Profile Picture No No's


profile photo No No'sHave you ever looked at a friend’s Facebook or LinkedIn Profile Picture and though, “WHAT??” How about the folks who only use a picture of their puppy, or a For Sale Sign?

Please don’t get me wrong, I’m all for puppies. I’m pretty keen on babies and kittens, too, but not in our profile pictures! There was a time when we framed and displayed those photos at home or, perhaps, on our desk at the office. Things are no longer as simple.

Today, our workplace is not limited to just one desk in just one office. To some extent, we’re all connected to others online and we still want to express ourselves by decorating our online office with our favorite photos. For those of us who are in Real Estate, the version of ourselves we put online matters. It can and will be seen by anyone interested in learning more about us.

The photo is important for a couple of reasons:

It makes it easier for me to recognize you. If I’m meeting you in person for the first time, having seen your photo will put me at ease knowing who I should be looking for (I Google you from my phone!). Similarly, if we’ve met in person and you send me an invitation to connect online, seeing your photo will help me remember you.  If that photo is 8 years old, and air burshed – I might not recognize you!

Simply put, it humanizes you. I will not feel connected with an anonymous account, and what if people know you by Steve, and all of your online profiles are Stephen? I want to connect with a person. And, yes, this means that it’s time to finally add a photo to your Real Estate LinkedIn profile if you haven’t yet taken the plunge yet… ditto for Facebook and your business page on Facebook too!  Remember, they give you 6 photos when you count the ones along the top!

Choosing the Right Photo

Head shot – Probably your head, neck shoulders. This can easily be done with your cell phone, standing in the Bathroom doorway (so you can see yourself). It should be the real you, not a cartoon or Mad Men version of you. And, by “real” I also mean the current version, 10 pounds heavier without the sun highlights if that’s where you are. It may feel like you were in high school only yesterday, but if you did the lindy hop at your prom, your old yearbook photo won’t do.

Logo – A For Sale Sign, or Sold Sign doesn’t tell me who you are.  Unless your business is a well known brand (think Ford or Macy’s), it is probably best to use your photo rather than your Real Estate Company logo, or one of your For Sale Signs. In general, we like and want to connect with people, not businesses. It’s important to note that using a logo instead of a photo on LinkedIn would violate the User Agreement.  On a Facebook Business Page, I see people using a logo much more often.  If you are just using it as a place to slap up your listings, that is probably okay.  Otherwise, skip the logo and stick with your own head shot, or something that represents the message you are trying to convey.

Keep it simple – This means we want to see you. Lose the baseball hat, those awesome sunglasses or anything else that competes for our attention in the photo. Same goes for busy backgrounds, remember my idea about the bathroom door?

You and only you – Getting back to puppies…in your primary profile photo is probably not the best use of your puppy photos. Ditto for you and a group of your best friends or you riding your bike.  If you are part of a Real Estate TEAM, and you want to show a TEAM photo everywhere – go to Gravatar, and see if it will fit (It’s Free).  Chances are, you will find that you can not get everyone in the shot.  If it does, and you like the way it looks, use it.

Nudity – I know that they say Sex Sells… B-U-T, I’m a mom, I'm from the South, and I’m old school.  If I can see your shoulders in your head shot, I want to see clothing. While you may be wearing a strapless dress, it’s all about perception. Don’t take the time to create a great profile only to leave people wondering if you’re actually naked. Ewwww! There is no difference between actually being naked and appearing to be naked in a profile photo. Ditto for those shots of you leaning over the balcony trying to show cleavage.  I'm just sayin’!

Consistency – A great way to help build your online brand is use the same photo for all of your online profiles. Use the same photo on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube channel, your blog, etc. It will make it much easier for people to recognize you right away.  REMEMBER WHERE YOU PUT YOUR PICTURE!  As you are building your profiles, we strongly suggest that you create a Profile Keeper!

Smile – Don’t overthink your pose.  Those who know me, are my friends on Facebook, and who have TAKEN pictures of me know that this is one of the things I personally struggle with!  We all need to take time to take pictures of ourself until we get use to it!  Attempts to look too serious can come off as intimidating. And none of those here-I-am-looking-busy-by-pretending-to-talk-on-the-phone photos. You’re not that busy. Put the phone down for a second so you can smile and have your picture taken.

