Monday, June 06, 2011

Professional Pics

Hi FSP,

What do you think about putting a pic on the webpage that is out of the ordinary (passport style). For example, would it be "professional" to put a pic on a webpage that would depict a person playing with a bat or holding a parrot or something?


No on the bat, yes on the parrot.

Actually, it probably depends on the culture of your field and/or department. I don't think anyone in any(?) field would be denied a job or tenure because their webpage photo shows them playing with a bat, but if this person already has a problem being taken seriously in their profession/department and/or has a department/disciplinary culture that values formality and a traditional view of professionalism, not to mention personnel who do not have rabies, this might give one pause before posting the playful bat photo.

Even so, depending on what webpage you are talking about, it might be fine and even a very good thing. Some departments have a main page with the stiff passport-style photos of faculty, postdocs, grads etc., but then there are links to research group pages and/or individual webpages. The degree of formality may be less in these more personalized webpages, and I don't think that is unprofessional to have informal photos there as long as people visiting these other webpages can get the information they want/need.

That is, if the main reason people visit these more specialized pages is to find out about research, publications, and people and all they see is a picture of you kissing your parrot, that's not so good. If the pages are informative and a bit informal as well, that's fine. "Professional" webpages don't have to be dry and boring.

And you could always have a link to "X's personal webpage" and put your parrot photos there. You probably want to keep photos of you in your underwear for a (private) Facebook photo album or to send (via Twitter) to the US Representative of your district, but photos of you and cute animals (other than snakes) wouldn't be unprofessional if clearly on a page devoted to other aspects of your life. Not everyone wants such a page linked to their work-related webpages, but I've seen examples of this and did not think the person (student or professor) was unprofessional.

There are likely differences of opinion on this issue. A while ago when I was involved in updating the department webpages, there was one person who refused to provide a photo. For a while I just had "no photo" written in a box the size of everyone else's photo, but this was unsatisfying and ugly, so I decided to try to get some image related to this person. I asked him to give me some sort of image to use, even if not a photo of himself, or else I would come up with "something" for him. He did not provide an image, so I put in an image of my own choosing. He loved this image and was quite content with the situation, but a significant number of other people were bothered by it, saying it was "unprofessional". Eventually I did get a photo of the person in question and the problem was solved, but it interested (and surprised) me how many people commented on the "unprofessional" nature of including an image that was not a standard head-shot photo of a person.

So, I may not be the best person to as, but perhaps others can weigh in, ideally specifying their academic discipline so that we can see whether wacky photos are the norm in some fields but mildly to deeply unprofessional in others.

25 comments:

Rahul Siddharthan said...

I suspect by "bat" your correspondent meant a baseball or cricket bat. Or if it is indeed the flying mammal, I'd say it is appropriate if the scientist is a bat researcher... And, of course, sufficiently senior or eminent scientists can do what they like as long as it's not actively offensive or illegal (cf. Feynman playing a drum, in the "Feynman lectures" books).

muddled grad student said...

Our lab webpage has pages for all the students/staff and with the exception of 2 standard passport type photos the rest are general pictures. Most are cropped such that the person at least takes up 50% of the picture - you don't want to be a speck in the background. None considered be considered particularly wacky as they are mostly taken on people's travels against various natural/cultural backgrounds. To date we haven't received any comments that our pictures were unprofessional.

mOOm said...

My homepage has a picture of me working on a laptop. Is that professional enough? :)

Comrade PhysioProf said...

You should totally put a picture on your Web page of yourself in a more casual pose. This puts people at ease and lets them know that you are just a regular person. Here is an appropriate example:

http://www.chem.unl.edu/faculty/images/eachfacultypage/harbison.jpg

Anonymous said...

What's your take on people not wanting their photos to be publicly available? I avoid it because some guys I went to grad school with stalked me for awhile. So far, I've been able to get away with no photo.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't help but think of this guy when the questioner asked about parrots: Hector Sussmann

So I do think there are instances where a parrot picture, perhaps when combined with other elements, could be a tad over the top.

Anonymous said...

Oh man! In Eco-Evo fields it's practically required that your main photo will be of you holding your study organism, especially if it's cute. If you can't hold it (too small/large/dangerous/amorphous) there will instead be a picture of it right up there next to your passport photo.

SocSciAdjunct said...

I'm in anthropology, and we're all encouraged to send in pictures of ourselves for the department webpage - ideally pictures of us engaged in fieldwork. Some are wearing clothing typical of the people they study, some are excavating houses, some are studying skeletons. I'd never considered that some fields might find this unprofessional.

Anonymous said...

In mathematics, hiking photos seem to be very common on personal webpages.

James Annan said...

Good grief. Are many USA university departments (and their inhabitants) really so pompous and up-tight that they actually worry about things like this?

