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098 - You need a better profile photo

How to create a better profile picture. Let’s admit it – most of us use quite a boring photo of ourselves for our online profile pic. You are never going to convince people that you are an expert in your field if your profile picture is some selfie or out-of-date image that looks like your school yearbook photo.

In this episode, David looks at how to get a profile photo that stands out and whether or not you need to use a professional photographer to create one. He also explains why magazines and websites will be more likely to publish your story if you can provide a great image of yourself to accompany it.

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Episode transcript

Hello and welcome to episode 98 of The Vegan Business Tribe Podcast with myself David Pannell, co-founder of Vegan Business Tribe. And if you have a vegan business, or are thinking of starting one, then Vegan Business Tribe is here to support and inspire you not just to build a vegan business, but to build a SUCCESSFUL vegan business.

And I also wanted to mention our two amazing sponsors, and don’t just tune out for a minute thinking you’re going to get some boring irrelevant sponsorship message, if you have a vegan business then these are two companies that you really will find useful. First, if you do have a vegan business and are looking for a UK accountancy firm that understands your ethics, then you need look no further than Keith and his team at Vegan Accountants. And I have to share that Vegan Accountants are our accountants at Vegan Business Tribe and it makes such a difference when you’ve got people looking after your finances that understand why you have a vegan business in the first place.

And second, our brand new sponsor is The Vegan Publisher. And if you are a vegan business owner or entrepreneur, then nothing raises your profile and proves your expertise like becoming a published author, and that’s exactly what Mitali and her team do. You can either become part of her support group which will guide you through the process of writing your own book, which many of our Vegan Business Tribe members have done, or Mitali and her team can take you from zero to published author in a matter of weeks, handling every step of the process.

It’s great having Keith and Mitali come on as our sponsors, and they are also both really active members of Vegan Business Tribe and always happy to offer advice in our Community Hub. And you can learn more about Vegan Accountants at and The Vegan Publisher at

And today on the podcast we’re going to talk about why you need a better profile picture of yourself and how to get one, because let’s admit it – most of us use quite a boring photo of ourselves on our websites and LinkedIn profiles don’t we? Maybe it’s a selfie, or if it is a professional photograph then you might be sat against a plain background in a photographer’s tiny studio looking like you’re having your school photo taken! So today we’re going to talk about how you can do better.

But before we get onto that, what’s been going on at the Tribe since we last spoke? Well, you might just be able to tell in my voice that I sound just a little bit sleep deprived because we have finally welcomed ‘Little Bean’ to the world. Yes, Lisa gave birth to our new baby daughter Awen last week, in the middle of a snowstorm I have add, and she is just perfect. And you lot have been amazingly supportive during these last few weeks, we’ve had so many messages and cards, some of our members have even sent gifts for baby – and Mardi From Lovingly Vegan, who you can find on Instagram at, I can’t believe you sent us something all the way from Australia to the UK, it almost had Lisa in tears. And also a call out to ‘Pigeon’ Sue from Little Green Pigeon who sent us an amazing pigeon-print baby blanket from her pigeon rescue merchandise store – you guys have been absolutely amazing and the apartment is full of cards and flowers right now.

And I always say that we’ve got the best community at Vegan Business Tribe, and if you are a regular listener to the podcast then you will know I’m always talking about our members, and trying to promote them as much as I can. But if you do listen regularly and you have not yet signed up as a full member, then – well, what are you playing at?! You are genuinely missing out on more than 90% of everything that goes on at Vegan Business Tribe and if you’re someone who’s been following us and you’ve not got involved yet, then do reach out to me. Send me an email on with ‘podcast listener’ in the title and tell me a little bit about your vegan business, or just your idea for one.

Because we’ve got out member-only vegan business academy which is full of masterclasses, guides and online courses to help you grow your vegan business; we’ve got our regular networking meet-ups and business clinics that we run on Zoom; and we’ve also got our Community Hub where you can share your wins and ask for help and support from our amazing community of vegan business owners – you can even message me direct through the hub if you have a question you need help with. Becoming a member of Vegan Business Tribe is like having this big new vegan family around you, but it’s also how you can support our mission too. We are funded by our members, so if you really find this podcast useful, if you believe in our mission to help and support vegan businesses around the world, then it’s your membership that enables us to do everything we do. So if you’re not a member yet, just head to the website at, click on the ‘join’ button on the homepage and that will tell you everything you need to know about what you get as a member. And just a reminder that there is no minimum membership term, so if you just want to join for a month or two to try us out that’s absolutely fine, you’re not tied into any contracts of anything – we’ll appreciate your support and you’ll likely pick up some friends, as well as some brilliant advice and support, along the way too.