Doesn’t need to be fancy – You don’t need to rush out and schedule a session with a professional portrait photographer. Having a friend take a photo of you in front of a solid background should be fine as long as the lighting is sufficient.  I suggested earlier that you could take your own picture… you can.  But truthfully, it will come out so much better if you do it with a friend!

There are Some Exceptions sort of

I can hear you all the way across this internet connection, “But I use the different social networking platforms differently and that’s why I have puppies on Facebook and am wearing a suit and tie on LinkedIn.” You are in good company. If you must have a profile photo with your puppy/baby/surfboard/bottle of wine/cigar/goat, keep it on Facebook and only on Facebook. As long as you understand what can be seen when a potential client or employer Googles your name and you’re OK with it, that’s all that matters.  My suggestion?  Use those 5 photos along the top of Facebook to hold those Surfboard Rock Solid Abs pictures, but keep your profile picture “Clean!”

If you have questions about your Profile, or your web presence, you can call or txt Eleanor at  919-649-5057          @isellmoney.  We are in the mortgage business too – so if you have a referral in NC, we’d LOVE to help them!  Please call Steve Thorne with your mortgage questions at919-649-5058.  We are starting a new website and Facebook Business Page - check us out!  RETechNotes

Comment balloon 59 commentsEleanor Thorne • May 20 2011 10:54AM


Yup, yup, enough with the pup!  Doesn't add to the, the.  Well, it doesn't do anything for me.  (And ESPECIALLY, NO CATS!!!!).

Posted by Michael Kitsch (Coldwell Banker) almost 9 years ago

There are other security and marketing reasons for not using a photo of yourself. Many companies are now suggesting that agents quit using head shots, and don't use any pic of yourself on your web site. That could be why you see logos. signs, pets, a house, etc in the spot where they use to have their head shot.

Posted by Jeff Pearl, Full Service Full Time Realtor (RE/MAX Distinctive / LIC in VA) almost 9 years ago

Eleanor - OY VEY!!!  I can see some of the comments now.  Think I'll park for awhile just to see how the comment thread goes.  On that note, I will say that I do agree with many of your suggestions but I am going to politely disagree with a couple of others and it doesn't matter which ones they are.  This is your blog and you can blog about whatever you want. 

I would just say one thing though:  not everyone is here to increase their business and some use this platform to socialize with.  It's their blog and they can set-up their profile picture anyway they want to.  If you don't like it, that's your problem (as you have already indicated) and not theirs.  JMHO

Have a good day Eleanor and a great weekend too.  :)

Posted by Donne Knudsen, CalState Realty Services (Los Angeles & Ventura Counties in CA) almost 9 years ago

Great post for the lighter side this fine Friday morning. We have all made comment from time to time on the choice of someones photo!  One I saw recently really dated the man,  he was holding a "brick" cell phone from the stone age!

Posted by Christine Koch, Realtor - eXp Realty San Antonio TX (eXp Realty) almost 9 years ago

Donne  -  Totally understand what you are saying.  I hear folks say it's whatever works... I TOTALLY agree that you should have pictures in your profile that show your passion, and help folks connect with you - but is that the MAIN picture you want to display?  I've been told many times that doing the quick photo of yourself is also the wrong way to go - but I don't mind that as much as I do the Sold Sign... just me.

Posted by Eleanor Thorne, Equity Resources 919-649-5058 (Equity Resources) almost 9 years ago

Eleanor, I cringed with that photo!  AND I do love my dog!  But I have to agree with you.  Do put up a profile pic BUT remember what it's for.  On FB some of the more relaxed images are fine, but they wouldn't work as well for LinkedIn.  I say use them appropriately!

Posted by Lee & Pamela St. Peter, Making Connections to Success in Real Estate (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices YSU Realty: (919) 645-2522) almost 9 years ago

marti garaughty, abstract art, illustration, branding

Posted by marti garaughty, a highly caffeinated creative type... ( almost 9 years ago

Great post, I don't think enough poeple realize the message they send to others when picking a profile picture. If you want to be viewed as a proffessional then you must broadcast yourself as one at all times.