Anonymous said...

Be careful putting in a link to your personal web page from your group web page. It is very off-putting to have a visiting scholar comment not on your research, but of the picture of you in your Halloween costume. Even if they're commenting on the craftiness of the costume - this was not one of THOSE Halloween costumes or anything.

I learned my lesson; personal life and research life are now well separated in my web presence. It's hard enough being taken seriously as a female scientist without the distractions.

So for your reader: by adding a non-standard picture you are creating a conversation piece. What is your reaction (or your colleagues' reaction) if people talk about that conversation piece instead of your research? That is the real test. For me, I chose conformity instead.

Ewan said...

OK, it's not *quite* a parrot, but:

http://www.albany.edu/mcnaylab/ewan.html

which helps, I hope, to convey the fact that my lab is intended to be an enjoyable place to be, as well as home to top-notch research.

Anonymous said...

About two years ago I switched from the Department mug shot to a rotating series of three pictures of me in various non-work locations. Perhaps I cab be more cavalier because I got tenure awhile ago, but I personally think its more likely I'll attract grad students and postdocs by looking more like a person and less like a convict or museum piece.

Mark P

Anonymous said...

On a close topic, but not exactly the same, I list my son as a joint publication with my husband, in the middle of my publication's list in my website... Is this too much?

John V said...

90% of looking at pictures for me is seeing whether I recognize the person. If I want more personality, I can usually find multiple pictures via Google image search. So a non-funky headshot is most effective, if one wants to be known.

John V said...

Other points -

Having no picture seems to me a poor idea, if one has any interest in forming collaborations or encouraging recognition of colleagues at meetings or within one's university or even department. It suggests self-image issues.

Adding personality-laden pictures to a website is fine, as long as the CV, research directions, list of papers are the top links. Be aware people may judge that scientists are not serious should they put more effort into breweries, the 49ers, parrots, and bats than clearly and thoroughly explaining their research.

Materialist said...

No matter your tenure situation, I would suggest/request that your photo be no more than 1 decade old.

Ursula said...

My lab-website picture is formal, but has a mouse-over effect. Makes people who by chance notice it, laugh!

http://salilab.org/~ursula/

Sometimes, it helps to show some personality.

Anonymous said...

i think departmental websites should have relatively formal pictures or closely cropped headshots or pictures of people in the lab or office. however, i think that the lab website is the perfect place to have more fun pictures. i know that a lot of people have shown interest in my lab because it looks like the members know how to have a good time. we have pictures posted from when we go to lunch or on retreat or bowling or...

Anonymous said...

A little off topic (but not really), what are peoples' thoughts on the "pictures" section, which many personal lab websites seem to feature have? What kinds of photos do people put in their "pictures" section? What's appropriate and what's silly? Besides group photos, I've seen albums from various thesis defenses, group outings, birthdays, etc.

Anne M. Archibald said...

Some people avoid making their pictures available for compelling reasons - stalkers are serious business, for example, and anything people need to do to be rid of them is fine with me.

As for what kind of picture to put up, in pulsar astronomy I've seen mostly fairly-casual pictures. One colleague is pictured in front of his car, prominently displaying the license plate reading "PULSARS". Others are of people holding infants and the like, or in front of various telescopes. For my taste, I like personality in pictures provided that they still serve the purpose of allowing me to recognize the person when I meet them.

Perhaps disciplines that are viewed as dull encourage people to have pictures showing they're interesting?

gasstationwithoutpumps said...

I have sketches my son made of me (over an 8-year period, from when he was 6 until he was 14) instead of a photo on my web page. People have no trouble recognizing me from the sketches, and I've gotten generally positive feedback on them. The department web page has an official mug shot of me, which looks awful, but no worse than anyone else's.

Erich Jarvis has 2 pairs of parrots on his lab page:
http://www.neuro.duke.edu/faculty/jarvis/

EcoGeoFemme said...

I agree with several others that pictures of the person doing field work are desirable for those who have a significant field component to their work (but only if it's a good shot of the person's face).

Ursula, I thought your mouseover effect was a hoot!

Anonymous said...

I got a picture of me with a parrot on my shoulder -- a nice one too. Got to post that now. Ha ha.

Anonymous said...

I'm in the humanities/social sciences, and it's good to have a photo showing you doing something related to your field. For example, I'm in Japanese studies, so there is a photo of me in front of a Japanese castle. My friend is researching nerds, so a photo of her at ComicCon or posing with a Dalek would be appropriate. I think it's a matter of saying "I don't just read about this stuff in books, I've actually been there/interacted with my topic."

I'd be highly disappointed if I saw an archeologist or anthropologist's page without them being in the field/wearing an Indiana Jones hat.