Monday, December 06, 2010

The Facebook Profile Photo

In the halcyon days of Myspace I was very anal about having my page looking just right. I considered the colour scheme, the quote at the top of the page, the photo and of course the song on my page. The profiles I saw that had 10 youtube clips playing, hard to read lettering, clashing colours, emoticons flashing and ugly backgrounds pissed me off.
Facebook is a horse of a different colour. It's made to be uniform. Very little customisation is possible. No backgrounds, no additional boxes and no songs. The most powerful individualistic tool you have is the Facebook profile photo. I caught up with some of the finest purveyor’s of the profile pic to discuss the art of the Facebook profile photo.


Lux: As long as I've known you we've always discussed profile photos.

Cat: Yes. Just like in real life (real life being not Facebook life) I believe people judge you on appearance. So the profile photo is extremely important. It's like a first impression. (Which is why my Facebook profile is private apart from my profile pics)

Lux: You have a staggering 2000+ photos of you on Facebook. How the fuck?

Cat: Well, contrary to popular belief I don't actually take a lot of pictures myself! I can never be fucked to put pictures up on Facebook. I just have MANY snap happy friends. In fact a lot of people I have on Facebook have over 6,000...

Lux: How important is the FBPP to you?

Cat: It's quite important. Not too important. I feel suddenly it's become more important now that I am talking about it in such great detail.

Lux: You styled yourself for this photo?

Cat: Yes - A friends yellow shirt. Some MAC lipstick and glasses. I don't actually need glasses, I have 20/20 vision.

Lux: How do you feel when you see someone online with a bad FBPP?

Cat: Extremely sad. They obviously don't care about how people are going to perceive them. Perhaps they are unaware of how ruthless people like you and I are when stumbling upon their less than average profile.

Lux: I try and make suggestions, like if I see a great photo I'll just comment "default".

Cat: Indeed. It is a great help. I appreciate honesty when choosing a great/crap profile picture. Like in a lot of cases there are people I can rely on for advice with defaulting - "Is this profile picture okay?" "No you look fat as shit" "Oh okayokayokay cool". etc...

Lux: Do you ever take a photo, look back on it and instantly feel "this is a FBPP moment right here".

Cat: Oh at times, at times. You know those times when you just feel hot? You know when those pictures go on Facebook the next day one of those babies is going up. Thanks for making me look three thousand times more vain than I usually do Lux.


Lux: This is a truly iconic Facebook Profile Photo. How did the idea come about?

Rachel: Just checking my posture, that's all.

Lux: Do you know what book it was you were balancing?

Rachel: An old book on psychoanalysis theory. I don't know why I have that.

Lux: When you have such a fine FBPP do you feel scared to change it?

Rachel: Of course I'm afraid I've peaked in FBPPs and it can only go downhill from here.

Lux: Where are you gonna go next?

Rachel: Wherever the wind takes me. Wherever the wind


Lux: If I'm being real, I like only 2 of your 8 profile photos. But the 2 I do like are killer.

Paul: That’s OK – I probably like less. I’d like to know what the other one is you like though. I’ll print it out and stick it over my face whenever I see you.

Lux: Maybe you're just like one of those bands who every so often just come out with one amazing song.

Paul: None of the photos I’ve got up there have been taken specifically for Facebook – they’re all demos!

Lux: Aesthetically you and I are very much on the same page. Do you think if you tried harder you could totally dominate on the FBPP front?

Paul: I agree we have very similar tastes, so maybe from your perspective I could rule the FBPP – but I suppose it depends on how much you respect my face.

Lux: I think you have the potential bro.

Paul:That’s nice – but I’ve got less interesting things to do...

Note: this is 4 profile photos collaged.

Lux: I see you as a true threat in the realm of the FBPP.

Amos: The what now? I didn't know such a realm existed.

Lux:I just went through your collection just now. I love you only have 28 photos. You're so refined. You drop a new photo maybe once a month if that. You're selective and have a high quality control.

Amos: Thanks. I thought I only had about 15 pictures. It's time to cull. I probably left a bunch of them up as I didn't want to lose my friend's comments.

Lux: In your new series you've out done yourself. Explain to my readers what you're doing. I think this could be your masterwork.

Amos: "Masterwork?" Let's not over analyse this. I attempt to take a self-portrait photo in front of a monument. I click, review, fail. Click, review, fail. Click, review, fail. Click, review fail and give up. My friends know what I look like. I'm just trying to highlight the location with a little less of me in it than the average holiday snap. I've got used to the poor results and have inadvertently kept the theme going.

I usually want to keep just what I see in the frame rather than add myself to it. Sometimes I get lucky. I'm awkward in photos as it is. I'm the one who always gets told to relax my shoulders in group photos. It's become a running joke. I also don't want to put myself in every fantastic location I see. This may explain the low picture count.

Lux: For me if I'm travelling around and I'm in a cool bar, see a cool poster or 'backdrop' I'll start thinking about the FBPP. Does your mind work like that?

Amos: That depends on how much of the background I can and want to capture. Recently, on a trip to Vienna, a friend told me to visit the Spanish Riding School, so I wanted to prove to her that I had by taking a photo of myself infront of it. It took a few attempts as I kept photographing the wrong part of the building or the exposure was incorrect or people were walking by. I was surrounded by tourists doing the same thing so I wasn't too self conscious.

Lux: At the moment you're on tour with Fanfarlo so you have the world as your stage.

Amos: True, but I don't always have time to explore, especially if I'm staying at an airport hotel miles from the city or there are other obligations to fulfil before the band needs to load in to a venue. Occasionally you get five or six hours to peruse or if you're lucky, a whole day.

Lux: How did you feel when my "Mogul" photo series dropped?