Posted by Austin Herbert (DNJ Gateway Mortgage) almost 9 years ago

Eleanor, well said.  I know my friends wonder why I don't put up a clever FB picture. What they don't realize is that my professional presence demands that I keep it consistent.  So, just your basic suit and tie looking into the camera kind of pic.  Good advice.  Thanks for posting!!

Posted by Mike Cooper, GRI, Your Neighborhood Real Estate Sales Pro (Cornerstone Business Group Inc) almost 9 years ago

Mm Hmm.  

Reminds me of people that drive around with their dogs on their lap.


Posted by Anthony Daniels, SF Bay Area REO Specialist (Coldwell Banker) almost 9 years ago

How about that old highschool yearbook photo.  A fellow realtor has that on her facebook page.  Although she hasn't changed that much that was 25yrs ago.  It may be time to update a picture.  I know it's time for me to update mine.  When I had my last headshot I had brown hair that was styled, now I'm letting the grey grow in and wear it pulled back.  Great reminder for all of us.


Posted by Virginia (Ginger) Schott, Assoc. Broker, CBR, CHMS (Cabins & Canoes) almost 9 years ago

Hey girl... good to see you!! YUCK to that Sharon Osbourne photo... LOL

Posted by Erika Madsen, Fathom Realty - Southeast Valley District Director (Fathom Realty) almost 9 years ago

I agree with your comments, I had my girlfriend take a photo of me for several social listings and she must have taken at least 20 trying to get the best shot. When she thought she had it. I picked the goofy one that you see on the left, because that is me.

Posted by Michael Durnell, Escondido Home Inspector (PRP Inspections ) almost 9 years ago

Well, time flies and my photo is now 8 years old.  Every time I try to take a new one, I don't like the results... geez, who is that lady in the picture!  Great post; I agree!

Posted by Roberta Kayne, CRS, ABR, SFR, RRS, Realtor, Re/Max Affiliates (Dublin & Central Ohio Homes) almost 9 years ago

I can only partially agree with you. Throughout my 46 years in business I can provide tens of thousands of stories about people buying from me BECAUSE OF my flowers, my dogs, my cats, etc. I even had a client offer to buy my two dogs many years ago, after he had bought about $50,000 worth of computers and networking gear for his company.

On the other hand, I don’t have a single story from anyone telling me they didn’t buy from me because I had something else in my photo with me.

It’s just another part of your niche marketing, and you can create a much larger niche if you show the world that you’re not just an “ugly bag of mostly water,” to use a phrase from Star Trek.

Show the world that you’re human, that you have interests and a personality! You’ll have a much better business if you establish a commonality above and beyond just being a person who sells real estate.

My current ActiveRain photo is one of the few times that I don’t have something else with me. Hmmm. Time to change, me thinks.

Posted by Not a real person almost 9 years ago

Fun post and good comments. Although I love creativity and a good laugh, I prefer to see a profile picture that reflects reality.

Posted by Retired Notworking almost 9 years ago

those dang cartoon caricatures!

keep in mind.  if you're doing exactly as everyone else... is in the same manner, you'll never stick out from the crowd.

Posted by Ryan Paliukaitis, Cash Home Buyer (Real Estate Solution Providers LLC) almost 9 years ago

I love all the differing opinions. What I don't like to see are the old, outdated pictures. When you meet the agent in person after seeing their old picture, they look really tired and old :0)

I try not to take myself so seriously and I enjoy working with people who feel the same way. I go for more of a picture of what I look like on a regular basis.

I've never really like ANY pictures taken of me so it can be a challenge. I don't care about my Facebook profile pic as much because I don't use it for business.

I don't like to see QR codes for profile pictures either. Not everyone gets those yet. I hate to say this, but I kind of laugh at the agents who look so stiff in their photos. I don't get it. What kind of client are they trying to attract? I hope to portray a professional image, but I am human.

