Very few flattering candids are ever true candids. Most are taken at weddings by a professional, and as a rule, they are terrible. On the rare and miraculous occasion that a friend should take a beautiful shot of you at a party, it is assumed that she will never upload the picture, nor will she remember to text it to you. You will never see it again.
The faux-candid pro, however, understands the value of a DIY. She’s a social media Martha Stewart and believes there’s no shame to the game so long as it’s not a creepy MacBook Photobooth shot filtered in low-quality grayscale. She exercises her right to use a Selfie Stick unironically. She’s also been known to enlist the help of a patient parent or friend while she poses in various states of contemplation and/or laughing-while-the-wind-is-blowing.
As the old adage goes, if you want something done right, do it yourself.
The Young Professional:
Nothing says, I’ve erased all evidence potentially detrimental to my future political and or academic career quite like the corporate headshot.
A click through The Traveler’s profile pictures is like flipping through National Geographic and realizing your friend is the silhouetted image in every single shot. She’s great at the humble brag for this very reason: instead of posing front and center at Every Worldly Monument Ever, the traveler remains inconspicuous enough that you can’t really knock her for doing a tree-pose in every single shot, nor can you see that she hasn’t showered in whoknowshowlong. Frequent comments under her pictures include: “I want your life,” and “Do you have a job?”
The Street Style Pic:
Screw hair and crop the face — this photo is about the outfit. Her motto: let the photographers do the stalking; let the clothes do the talking.
You know them. They both have slightly alternative versions of what’s essentially the same photo where they’re staring into each other’s eyes. The date they met is probably the caption, punctuated by periods as opposed to back slashes: “11.3.08.” They’ve probably both commented “love you!” at some point.
You’ll notice neither hosts this picture at the same time. The one who isn’t rocking the When Are We Getting Engaged? photo typically posts a solo shot wherein he or she looks super hot/suspiciously single, and the consistent toggling has consumed (or bored) their “following” with an online guessing game of Broken Up, Back Together; In a Fight, I’m Sorry Babe.
That’s Not You LOL:
Rare is the person who opts out of the one opportunity where it’s okay to self-promote. (Although technically, it is fairly self-promotional to make your profile picture a screen grab of some event or party you’re hosting.)
This person is either very cool (the photo is a reference so niche not even Google Image can locate its origin), making their political opinion public (the photo will immediately inform you of their cause), obsessed with Marisa Miller (caption: “Not me LOL.” Comment: “No shit.”), or hilarious and weird (the photo will be of someone random, like Fabio. Caption: none. Comment: “That’s not you LOL.” Response back: unnecessary.)
The OG Selfie Duck Face:
She’s team Rihanna, knows her angles, loves her “~*BeTcHeZ*~” and doesn’t care what you think.
The “My Friend’s Building Her Photography Portfolio” Shot:
Typically involving a graffiti wall or field of wheat, this earnest pose in a dramatic outfit with excessive makeup is often the calling card of a budding model/amateur photographer duo. Very often there will be a watermark in cursive at the bottom right of the photo. What does this say about the person who makes this their profile picture, though?
They understand the value of mutually beneficial relationships and know when to take advantage of a free airbrushing package.
You want to hate the athlete because her profile picture is a daily reminder that your gym membership is a $75 keychain and your “get fit 2015” resolution is an as-of-yet empty promise. But you can’t. She’s lifting double her bodyweight and could fight a grown lion. Like Ron Burgundy once said, you’re not mad. You’re impressed.
The Group Pic:
Not only does she-who-group-pics have friends, she has multiple friends, all of them who’ve spent years perfecting their “Sides” and height order within these photos. You’ll notice that though the seasons and scenarios change, the poses rarely do. The Group Pic-er should be commended for her dedication to friendship and lack of narcissism in comparison to her cropped, solo-shot peers. However, one should keep an eye out for the girl with a hidden motive. See below…
The No Mercy for Your Friends:
There are two kinds of No Mercy pictures. The first is a group pic (see above) where the blatant self-love is masked by an army of friends. While there’s no shame in the Damn-I-Look-Good mindset — after all, a profile picture is supposed to be about you — watch out for the girl who has zero regard for the rest of her friends in the picture with her. Everyone else has lazy eyes, weird smiles, smoosh-arms and bad hair days? Too bad. If this girl looks good, she’s posting it anyway.
There’s another No Mercy girl: the ruthless cropper. So what if the group photo was a momentous occasion where best friends who hadn’t seen each other in years reunited? Chick needs a new Tinder picture, and she’s not about to go distracting her potential suitors.
The Halloween Picture:
It’s January 20 and this girl’s profile is still boasting her Halloween costume from October 2012 when she had abs and a carryover tan from a family trip to Mexico. By the time March rolls around, she might swap to a Christmas pic featuring her in leggings, a Santa hat, festive glitter and an ugly sweater. She is the human equivalent of the house next door to your parents because she refuses to respect proper calendar etiquette, but her end goal is looking awesome — not keeping her following informed of the date. That’s what iPhones are for. Leave her alone.
The Loner Laugher:
The is the holy grail of profile pictures: caught mid-LOL while in a conveniently great outfit with an even better background. It is technically a candid, though many argue that 9 times out of 10, the LL knew the photo was being taken and interrupted her own pose mid-laugh.
The Loner Laugher is telling the world: I have friends because A) someone is taking this picture and B) someone has made me laugh, but where she excels is in her ability to post a photo of just herself without looking completely narcissistic because she’s just “casually cracking up” as opposed to posing with her elbow on a tree a la Senior Portraits ’06. If she’s single, this is her Hinge photo. If she’s in a relationship, then you’ve considered — at least once — using this as your Hinge photo.
We have even more insight into what your various habits say about you, here.
Illustrations by Charlotte Fassler.