Amos: I hadn't seen it until you sent me these questions. Now I can ask you, "Are you wearing a silk scarf?"

Lux: Yessir.

Lux: Are you scared of the speculation that my new series may possibly outdo you?

Amos: Hahahah, seriously? No, but for fun, I'll say yes. I just want to see what you come up with next. Maybe a tribute to the Lovesexy album cover, hmmm?


Lux: Fuck this is a good photo. I think its the combination of attire and pose.

Steven: Thanks, yeah. It's just things I've appropriated.

Lux: Explain?

Steven: Well most of my poses in photos are lifted from early Wu-Tang Clan photos. Back in the day Wu -Tang had the sickest attidude and style.

Lux: So what Wu photo is this taken from?

Steven: This was a photo of Rza circa Liquid Swordz. Here's the photo

Lux: Take me through your style.

Steven: I had recently watched The Last Waltz (1978) I love the style of the American ...well Canadian in this case country singers of the 70's especially The Band, all Suits and big beards. I noticed in the film Robbie Robertson had a red scarf and open collared shit, he looked so so money, so I stole from that. Oh also Jerry Dandrige from the movie Fright Night (1985) he wore a red scarf which I also thought was GQ when I was growing up.

Lux: So you're taking your style/image from 70's country singers, 80's horror movies and mid 90's hip hop.

Steven: Exactly.

Lux: How serious do you take FPP's?

Steven: Very. One day they'll be as important as album covers.


Lux: When I first saw this photo it troubled me that you hadn't bothered to rotate it. It upsets me when people don't bother to rotate photos.

Sabrina: To be completely honest I only rotated it because if you look at the correct way I’m basically staring into your soul. I thought my hair looked nice but I was creeping myself out so I made the decision to rotate it. And yes, it was a very MySpace move but it had to be done.

Lux: Did you think this photo has the makings of greatness i just need to make it work?

Sabrina: So yes, I thought the picture had an incredible amount of potential so I did just have to make it work.

Lux: Your eyes are ridiculously blue. For the record you're not wearing contacts in this photo?

Sabrina: No I’m definitely not wearing contacts, they’re the real deal. I think its weird when people wear blue contacts, they always look like they have doll eyes and it makes me feel uncomfortable.

Lux: This photo is fantastic but what troubles me is your profile photos on a whole aren't that great. They're mainly just photos of you at parties.

Sabrina: The only time me and my friends take pictures is when we're at a party and we're all dressed like sluts so the resulting photos are my only profile picture options. I’m sorry that they aren't up to your standards.

Lux: This photo is fantastic tho. Maybe it marks a sign that you'll begin to take the social network more seriously?

Sabrina: Maybe I will take it more seriously.

Lux: How important is Facebook to you?

Sabrina: My Facebook account isn't that important to me, it's just another thing to look at when I’m bored. And I’m bored a lot but if I was cut off from the world of Facebook I’d probably survive... maybe I will take it more seriously.

Lux: I keep telling you you're insanely beautiful and should be a model. American Apparel would make you their new campaign face. You should do it...If only to have better FBPP's.

Sabrina: American Apparel as a whole scares me. If you want to be a model there's a 99% chance you have to fuck Dov Charney. I’d rather not.

Lux: This is the ultimate Facebook profile photo. It's so clean and beautiful, it's Flawless. How did this photo come about?

Emi: Thanks. I was still living in new york city in the summer of 2008 and needed to apply for some jobs. I asked a friend to take some 'headshots' for me, and this was the result.

Lux: Did you know when it was taken that this was 'something special'?

Emi: Haha, no. It was the best of maybe, 5 pictures. not bad for midday natural lighting and a white door.

Lux: You can go so many places with the FBPP the artistic photo, you & friend’s, posing with a celebrity, the film still... but you have managed to strip the FBPP back to its very core. It’s so simple it almost shouldn't work.

Emi: Yeh, I hope I don't over think facebook.

Lux: How does it feel having the perfect Facebook profile photo?

Emi: Awesome!

Lux: Will you ever change it? I don’t think you ever need to. It’ll just mature like fine wine.

Emi: I'll probably change it here and there.

Lux: What advice would you give to people who want a better Facebook profile photos?

Emi: No more polaroids!

Lux's top tips on having good FPP's.
1) Change it at least once a month. Preferably to something new, there's nothing worse than getting a notification that someone has changed their profile photo only to find its the same old photos being recycled. On the flipside don't change it too much either. No more than once a week. I hate schizophonic FBPP swappers

2) The Caption. I'm a big fan of the caption in a photo you don't need to keep it linear. For example 'Me and Jess wasted' Get creative by using a lyric, a film or literally quote, the more obscure the better. It's strangely satisfying when you find out someone had to google your caption.

3) No mobile uploads. It's no secret I hate crappy mobile uploads. Say it with me 'More Pixels.' I'm all for Lo-Fi but nothing upsets me more than people uploading crappy low resolution pixelated mobile photos and passing them off as profile photos. You and your page deserve better than this. Say it with me "I HAVE A HIGH-DEFINITION FACE"

4) Don't be afraid to take "that picture". I've often been out with friends and seen something that would make for a cool picture. Don't be afraid to stop and pose. Often at gigs or events I''d see a musician I want to talk to and have a photo with but fee, l self conscious - don't be. Just do it. At the time you may feel awkward but there's nothing quite like waking up to 7+ thumbs up on a photo and a bunch of "OMG WHERE WAS THIS????" comments.

5) Mix it up There is no rule that says a profile photo has to be of you. Mix it up with a film still or a cool photo you've found. But girls please note: Ana Karina has been done to fuckin death. Just stop. If you get stuck just raid an indie kids blog/tumblr.

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