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How to choose a Timeline cover photo

Last week Facebook announced that its new Timeline profile design was about to become mandatory for all Facebook users. As is the case with most major changes on Facebook, the announcement was greeted with an outpouring of protests. But as is also the case with most changes, Facebook is determined to plow ahead anyway.

All this has left millions of Facebook members in a bit of a panic. Apart from getting used to a completely new profile layout, there is also the question of the Timeline cover photo. The cover photo is big. At 850 x 315 pixels, it’s designed to dominate your profile page and leave a lasting impression. Oh, and did we mention it’s public? That’s right – it can’t be hidden and is visible to friends and non-friends alike.

What else do we know about the Timeline cover photo? Well, we know it shouldn’t just be a bigger version of your regular profile picture. That profile picture will appear as a small inset on the lower left of your Timeline cover photo, so doubling up the same picture would be redundant.

Instead, your Timeline cover shot should be a picture of something you love – something that represents you or the things that are dear to you. A family portrait is OK, but so is that great photo of you scuba diving in Cozumel. A panoramic view of the Rockies might convey your love of the Great Outdoors, but a cute shot of lion cubs frolicking at the zoo might also work.

It’s quite possible that you will want to use a photo from one of your existing Facebook photo albums. Just remember that it has to be at least 850P wide otherwise it will look stretched and pixelated. Also remember that you can change your Timeline cover photo as many times as you want, so if your first choice doesn’t work out, then you can quickly go to option number two.

If you know your way around photo editing programs like Photoshop, iPhoto or Paint, you can do clever things like stitching a number of photos together or adding a text overlay. That last option is particularly useful if you want to tell the world about a major event like a recent engagement or the birth of a child.

If all else fails, then there are numerous web sites that can offer hundreds of pre-formatted Timeline cover photos or help you create a cover shot of your own. Examples include myFBCovers, FacebookTimelineBanner.com, and fcoverphotos. Some cover photos are free and some will cost a few dollars. Images range from tasteful to trashy and everything in between.

While we are on the subject of trashy, it’s important to offer a note of caution. While your daughter might think it’s funny to Photoshop her head onto Snooki’s bikinied body, college admission officers might not get the joke. Always remember that Timeline cover photos are public and can be seen by anyone.

So go ahead and be creative. Ask your family members for their input and advice. The Timeline re-design is intended to turn your Facebook page into your own personal web site. Make sure your home page is one that you can be proud of.

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