Posted by Joan Defenbaugh, REALTOR® Defenbaugh TEAM (Keller Williams Capital Partners Worthington & Northwest Columbus) almost 9 years ago
Eleanor I understand pet peeves and clearly this may be one of yours and I respect that. BUT it is THEIR profile and they should use the photo of their choice. As for the animal profile pics, like Russell said, they draw other animal lovers.
Posted by Charita Cadenhead, Serving Jefferson and Shelby Counties (Alabama) (Keller Williams Realty) almost 9 years ago

BRAVO RUSSEL!!!  Eleanor, if you don't know Russel, he is a phenomenal photographer besides just an animal lover (he's practically a resident at he San Diego zoo).  I really enjoy his pics as well as so many others and if they want to use them in their profile, go for it.

Posted by Donne Knudsen, CalState Realty Services (Los Angeles & Ventura Counties in CA) almost 9 years ago

Ha ha... I hear you, but I think Russel is on track too - it's up to what you want to convey...

Posted by Terkel Sørensen, Realtor, 951.805.0773 , Bank owned and Short Sales (Real Estate Places) almost 9 years ago

This is a great post! Brightened up my Friday!

True pic is 8 years old too! I am so guilty!

Posted by Sinead McAllister, Broker - McAllister Homes Real Estate, Oceanside, (McAllister Homes Real Estate) almost 9 years ago

I change my FB photo almost every day. It could be anything as I am a photography nut. Today, it is a pup. LOL! Yesterday a flower... who knows... tomorrow it may actually be me -- or bracelets ! :) Thanks for reminding me to change my picture again! ☺

Posted by Joni Bailey, Your Huntsville / Lake Livingston Area REALTOR® (101 Main St. Realty) almost 9 years ago

Ha!  So true, it's totally unprofessional for sure. 


Patricia/SEacoast NH & ME

Posted by Patricia Aulson, Realtor - Portsmouth NH Homes-Hampton NH Homes (BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY HOME SERVICES Verani Realty NH Real Estate ) almost 9 years ago

Its all about being genuine, the age old cliche of "being yourself." (But, being mindful of what your grandmother would think, i.e. not too "yourself") ;-) 

Posted by Dustin Oldfather, Delaware Ocean & Water Front Homes (Ocean Atlantic Sotheby's International Realty) almost 9 years ago

Personally, I think your Facebook personal profile should NOT be a professional headshot of you. Remember, it's a personal profile that shouldn't be used for business, but rather to let people see the more casual side of you. My profile picture reflects that, and I change it up every so often to keep it fresh.

However, I'm with you on your other points, especially consistency. All of our business web sites display the same picture of my wife and I you see on this comment. It's consistent, it becomes familiar, and people have approached more times than I can count and said, "I know you, I see your picture everywhere!".

Posted by Pat & Wayne Harriman, Broker/Owners, Wallingford CT Real Estate (Harriman Real Estate, LLC (203) 672-4499) almost 9 years ago

I think there is a middle ground between nudity and a professional headshot. That's where I like to land. 

Posted by Michael Anthony almost 9 years ago

I think that more and more people want to know who you are as a person.  The biggest thing to people I believe is family. 

Posted by Ryan P. McDonough, Licensed Loan Officer (Amerifirst Financial, Inc.) almost 9 years ago


Just goes to show everyone has a different idea in marketing. Some market their logos or company. Others learned to market themselves. I am never a fan of my pictures yet I know that future clients want to know and judge if they want to hire me by my picture. Yes a photos says a 1000 words and so does our personal photo.

Posted by Nona Swann, Serving the needs of the Sellers in Brevard County (Swann & Associates Real Estate) almost 9 years ago

AMEN and great post!  It's about relationships, I think the personal picture makes it more "personal!"

Posted by Joy Daniels (Joy Daniels Real Estate Group, Ltd.) almost 9 years ago

Great Post..  I love it when you see the photo on an agent's business card and it was taken 20 years ago... What is up with that.

Posted by Stephanie Leon | Miami Lakes Realtor®, Turning For Sale Into SOLD! (Realty Empire Incorporated) almost 9 years ago

I wanted to watch the weather and got caught up in your comments on your post! Good read. Great thoughts. If only life were so simple....