OK, so even though I’m somewhat sleep-deprived right now, I wanted to talk about something today that is really important but often overlooked, and that is having a great profile photo of yourself to use on your website, on LinkedIn, or as your podcast artwork or as your social media profile picture. And the reason I wanted to talk about this today is because we also do 1-2-1 coaching at Vegan Business Tribe for our members who need more hands-on support in building their business. And on one of our coaching calls last week, we identified that the photograph that this person was using to promote themselves wasn’t giving the right kind of impression. It was an old photo, it was a selfie and it didn’t really get over any of her wonderful personality, but she really seemed to be avoiding getting a new photograph done. And that didn’t seem right, because she isn’t the kind of person to shy away from a task. So we had a conversation around this and, just like many of us, she was quite critical about her own appearance and simply hated having her photo taken. But when much of the business that we do is now online, the photograph you use of yourself has to do so much work in creating the right first impression and in creating your personal brand too. If you’re looking to get interviewed, if you’re looking to be seen as an expert in your field, or if you’re just looking to convince customers that you can solve their problems, then it’s harder to do any of that if the image someone first sees of you is just a boring, run-of-the-mill selfie with bad lighting.

If you see someone who’s got a professional photo of themself as their profile image then you associate that with a certain level of success. You think that they must be successful to be able to afford to have a professional photoshoot done, or maybe they have had articles written about them so they are using a magazine’s photo of themselves as their profile image. Compare that to the selfie you took of yourself that you currently use as your LinkedIn image, or the photograph you had taken years ago that looks like a school yearbook photo. The first image someone sees of you really needs to make a positive impression, in fact it’s almost all they have to go on if they haven’t met you in person yet. So we need to spend some time, and maybe in some cases a little money, making sure that the photo that you use of yourself gives the impression you really want to give.

But it’s not just about that first impression, it’s about creating recognition too. For the last couple of years, I’ve consistently used an image of me against a bright green background. I’m wearing these huge headphones and giving the ‘vegan V’ with my fingers and it ties in with our Vegan Business Tribe branding. It was originally made as the cover image of this podcast but it’s become so recognisable that I now use it as my main profile image too. And this is the thing – because it’s got that bright green background, people immediately see it in their timeline. And if they are regular podcast listeners then they recognise the image from the podcast thumbnail and know it’s me, the host of their favourite podcast! Using the same stand-out image over and again across multiple platforms creates repetition, and repetition creates familiarity and recognition. And as we all know, creating familiarity and recognition is the first step to creating trust with your audience.

So having a professional image is really important. Having an image that stands out is really important. And then using that image in a consistent way is really important too.

But that doesn’t mean getting a great photo has to cost you a lot of money. For my profile photo, I set it up with my mobile phone and just used lighting from a window. Mobile phone cameras are completely acceptable for studio-type shots these days, and many can also add that ‘depth of field’ effect where the background is out of focus that before you could only get with a long camera lens. But when you’re taking your profile photo, creativity beats how expensive a camera you’ve got access to. I’ve seen some amazing profile images where people have surrounded themselves with flowerheads and laid down in the middle, or they have used a prop of some kind to create a really interesting image. If you’ve ever seen photos of the vegan accountant Heather Zeitzwolfe, based in the US, she’s screaming at the camera with bright dyed hair, wearing a black Tshirt that looks like it’s got the ACDC heavy metal logo on it, but instead of ACDC it spells out TOFU. It’s an amazing image that really gets her personality across, and in a world full of boring accountant’s profile images, it makes her completely unforgettable too.

So spend some time thinking about what you could do to make a really stand-out image, maybe even go down your local crafting or DIY shop to see what you can pick up to make a photograph more interesting. And although DIYing your photo can be a lot of fun, sometimes it’s quicker and easier to just get in touch with a local professional photographer to help you out instead. From experience, a good local photographer will charge a few hundred pounds to do a profile photo session with you, you’ll come away with a selection of shots and they will also know all the local beauty spots to take you if you want a more relaxed, outdoors type of profile image.

