profile image in today’s virtual society, is the first impression you make. Presenting yourself with a poorly done profile image online is like showing up at black tie fund raiser with spaghetti sauce on your shirt. It’s like running into the CEO of your company at a fancy restaurant and getting his or her name wrong, or sending a titillating text message meant for a lover to a client by mistake. A bad profile image is like saying something you don’t want others to hear, or see, or think.  It gives the impression that you are not paying attention, that you don’t take a real interest in yourself, your business, or in the details of your life. Don’t let the wrong image defeat your chances of gaining the connections you desire.

On a business website like Linkedin for example, your image is the first thing people look at. Your credentials come second. If your image is missing, it is like turning your face away when you meet someone. Automatically, there is a subconscious tendency for a viewer to think that you are lax, lazy, or have something to hide.  If you do have an image already, what does it say about you? Does it inspire trust and confidence in the minds of potential business clients? Sorry no!…not if it’s a snapshot from an office party with beer cans, wine bottles, and the back of someone’s head in the background, and no!…not if it’s a smug, smiley, or sexy selfie that distorts your face and shows off your new haircut, and no!…not if it’s out of focus with orange jaundiced skin tones. So what kind of image inspires confidence and trust in business?

On dating websites you must have an image. If your image is missing you can’t play the game.  But does it express the right emotional energy to attract the kind of personal relationship you are interested in? For personal relationships, social media images need to reveal you in ways that express strength, vulnerability, compassion, and fun. Because there are so many facets to personal relationships, a series of images is more helpful and desirable. But what kinds of images. Point and shoot snapshots of you with a drink in your hand and a disheveled red-eyed flash grin is not cool. Group photos of a guy with his buddies or a girl with her girlfriends, hugging and acting goofy is another common mistake that does everything but inspire intimacy or curiosity about who you really are. Sexy images do have their place if they are tastefully done, but selfies of girls showing off cleavage, or guys showing off arms and abs, have no class and will only attract trouble.

Although we, as a society, spend far more time than ever taking photos of ourselves and others, we seems to spend less time thinking about the emotional and intellectual impact our images produce in the viewer’s mind. We snap, we giggle, we post. Dangerous!

When trying to understand the impact of images on the psychology of desired viewers, there are no simple answers. This is a complex question. The answer depends on a number of variables that can be subtle and multi-layered. This is what the advertising industry spends billions of dollars trying to pinpoint with focus groups and psychological analysis. This is what you hire a talented and experienced photographer to do; not take your picture, but to create images that produce a viewer response that helps achieve the goals and aims you need for success.

Does your photo express the right emotional energy to attract the people connections you are interested in? What kind of clothes should you wear? What kind of location should you be in for background? Sometimes there’s a time to smile and look friendly, and other times to look serious and strong. It depends on the line of work you’re in, and the type of client whose hand you want to shake. It depends on your own tastes and quirks, and the kind of person you want to attract for hugs and kisses. There are images to use for personal stuff, and others for business, and sometimes it’s even okay to mix them up a bit depending on what you’re after. Yes, it can be kaleidoscopic! What do you expect? It’s life!

So how do you get it right! There is not one simple answer. Let’s say you are into fitness. Maybe some images of you running in the woods, or on the beach at dawn, or in a gym heroically hoisting mega weights, would grab the attention of the right person and voila!… you have a new workout buddy. Or if you’re a programmer, images of you in a coffee shop with code on your screen and a croissant in the dish beside you, might be just right touch to sweeten your geeky nature enough to attract the interest of your next lover, or your next employer.

It’s important to get it right and easy to get it wrong. Attorney’s stop with the bookcases in the background! Everybody knows you don’t read them, and if anyone thought you did they would never want to meet you. Doctors put down your stethoscopes in photos! Don’t make your patients think you wear them out to dinner. A stethoscope is not a tie! And no more brown brick walls in the background, pahleeezzzzz! One would imagine half the people in the city are bricklayers judging from all the brick walls showing up in “professional” photos.

Don’t worry. This is why god made good photographers. Unfortunately, the Art Institutes of the world cloned them to death, but a few still exist.

A good photographer is an artist, a philosopher, and a psychologist rolled into one, with camera colored eyes. A good photographer will help you style your photo shoot, from the clothes you wear including the level of makeup, to the lighting and background. They know how to tell your story in a way that will attract the people you need for business and for love. They don’t just take your picture. They dream you. They imagine you. They inspire you by showing you what is great about yourself in a series of images. They capture the attractive forces of your nature, harness them, and hitch them to the wagon of your dreams, pulling you on to success.

These are the real image makers, the real photographers. We are there, but you have to sift through piles of stone to find the gems; piles of stone in the form of a million wide-eyed, wannabe photographers created by educational corporations that have exploited the profession of photography and gouged huge profits by overselling degrees on government loans. But yes we are still here, the artists that can sing your praise.

The great German poet Rilke once wrote: “a man or woman who can praise comes toward us like ore out of the silences of rock”…

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