Posted by Lindsey Hasford, Bringing you home... (Edina Realty) almost 9 years ago

You know much as I love my dog -- I think I'll leave him off my profile pic.  

But best believe that it does work.  I know several very successful Realtors who have "dog shots."  When their phone rings the first thing people mention is the dog!  Good post -- you will rock the boat with this one.

Posted by Tni LeBlanc, Realtor®, J.D., Tenacious Tni (805) 878-9879 (Mint Properties, Lic. #01871795) almost 9 years ago

I get the niche pic thing, but people PLEASE stop using a pic from 10yrs ago.  The pic I use for AR was taken on a very important day for me, back country skiing outside of Aspen.  But I still look the same as I did then.

Glamour shots...please go away.  Do you ever look like that when you see the grocery store...taking out the trash...washing the car...maybe you do.


Posted by Kevin Kueneke, San Diego Mortgage Banker (Caliber Home Loans) almost 9 years ago


I remember Steven Graham saying in one of his classes that pictures with two people in the photo or pictures of animals are very well like.  He suggested that we use animals or another person in our profile picture.

Posted by Evelyn Kennedy, Alameda, Real Estate, Alameda, CA (Alain Pinel Realtors) almost 9 years ago

Good points, but what about those of us who never like our photos?

When I first started, I spent well over $100 having professional photos taken and didn't really like any of them, so I had my husband take a pic with our digital camera. Doing it this way, it's easy to update every 6 months or so as well (I'm growing my hair out, and it changes my appearance a lot).

My current pic is cropped from a "just out of bed", no makeup, finger-combed my hair instead of styling it, screen-cap from a flip video of my son and I. I liked the way it turned out and used it for a profile pic elsewhere, and your post made me think why not here, too.

Posted by Raine Carraway almost 9 years ago

What!! You don't like my For Sale Sign???

Sorry... I get too many stalkers when I use a real pic... LOL!

Posted by Paul Francis, Las Vegas Real Estate Agent - Summerlin Homes (Francis Group Real Estate) almost 9 years ago

What, no nudity or cleavage? What's up with that!!!!!

Posted by David O'Doherty, Clayton NC Homes, Raleigh, NC (Raleigh Realty Inc) almost 9 years ago

Well said.  BTW, there is someone I know (from networking) who has a nude picture of herself on FB and I will not friend her because I don't want any of my friends and/or biz contacts to see her comment on my page as i'ts most inappropriate and completely unprofessional.

Now, while I agree w/ what you've said here, I have to say that I've had a lot of issues uploading profile picts for friends here w/ the 600 x 600 requirement and other constraints.  I've invited many who can not get their desired picture on here.

Posted by Debbie Gartner, The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers (The Flooring Girl) almost 9 years ago

Eleanor As always your information is right on.  Thanks for sharing.

Posted by Shay Campbell, Raleigh, NC (Universal American Mortgage Company) almost 9 years ago

I don't mind if they choose a cheesy pic but I hate it when you get a card and they look 30 years younger on it

Posted by Debra Hughes (Keller Williams Realty) almost 9 years ago

Good points. Keep the photo recent, you want people to know it's you when they meet you.

Posted by Donna Malone, Homes and Property for Sale Nova Scotia (Waterfront, Luxury, Family, Affordable, Cottage, Deals) almost 9 years ago

I agree except with your Facebook stuff. Facebook is not a "professional" networking platform. Facebook is where I am humanized and let down some guard and allow people to see me for me. They are my "friends".  The outside public cannot see me because of the security settings.

My AR, LinkedIn, Facebook fan page and other Facebook community pages are all professional pictures.

Posted by Donna Harris, Realtor,Mediator,Ombudsman,Property Tax Arbitrator (Donna Homes, powered by JPAR - almost 9 years ago

Eleanor, good points here. I do have one pic with my dog but it's about 'The Blog Dog' and I'm the one that doesn't fit in the pic! Anyway, I want to say that there is someone here on AR that I swear is wearing a nightgown in her bio pic.  I think it's a little too sexy like a boudoir photo (a racier glamor photo LOL?). Not appropriate at all.

