Once while getting a new Costco card I was joking around with the person taking my picture. She said: "Stick out your tongue." I did. She took the picture. And we both thought we were pretty funny. I walked back to the backdrop to take another one and she handed me my new card. For years after that I had to explain to the Costco check out person how I came to have my tongue sticking out on the card. It kept things pretty light hearted at the check out stand.
Each time I renew my passport I get more and more serious in the picture. Getting into or out of a country is somewhat more serious than spending money at Costco, and accordingly requires a more serious photo. I don't want to know how the friendly people from Homeland Security would respond if I was making a face in my passport photo.
Today I was getting a new card at my athletic club and the nice person in charge gave me the choice of a new picture, or to keep the old one. The old one was pretty old -- I even had hair. In fact it was one of my better photo ID pictures. I was tempted, but in the end opted for a new picture of my more mature self and was mature enough to keep my tongue to myself.
I have a nicely done, PR type head shot on this blog that was taken about five years ago. I use it for all kinds of professional stuff and it works just fine. It has about the right amount of hair, I have a blazer on but no tie -- versatile enough for just about any situation. I use this picture to represent who I am on Linked In and can't think of a reason to change it.
I have monkeyed around on Facebook with a variety of pictures including one with my dog, one as a kid, and right now that funny looking guy from the old Egghead Software logo. The addition of pictures to facebook, Linked-in, and now built into Outlook 2010, have changed electronic communication from its formerly faceless self.
If you have not yet upgraded to Outlook 2010 or if you have, but not hooked up the picture thing, you should really think about it. Having pictures of everyone who is going to be in a meeting -- right there in the invitation -- is a tremendous help to me as I visualize the meeting in advance. When some people are attending by conference call -- having their picture in front of me helps me put their comments into context.
This seemingly small thing, the addition of a picture to an electronic communication is a significant and game changing thing. Any picture is a big help to the humanizing of the communication. Not knowing whether the communication context will be a Costco, a Homeland Security, a Linked-in, or a Facebook, drives most of us to present ourselves on the serious end of the scale. No matter which picture you choose, it is a good idea to take a few minutes and think it through. The face you present in electronic communications makes a big difference -- clearly not just a picture.
I am looking forward to the day when we make the leap to easily deployed live pictures -- aka video conferencing that works. That will be a game changer too.