Stand Out From The Crowd

How to make the most of your online tutor profile photo

It’s easier than ever to become an online tutor. Online tutoring services, agencies, and independent tutor platforms like provide you with a variety of choices about when and how to start your tutorpreneur journey. Whether you want to be an online math tutor, a yoga instructor, or career skills coach, you can start quickly and easily.

Starting is the easy part, however. Because all it takes to create a profile or a Craigslist posting offering your online tutoring services, lots of people are doing it. There is a flood of tutors on offer, and for anyone starting out, the competition is fierce. If all you do is throw up what you offer on the internet, you are likely to get 0 interest.

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Photo by Jo San Diego on Unsplash

As an online tutor, you have to stand out from the crowd, and show yourself to be skilled, reliable, and approachable. You have to show your skills and build trust with your potential clients, and the profile is built around helping you make a great first impression. Your picture is the first (and often last) impression. Here’s how to put your best face forward.

Lighting is key

This is the most important aspect to get right. Good lighting will make the difference between looking like a creepy basement dweller and a teaching star.

Use multiple light sources. Professional studios and TV production sets usually use what’s called a “Three Point Lighting” set-up. The idea here is simple:

The main light is the brightest (also called a “key light”) and is positioned off-center in front of the person being photographed (you don’t want to bling yourself by shining a light directly in your face).

The second light is called a “fill light” positioned in front of the person being photographed, on the opposite side of the key light. This light is used to fill in the shadows cast by the key and is softer. In fact, you may not need a light source at all. Instead, you can use a bounce card, a mirror, a white wall, or a hung-up white sheet to bounce off some light onto the other half of your face, making your features clearer, and giving a more professional look. Without it, you might come out looking like a Disney villain!

Finally, the backlight (sometimes called a “hair light”) adds that little bit of detail making your headshot look professional. Position a small light source behind yourself, pointed at your hair. By lighting up your hair from the back, you can make yourself stand out against the background, creating a sharp, distinct look.

Get the right angle

While your pose and position are important in conveying the right message, I am talking about the view angle of the lens. You see, a standard modern smartphone camera shoots high-resolution photos through a tiny, wide-angle lens. This set-up is great for landscapes, being able to capture more of the environment and provide a wider field of view in high resolution. What it isn’t ideal for is capturing faces. Wider angle (or shorter focal length, measured in mm) affects the overall look of the face. A short focal-length wider-angle lends standard on a smartphone tends to distort your features, making your nose huge and generally making you look worse, even with make-up on.

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By William Sawalich for DPMag

If using a camera with a longer focal-length lends (85 mm would do), you can do a little trick with your regular smartphone to combat this tendency a bit. Simply zoom in, and place your phone farther away from yourself. Crop the photo to look like a standard headshot as needed. As long as you zoom in only a bit, the change in facial distortion is well worth the lower resolution of the image.


This is the most important non-technical piece of advice to help you look better in photos. As your prospective students are looking for a teacher, they want someone to make them feel comfortable. Looking for help in learning something new is an uncomfortable, vulnerable experience. Seeing a photo of a person who looks stiff and awkward will not help with that sense of vulnerability. While there are many ways to pose better for photos, a lot of it can be summed up in “straighten up, and then relax”.

Appearing natural, approachable, and comforting to your potential students will go a long way to helping them book a demo lesson or buy a course package.

Of course, advising someone to “relax” is about as useful as saying “don’t worry”. In fact, trying to relax can actually make you more tense.

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Photo by Gary Sandoz on Unsplash

Instead, give yourself the freedom to screw up. Instead of trying to get one single good shot, give yourself the latitude of taking 25 in a row. By giving yourself room to experiment, you can try out different poses, or use the old actor trick of creating an elaborate backstory for yourself, taking your focus away from the awkwardness of taking your own photo. If you have an encouraging friend that is willing to spend half an hour taking silly pictures with you, ask them for help. By giving yourself the option to be silly, you’re likely to loosen up and be most photogenic after taking 20 photos or so. Don’t look at your headshots as you take them, either. Give yourself the room to explore, and select your favorite photo out of the bunch later.

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Photo by Lauren McConachie on Unsplash

While anyone can make an online post, tutors go through a rigorous selection process by our team. Each profile is checked by a human to ensure that it adds value to the potential student’s experience and helps them make a good decision in picking a tutor.

The toughest test for a new tutor, however, is not the selection by qualification, but the emotional, visceral selection process done by the potential students based on your profile photo. If you get the lighting right, avoid the fish-eye angle of your smartphone, and look human in your photo, you’ll be a bit more of a leg up, not only on, but on other platforms, like LinkedIn.

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