Posted by Lyn Sims, Schaumburg Real Estate (RE/MAX Suburban) almost 9 years ago

Yup! All good advice! And that photo you used for the blog - ICK!

Posted by Allen 2222 almost 9 years ago

I love my dog but you certainly would see me kissing her tongue.

Posted by Tammie White, Broker, Franklin TN Homes for Sale (Franklin Homes Realty LLC) almost 9 years ago

Eleanor, This was such a good read:)  Thank you for bringing up some very good points, not just about posting here on the Rain, but, throughout our social networks!

Posted by Frances C. Rokicki, Broker-Mentor,CRS (Fran Rokicki Realty, LLC) almost 9 years ago


Good post!  I'm having a new photo shot on Wednesday.  By a pro.  That is cheap for the outcome, as he uses lighting and has a better photoshop eye than I do.

But, now, it seems that I wasted the money having my feather boa drycleaned.
And I have to wear clothes, too?
This is probably the most emotionally crushing blog I have ever read. 

Posted by Mike Jaquish, 919-880-2769 Cary, NC, Real Estate (Realty Arts) almost 9 years ago

Hi Eleanor,  Fun read !  Never understood some of the stuff used on a business platform.  Have a terrific Sunday afternoon !

Posted by Bill Gillhespy, Fort Myers Beach Realtor, Fort Myers Beach Agent - Homes & Condos (16 Sunview Blvd) almost 9 years ago

It's interesting what people choose to say about themselves, personally, when I choose a professional in any line of work outside a veterinarian, I don't care about how much they love dogs.  Your photo speaks to the viewer, what do you want yours to say?  ( Hopefully, hire me!)

Posted by Laurie Gibson, SFR, Canyon County Real Estate (Windermere Access Realty) almost 9 years ago

I couldn't show cleavage if I tried....sigh...

Great post! :)

Posted by Dawn Nuzzi ('Til Dawn Real Estate) almost 9 years ago

I couldn't agree with you more... some photos are just WRONG!!!


Posted by Tatyana Makarov, Your Greater Hartford Area Realtor (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage) almost 9 years ago

Eleanor-you have a friend in Donne, who made you a 'STAR" this weekend! For all the times it's said, still do not understand why people do not use a photo of themselves. As a non-Realtor, I see some things more like a buyer/seller, and it's alienating not being able to visualize who's on the other end of the phone/email...great post, thanks!

Posted by Marie Graham, Westchester County Interior Decorator, Home Stager (Owner, The Refreshed Home White Plains NY) almost 9 years ago

Your first impression could very well become your last impression!!!!

Posted by Cassandra Vickers (RE/MAX Pioneers) almost 9 years ago

Good post!  On my Facebook page I like to have a lot of fun with my pictures.  I change it often and like to keep it light.  I have a picture of me in the smallest tub I have ever seen, me doing carpet angels on a new construction sale, and a few other goofy pics like that.  I also have some that are more professional.  I think it's all in what you want to project.  For me it's fun and light.  No nudity though.  :)

Posted by Amanda Christiansen, Christiansen Group Realty (Christiansen Group Realty (260)704-0843) almost 9 years ago

Ha ha, I saw one photo on AR where I was sure the gal was naked. Not a good impression unless you are advertising another line of business.

Posted by Cynthia Larsen, Independent Broker In Sonoma County, CA almost 9 years ago

TTFW ......too tacky for words, how unprofessional....Hello.


Patricia/Seacoast NH & ME

Posted by Patricia Aulson, Realtor - Portsmouth NH Homes-Hampton NH Homes (BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY HOME SERVICES Verani Realty NH Real Estate ) almost 9 years ago

Eleanor, you left out one thing...make sure the photo is current! I was at an open house last week and an agent showed up with her client. I swear the picture on her business card was from high school and she was in high school when The Bee Gees were killing it on the disco scene!

thanks for the post

Posted by Dave Singery, Friendly Hills Homes - Whittier Ca (Triinity Realty and Investment) almost 9 years ago

Yuk not into dog kissing on the lips but I feel ya.  Good points.

Posted by Rosemary Brooks, The Mother & Daughter Realty Team (BMC Real Estate - 209-910-3706) almost 9 years ago