So ask around, find some local photographers and take a look through their portfolios on their website and get a quote. Most will have a set fee for doing a half-day shoot with you. Spend some time looking at profile pictures online that you like to give them an idea of the kind of shot you want, or find a photographer that has already done exactly the kind of photo that you want for yourself, and tell them you want something just like that! Going to a photographer with examples of what you want will really save a lot of time and also mean you’re more likely to walk away with exactly the kind of photo you are looking for.

And if you’re not sure what kind of photo you want, then do some brainstorming and come up with some ideas. For example, when Lisa and I first started to do work in the vegan sector, we knew we needed a really good image of ourselves that we could use on our new website and in our press releases. So I asked a photographer we had worked with before if he’d do a bit of a brainstorm with us. And we came up with loads of really good ideas, some that would have cost us some money to set-up, but lots that wouldn’t. But the idea that we went with was the simplest, it turned out the photographer also photographed weddings on the side and he said “let’s just take you into the middle of the countryside and throw fruit and veg up like wedding confetti”. So that’s what we did. Lisa and I found ourselves on the side of a hill at 6am to catch the early morning sunrise, dressed in our business suits, throwing sweet peppers, kale, radishes, carrots and all sorts of other vegetables into the air that we’d just picked up from the local supermarket. The photographer used some clever lighting techniques to freeze the vegetables mid-air while still capturing the sunrise behind us – and it resulted in a series of really fun and visual photographs, and we just paid for a couple of hours of the photographer’s time.

And the resulting photograph was so good that it got us on the cover of the Vegan Trade Journal. And sometimes a magazine or website will publish your press release just because it’s got a really good photograph with it. The editors of publications want their magazines and social feeds to be attractive and full of scroll-stopping images, and sometimes just having a great image will convince them to include your story. Lisa spent two years interviewing companies for our Vegan Food & Living magazine column, and we knew the magazine was more likely to sign off on a company we wanted to feature if we could show they had a great profile picture of the founder.

But if you don’t have a few hundred pounds to pay for half a day of a photographer’s time, then find a friend who’s an amateur photographer. You know, that friend who has an expensive camera and is always posting those photographs they take on a weekend on their social media page. Ask them if they want to help you out with a new profile photo, and then just make up in quantity what they might lack in quality. By that I mean if someone with a good camera takes 100 photos of you in an interesting setting, then at least one of those photos is going to turn out good!

A good profile photo of you should really capture your personality. A big grin is usually better than you trying to look all stately and professional – unless you’re trying to send yourself up like I tend to do on a lot of my photos. If you are selling yourself as a service, so for example if you are a coach or work one-on-one with your clients, then you need to look friendly and approachable in your photos. Imagine the face you make when you meet your client for the first time in person, that’s the face you want on your profile picture! Choosing a photo of yourself from a selection can be really hard though, and this brings us back to the reason why our coaching client was putting off having new photographs done of herself. We are hugely over-critical of our own appearance. We look at photographs of ourselves and see our crooked teeth, our huge nose, our double chins. Whereas other people will look at a photo of you and just see your amazing smile and lit-up eyes. It’s like listening back to a recording of your voice for the first time, you don’t see yourself like other people see you. You are immediately drawn to your insecurities and the things you don’t like when you look at a photo of yourself so you need to create a bit of mental separation when selecting your profile photo. Just think that this isn’t a photo of you, it’s the photo of your professional persona so you can think of the person in the photo as a separate person. They are just a side of you. So if they don’t look perfect, don’t worry – because it’s not really you, it’s just a character you’re playing!

Another good technique is instead of selecting a photo yourself, ask the photographer to pick the best photo of you. They will be looking at the photos from a completely different angle, and they will know if they think they have got a shot of you which really captures your personality. Or upload a selection of photos to your social media and let your audience tell you which their favourite is. When I was younger, for my profile photos I’d always try and look serious and a little bit moody, you know, thinking I looked like James Dean or something. And people would always ask why I looked so miserable! So I would upload the other images from the photoshoot and ask people what they thought, and they always chose the smiling, laughing photographs every time. You know, the photographs where I thought I looked fat or gormless- they were, annoyingly, always people’s favourites.

So now if I have a new photograph of me taken I just ask Lisa to pick which shot to use. It saves a lot of time and she’s always right!

