Travel Bloggers and their Avatars (05) – Hats – Mark Sukhija


No distractions please!

Is what I wrote in my prior post in this series where I summarized som some rules of thumb for great avatars.

Hats can create devastating shadows!

Here an example of a very distracting hat: You can’t see his eyes. Too much shadow overcast his eyes. No chance of recognizing him ever in a crowd.

I’ve met Mark Sukhija (@MarksTravels) in London during Travel Blog Camp last year. As his Twitter shorty says he is a “financial services exile”. In other words he used to be in a corporate cubicle of a well respected London based financial institution…

Now look at this portrait and tell me what do you think of the person without having met him and knowing from me he is a real nice and neat person with a typical London Financial District drawl?

Would it help showing his downsized portrait that he currently uses on Twitter?


Just interested to see your reaction.


Mark’s First reaction:

Mark's First Reaction

Perhaps I’m not supposed to be recognised in a crowd!;-)

Travel Bloggers and their Avatars (04) – Rules of Thumb – Thumbs Rule!


My thoughts about perfect Avatars

I’m an avid amateur photographer and look at the world wide web with the eye of a photographer or – as I sometimes say – through one of my lenses. From that point of view I sometimes like to comment on other people’s Avatar. Sometimes my comments may be a bit direct. Please bear in mind that such may be based on my Dutch directness. No offense meant, only some good humored pun to make a point.

Time to organize my thoughts a bit more.

Avatars are

Little thumbnails that come with websites. See for instance the little icon or favicon in the search part of your browser where you see the url. Next to the url you see a very small thumbnail that gives an indication whose website you’re on. I use my personal portrait and try to be consistent in using the same portrait on all sites where I can place my avatar. Be it on Twitter, FaceBook,, fora, Flickr or what you can think of. So here I go:

1) Use a portrait, no logo and no drawing.

For me that is a no-brainer. You should use a good portrait of yourself. Not a logo and not even a drawing, even if the drawing is a good look alike.

In my view the portrait must be so good that people who don’t know you in real life, must be able to recognize you in a party of a couple of hundreds of people they don’t know, just because they have seen your avatar and it bears an excellent likeness.

Remember that avatars come in all sizes and to test whether the portrait can stand downsizing without losing effect.

For my own avatar I use the portrait you see in the right column. I tested it on downsizing.

2) The photo should show as much of your face as possible.

Either full face, but in most cases a 2/3rd angled face gives a better impression. Everybody has a good side and a better side and mostly you know which is your better side. Almost nobody has a perfectly symmetrical side.

It is better to use a fully recognizable part of your face than part of your collar. The smaller the avatar gets the better it remains recognizable.

3) No Distractions Please!

Distractions can come from several directions:

  • Too much makeup.
  • Spectacles, hats or shadows that don’t allow your eyes to be seen properly.
  • Special effects like clownesque additions work only for professional clowns.
  • Don’t use a portrait of you with your beloved, your pet or your grandchild! I’m interested in you and not in your pet, beloved or grandchild and the smaller the avatar gets the less recognition you get with other elements in the portrait.
  • A background that doesn’t stand out enough or distracts from your face. For my own portrait I used a dark background (just the fence in our garden) to emphasize my gray hair – use a possible disadvantage to an advantage;-)
  • If you want to wear a hat or cap, remember that in a room with hundreds of people you possibly won’t wear a hat, that it can give false or wrong shadows on your face and, most importantly, your hair can’t be seen. If you say, “but I’m bald” do as I do with my gray hair: make it an outstanding asset with a fine outstanding background.
  • Don’t let your hangover or sleeplessness take over your portrait.

4) Smile! Smile! Smile!

As baby you’ve learned as first means of communication that a smile ensures you the best contact with grown ups. For you as a grown up the same rule applies.

5) Color or Black and White?

Personally I would say Color, because color matches real life better that black and white.

6) Don’t change your avatar!

Internet contacts (Eyeballs) are infrequent and fast. The less you change your avatar the less chance you confuse your audience.

7) Look for yourself! Look at yourself and Look Again!

I’ve put an older Twilk Twitter Background above this post. Can you find yourself easily in that photo? Who has an outstanding avatar among the ones you know? If you click the image you’ll get the original format that can make this exercise a bit easier…


After publishing this post I discovered Twilk | Happyhotelier i.e. a page of your own created by Twilk that makes your Avatars Clickable…Nifty! Anyone with a twitter account can do the same at Twilk!


To organize my thoughts I’ve made use of this nice blog post: 11 Rules for Best Personal Branding Results with Avatars | Personal Branding Blog – Dan Schawbel.

And, as always, good exceptions just prove some points I’ve made.

Travel Bloggers and their Avatars (03) – Kevin Luke May

Kevin Luke May Back

Travel Bloggers and their Avatars (03) – Kevin Luke May

I know. It is April Fool’s day, but I’m serious! Seriously!

