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If I don't want to use a headshot or other photo as my profile picture on work apps like WhatsApp or Skype, what would be an acceptable and sufficiently professional alternative?

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    We can't answer this - it will entirely depend on the culture of your personal work environment. – Philip Kendall Jun 3 at 10:39
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    I'm not sure why this is getting close votes and downvotes... Certainly the workplace culture the OP is in will ultimately decide what they can or can't use but we can absolutely cover professional alternatives to headshots. – Lilienthal Jun 3 at 11:36
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    @Lilienthal: It's a question with two possible outcomes, neither of which render a meaningful answer. If OP does not wish to convey a message using this picture, then there's no point to having a picture to begin with, rendering the question moot. If OP does wish to convey a message, then this question cannot be answered without knowing the intended message; but even then it would be highly subjective and opinion-based. It's either moot or opinion-based, neither of which is meaningfully answerable. – Flater Jun 3 at 12:48
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    @bytepusher yes, comments are no place for answers as they are ephemeral and can be deleted easily. I'll clean my comments in a moment, as well – DarkCygnus Jun 3 at 21:28
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    What sort of pictures do other people use? – Kat Jun 4 at 21:23
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what would be an acceptable and sufficiently professional alternative?

If you don't want to leave the default image of whatever work app then use the company's logo as your profile picture. It would help give the perception that you are serious about your work and proud to be a part of the company. Another alternative would be a picture related to your position ( i.e. if you are a physicist, something like E=mc2 ).

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    I know it doesn't really matter, but as a (former) physicist I'd find E=mc^2 in a profile picture to be a little corny, and within the context of that field, perhaps a little unprofessional. If you want to give the impression that you're serious about physics, that's the last equation you'd choose. So even though I totally agree with your point, I'd feel a little better about this answer if you picked a different example. – David Z Jun 5 at 7:39
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    @DavidZ Like a building you worked on if you're in construction? – BSMP Jun 6 at 1:00
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    @BSMP Yeah, I'm not sure how other construction workers would see it, but if it's anything like physics, something kind of unique or unusual which you personally worked on is going to come across better than something generic and well-known. (In this analogy I suppose E=mc^2 might be like a construction worker posting a picture of the Empire State Building or the Eiffel Tower.) – David Z Jun 6 at 1:21
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Make a nice comic-image from your face as I did.

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  • without an explanation, this answer may become useless in case if someone else posts an opposite opinion. For example, if someone posts a claim like "Avoid making a nice comic-image from your face as I did.", how would this answer help reader to pick of two opposing opinions? Consider editing it into a better shape, to meet How to Answer guidelines – gnat Jun 5 at 8:02
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    The answer is easy to understand and, quite appropriately, gives scope for a reader to decide whether they think it is a good suggestion or not. – P. Hopkinson Jun 5 at 8:36
  • This answer is easy to understand and the advise is not the same level as the one if the accepted answer. I don't quite understand your issue @gnat and it would be just silly if someone posts something like"avoid making a nice comic-image from your face as I did". – guest Jun 5 at 10:27
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    @guest Indeed, we can just down vote this if we disagree. If there was a reasoning as to why and when, then maybe we could upvote even if we disagree. – Nobody Jun 5 at 11:17
  • This is what I've done in the past and recommended as an option to team members when we required everyone to replace the default picture. You can search for "avatar maker/creator" to find various tools to use to create one. – Vermis Jun 9 at 18:47
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You could use one of the stock neutral pictures the app already uses when there is no picture (or get such a neutral image from another app or image search) and customize it in some way - for example change its color to distinguish it from the others so people can recognise you faster, add a company logo, your position, initials, something like that. Especially if you are not very graphically talented, limit yourself to something simple that you can do well.

Don't use something playful or subjective like an equation important in your field or a comic character or generic symbol - this could be fine in some work environments, but to me "professional" is something that is okay in all (or almost all) environments and that's not the case for such things.

And in the end, if your superiors ask you to use a photograph, do so. Hopefully you have separate devices and/or accounts for everything so that should only concern work, where arguably you are being paid to indulge your employers.

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I've found that using an image that has some relation to you, for example a favorite character from a TV show or movie, computer game, etc. ( nothing offensive, or open to interpretation, of course! ) used consistently across the different mediums can work quite well.

It lets colleagues associate your icon with some personality ( much better than simply your initials or a generic stock image ) without need for a profile picture. You may even get some interesting conversations out of it!

The problem in team meetings otherwise is that it becomes difficult to tell who is speaking at a glance - humans are quite visual. Thus the desire for profile pictures. Simply refusing to post one can be perceived as being uncooperative, so that's the solution I've come up with, and most of my colleagues now recognize my image quite readily.

I'm not sure why you do not wish to post a photo of yourself, but it may also be an alternative to use the camera - while you're still showing yourself, this is more ephemeral, and may therefore also suit you better.

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    A Homer Simpson pic for example? – Solar Mike Jun 4 at 7:14
  • That's indeed something I've seen. Our workplace has a lot of Futurama references, actually :) – bytepusher Jun 4 at 12:54
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    If you meeting with others outside the company, I would maybe consider something more muted, like the company logo or a catalog picture of the product you support the most – Whistler Jun 4 at 12:55
  • Yes, I was considering mostly company internal meetings, that is a fair point – bytepusher Jun 4 at 12:57
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    FWIW, my fairly laid back previous company made an issue of me using my rabbit avatar on my professional account. – Erik Jun 4 at 14:04

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