A profile made from pictures is like a mood board of your life. But what kind of pictures should you use? Guest blogger Daniela Bowker of Photocritic gives some professional advice
All good pictures tell stories. It's what they're meant to do. Sometimes the story is obvious, like a flashing neon sign; sometimes it's more subtle. It's the difference between a photo of you splashing in the puddles with the Arc de Triomphe in the background, and one of the Eiffel Tower reflected in the damp pavement. Both of them tell the story of Paris in the rain. One's a scream, the other's a whisper.
Bad photos don't tell good stories. They leave you in squinty-eyed wonderment. At Photocritic, a website dedicated to photography which I edit, we see a lot of disappointing photos. Crowd scenes or uninspiring snapshots of tourist attractions are some of the worst offenders. The tell-tale sign of a photo without a story is when you don't know where to look; your eye wanders about the picture and you think, "What am I meant to be looking at here?"
There's an easy way to overcome the curse of the silent picture. Whenever you reach for your camera, ask yourself, "What am I trying to say?" If you can decide on the story, it will be easier for the people looking at your photo to understand it. The rest is technical, and photos that say something meaningful beat those that are technically perfect but devoid of personality.
Think before you shoot
At the outset, it's important to decide what you want to say about yourself, which elements of your personality and aspects of your life you want to convey. Forget about photos at this stage and think about you. What do you like to do? Read. Cook. Eat. Swim. Travel. Ski. Meditate. Rock climb. Paint. What do you do for a living? What are the things in your life that are important to you? Do you have a dog? Do you tend an allotment? Do you have a strong faith?
Once you've established what you wish to portray, you can begin to think about the pictures that reflect this. Consider the following random examples.
Reading. How about a selection of your favourite books? Pile them up, photograph them from an unusual angle.
Cooking. So much potential here. You wielding a spatula. A steak sizzling in a pan. A beautiful cake that you've baked. Here's your chance to tell people what you like to cook, what you're good at cooking, and what you like to eat!
Travelling. If you like to travel, include a selection of your favourite destinations. Try something iconic (Paris?), or something a little more idiosyncratic. There are many ways to communicate your wanderlust.
Painting. A photo of your paintbrushes and palette will say enough. You don't have to show your paintings if that embarrasses you or if you find them hard to photograph. The tools of the trade themselves are a strong message.
There are many other, subtle ways your photos can tell your story. Obscure angles and abstract scenes suggest an artistic side. Bright colours intimate a bouncy personality. Fond of filters? You're probably a social media wizard. And it's a good idea to strike a balance between pictures that feature you and pictures that don't. It's all about you, but not all at the same time.
Remember, your pictures are just a starting point. They're meant to open up a conversation between you and the people who look at them. You want them to act as an enticement, but to leave an air of mystery. Each photo tells a story, but not your whole story. That's just the way it should be.
Coming soon on this blog: Daniela's pro tips for taking great photos. If you're interested in joining Photocritic's free Photography School, click here.