Kevin blogs about traveltech and travel economics (ROI and so) and travel startups at Tnooz (to pronounce like T-News) that he co-founded.

If he would take the above photo and use it as his avatar (a thumb on social media), the ROI of his Avatar would be guaranteed zilch, zero, nada.

As an occasional hobby photographer I’m probably above average sensible for the use of an avatar with maximum ROI.

Now why did I take the above photo in the first place?

20100310 Kevin at Blogger Summit_MG_4454

In 2010 Kevin was explaining at a blogger conference that he believed the IPhone would cause a revolution in travel. He demonstrated an APP that when you held your IPhone above your head it could recognize you and could let your social media friends know where you were. Just after I took this photo Kevin held the IPhone above his head (see the top photo) to demonstrate this.

Why refer to that today?

For several reasons:

The first is that just by coincidence someone asked me permission to use the following photo in a post about Kevin (The Awesomosity of Kevin May) which I gladly granted:

Kevin Luke May IMG_7365

I’d used this photo in an interview with Kevin.

I’d started it with the observation “Am glad I have a photo of him where he smiles (a bit), because usually he likes to look as stern as possible” implicitly also hinting to his habit of frequently changing his rather stern Avatar. Sometimes I used to tease him with it, because it is my firm believe that one should stick to ones Avatar. If you don’t, your followers most likely will be confused. You might lose them.

When I later met him he admitted that this observation had haunted him (a bit).

The Second reason for this post just today is that Kevin posted about a startup that just does what he explains in the above photo (looking stern because he is concentrated): WhosWhereWhen promises to bring awesome productivity to travel conferences

The third reason is that coincidentally I had a short conversation yesterday with another travel blogger (and hotelier) – whose avatar I’ll shave in a separate post – whereby I referred to Kevin’s current Avatar which I find brilliant:


The reason I find it brilliant is that Kevin is an investigative Journo. The eye expresses the same that a private eye expresses: curious and serious without being too stern. He stays away from the stern in the sense of “too concentrated” like in the following photos:

Kevin Too Concentrated IMG_9419

Kevin Too Concentrated IMG_7350

Kevin Too Concentrated__MG_4425

You see what I mean? If you would use a photo which makes you less likable, it might turn people away from you, but if you like to keep distance and suggest you are serious, really serious, the Eye is a good way of suggesting you are serious without looking too stern. In addition the Avatar stands out in a whole page of them like the Twilk collection. Therefor I suggest Kevin to stick to The Eye for the time being.

What do you think?

WTM, Travel Bloggers and their Avatars (2) – James Craven

I met James Craven (@CravenTravels) for the first time at TBCamp2011. A very nice guy with whom I tweet already some time and whom I very much liked to meet IRL (In Real Life) while the time was too short to talk shop a bit more.

Does he look like his Avatar? Just Look at this Twilk Wall (and click on the image if it is too small for your old eyes):

Craven on Twilk Small

You probably see what I mean.

  1. James is a very nice bloke, but I like to meet him, not the two kids he is on the photo with.
  2. Also nice is that the avatar shows James is conscious of poppy day…however on the wall the poppy is almost as big as his head.
  3. It seems to me the photo used for his avatar is not very recent.
  4. If you study the Twilk wall, you also see that if you want to use a portrait, make it discernible on such wall, much more a close up.
  5. Now especially James: He is a sales person and should know the first impression can kill any deal….I ask you…

My 2 cents


As a sequel to TBCamp 11 Darren wondered whether Social Media are killing discussions on blogs. Sure they do, but you can cut and paste the answers in the post….

Last edited by GJE on November 14, 2011 at 11:57 pm

Impressions from TBCamp 2011

Two Spanish Ladies at TBCamp 2011

Darren did it again: He pulled 100+ Travel Bloggers and Travel PR types together for informal networking at Travel Blog Camp 2011. A big Thank You to Darren!

The venue was back where it started in 2008: in a London Pub at the south border of the Thames with a nice view over the city.

The food was excellent and the new two room set up was great where food was served in one room and the venue was in the other room.

I was acting as the “Official Photographer of the event”, hence I was more concentrated on making photos in very difficult (dark) light conditions, than on what actually was going on.

Luckily there were some who summarized the event:

I’ll be updating this if I find more stuff.

One take away from the event for me is: Travel Bloggers have to become more business like. Especially those who want to monetize their blogs. Thus far, I have refused to try and monetize this blog. So there is some work to be done if I want to monetize… and eventually that is what I wish

As an amateur photographer I noticed another aspect: The use of avatars by travel bloggers. One comment you can see in my prior post and further comments on the use of avatars will follow.

Also I wasn’t up to networking as I should have been and due to the light conditions I couldn’t take more or better photos than I did. Sorry for that.

I was making photos on Darren’s first ever TBCamp of 2008. For comparison’s sake you might want to look at the First TBCamp set.

Personally I like the photos of TBcamp10 better.

Last edited by GJE on November 14, 2011 at 11:53 pm