Scarred for life by your 7th grade photo day? Pick up a few tricks of the trade and look your bright, shining best wherever you are online with these tips for choosing and taking the perfect profile pic.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but these days words are pretty cheap. Especially when they're silly words like LOL, IMHO, and TTFN. But if you're looking for a date online, your profile pic counts for a lot, so you better make it good. Check it out.

The Importance of Good Profile Pictures

For better or worse, your profile picture is the first thing that anyone surfing the web will see, so it's important to put a little thought into choosing the right one. Whether your profile is listed on a dating site, a professional site, or a social networking site, the basic premise is the same: look your best and be yourself. 

Because these days, it's all too easy for people to find you wherever you are online. All your time and effort will be down the drain if you pick the perfect shot for your dating profile, but leave up a snapshot of yourself after dollar margarita night on Facebook.

Taking Profile Pictures

Start by finding someone you trust to take a series of pictures for you. Mirror pics and arms' length self-shots rarely make the grade, and pictures of you on vacation don't cut it either. Digital cameras are ideal, so your photographer can snap as many pics as you want, and you can see the results instantly and make adjustments as necessary. 

This person can be a professional photographer, too, just be sure you steer away from posting any overly touched up or obvious glamour shots. Nobody looks as good in person as they do after hours in hair and makeup under perfect soft lights in rented outfits. Nobody.

Use Natural Profile Pictures

The biggest key in having your profile pic taken is to be yourself. Relax and have fun, and be sure to smile, though you don't always have to be at full-cheese. Wear something you feel totally comfortable in and look good in, and have your picture-taker alternate between close-ups, medium shots, and full length photos. For the majority of the pictures, make direct eye contact with the camera's lens, and be sure to take a few where you're not looking at the camera at all, just for fun. And remember, not every one of these needs to be a winner. In fact, only one of them does.

Profile Picture Lighting

Natural lighting is always best, so head outdoors but try to avoid direct, overhead sunlight which can cast harsh shadows. While your profile pic should focus mainly on you, don't be afraid to put yourself in an environment that says something about you, like the beach or a park or a city street. At the same time, avoid taking pictures in front of sports cars or with horses or kittens. Never take shirtless or overly suggestive pictures of any kind.

Choosing From a Group of Profile Pictures

When choosing your main profile picture, go for one that's pretty close-up, and that represents you the best. Save the full body and artsy shots as backups to fill out your portfolio, and before you post them, be sure to seek the opinions of your closest friends or family. Sometimes your biggest critic, and the one who might overlook that gem of a profile pic, is you.