You may not have thought about it, but a lot of people are going to be looking at your glamour shot. The program director and any application reader will see it before you’re chosen for an interview.
- Your interviewers will see it.
- It’ll probably make it into a big interview day composite along everyone else visiting that day.
- The residency selection committee will usually blow it up and put it up on the big screen when they discuss you.
So, for better or worse, people are basically going to see it whenever they think about you. While the people who meet you may form additional images, not everyone who has a role in your selection is going to meet you in person.
Once you land a residency, the photo will almost certainly make more appearances in the “meet our new interns” flyer, get plastered around the department, and may even be accessible online. Rarely, it could even be on your badge.
This is all to say, it might as well not be a terrible photo.
And, like your personal statement, it’s also probably best for you to not stand out.
Not that you can’t be incredibly good looking, of course, but rather that the format of your photo should be the usual bland applicant kind where you’re wearing something you’d wear to the interview while sitting angled slightly in front of a miscellaneous grayish or bluish pseudo-cloud background. Please don’t wear your white coat; you’ll look like a tool.
Stands out in a bad way? How about in front of a random white wall in your apartment under harsh lighting taken by your roommate with your phone where you’re too far away like a B-grade passport photo. The instagram-worthy pic of you in a park with your hair in the breeze and a beautiful bokeh background—while better to look at—also doesn’t scream, “I will answer pages promptly at 3 am and like it.”
Just google something like “residency photo ERAS” and see which examples spark joy for you.
Every interview day we’ll get a big pdf emailed to all the residents and faculty with a composite of everyone who’s visiting. Inevitably, there will be one person who stands out with a blurry poorly lit photo. Does it really matter? I very much doubt it (unless it dovetails with other more serious mistakes/poor judgment calls), but I can’t think of any meaningful benefit to choosing this moment to pinch pennies.
If you have the option of paying an extra 20 or 30 bucks to have the photo professionally retouched, frankly, I encourage you to do so. While this is an irritating expense, again, this photo is used everywhere. Even if you do have it retouched, I still recommend taking steps personally to improve it if you have the skills and desire. Photoshop, its free alternative GIMP, or one of the many free or paid photo retouching apps (including the very nice and very free Adobe Photoshop Fix for iOS) will all do the trick to remove stray hairs, razor burn, leftover blemishes or even whiten teeth. In other words, you want to take reasonable steps to ensure that the photo is a good one.
And, of course, #NoFilter.