You should also give some thought to how you might want to use the photo before you take it. A profile photograph of you needs to work harder than ever before. It needs to work at a couple of hundred pixels wide as your profile picture in a social newsfeed, and it might also need to work as a verticle banner across your website, so usually the simpler the photo the better. But it might also be that you want to get a selection of photos taken at the same time so that you have ones for different applications, and again if you work with a professional photographer then they will give you a batch of finished photos rather than just one image. So make sure you get some photos that will work in a sideways or landscape orientation, and some that will work in portrait or as a circle social media image. Have some photos taken where you purposely leave space where you could superimpose words or a headline on the photo. One of the reasons why the Vegan Trade Journal used our image on the cover is because it had a lovely big space at the top where they could put the magazine title and headline, and if you’ve got some photos with extra, what we call ‘copy space’ around them, then a magazine might do the same with your image too.

Also take a couple of changes of clothes along with you, some formal and some casual, and try out wearing both. Go around the local charity or thrift shops and try and find a really stand-out bit of clothing, a fun shirt or a bright orange hat that you can wear and try it out for a few shots!

And when you’ve got these final images that you are happy with, don’t just use them on your social media or podcast cover, make them available for others to use too. Create a ‘media’ page on your website and upload high-resolution versions of your images along with a copy and paste of your biography. Then if you send out a press release, you can link back to your media page to let the publication’s designers have their own pick of your images, or if someone is interviewing you on their podcast they can pick an image that other people haven’t used on theirs.

And although you want to be consistent with your profile image, don’t be afraid to update it a couple of times a year and get a new selection of photos done that you can add to your media archive for people to select from. Keep some consistency. For example, maybe there’s a colour that you always use. Take a look at any photo of vegan marketer Sandra Nomoto and she’ll always have a splash of purple in her profile photos. It’s a clever touch that most won’t notice but it adds a lot of consistency and enforces her brand. Marketing guru Seth Godin often uses yellow in his photos, either his glasses or a yellow background or shirt – it’s just all part of his brand. You can do the same.

OK, so that’s been a fairly useful run down of why you need to have a better profile picture of yourself and how to get one. So let’s finish off with a bullet-point reminder and then you can all go and get your cameras out or start looking up your local photographer!

1. If you’re looking to get interviewed, if you’re looking to be seen as an expert in your field, or if you’re just looking to convince customers that you can solve their problems, then it’s harder to do any of that if the image someone first sees of you is a boring, run-of-the-mill selfie with bad lighting. If you see someone who’s got a professional photo of themself as their profile image then you associate that with a certain level of success.
2. It’s not just about that first impression, it’s about creating recognition too. Using the same stand-out image across multiple platforms creates repetition, and repetition creates familiarity and recognition. And as we all know, creating familiarity and recognition is the first step to creating trust with your audience.
3. Getting a great photo doesn’t have to cost you a lot of money. Creativity beats how expensive a camera you’ve got access to. Brainstorm ideas with your friends and team for a really stand-out image.
4. Do consider using a professional photographer if you’ve got a few hundred pounds to spend. Find one who’s already taken similar images to what you are looking for, or find examples online so that you can show them what you want.
5. A good profile image will make magazines and websites more likely to publish your story. They want to make their publications look great so give them some really exciting images to use!
6. If you are over-critical of how you look then create a bit of separation between yourself and the person in the photo. Remember that this is a picture of your professional persona rather than you, so don’t get too critical of how you look! And if you struggle, get the photographer or a friend or colleague to pick out which photo to use.
7. Make sure you are getting everything you need from a shoot. Get portrait or upright photos to use for profile images and landscape or sideways photos to use as website banners. Have some photos taken where you leave room for writing or headlines on top of them, and upload them all to a media page on your website so publications can pick the best one for them.

And that is it! So I really want to see you making a real effort to get a better profile photo now and feel free to send me your images and I’ll let you know what I think! And a thank you again to our two sponsors, and I would really urge you to go check them out as they are amazing vegan businesses – and that’s Vegan Accountants at and The Vegan Publisher at

And if you are not yet a member of Vegan Business Tribe, if you haven’t signed up with us yet to be part of the community, then seriously, what are you waiting for?! In fact, email me on and TELL me what you are waiting for! Just go take a look at the website at and that will tell you everything you get as part of the community, and it’s only £18.99 a month to be a member and you get so much help and support in return.

So thank you so much for joining us, I’m sure there will be a dirty nappy or two waiting for me to go change, and I will see you on the next one!

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