12 tips to ensure your professional profile photo makes a good impression

12 tips to ensure your professional profile photo makes a good impression

Never underestimate the value of your profile picture. That tiny square says quite a bit about you to potential friends, clients, employers, partners, or business associates. As such, it’s important to choose a profile picture that accurately represents the professional image you are trying to project—especially if you are looking for a new job. Your profile photo certainly does make that crucial first impression.

Here are some tips to ensure your photo makes a good impression.

1. Consider hiring a photographer

I know it’s an added expense, but if you’re a doctor, lawyer, or another professional that people expect to have a strong online presence, then it’s worth it to hire someone who knows what he or she is doing. 

Your selfies, regardless of how great you think they look, still look like selfies. However, a professional photographer will have the equipment and the experience necessary to make you look your best during the photoshoot. For example, he or she can give you posing suggestions you might not have thought of or advice on what type of background would work best with your coloring. He or she will also be able to retouch/edit your photos afterward to ensure they present you in the best possible light.

2. Be yourself

Show the real you in your picture. For example, if you normally wear glasses, don’t leave them off for your photo session. Otherwise, people may not recognize you when they meet you in person, which can damage your credibility.

The same applies to your hairstyle and your clothing. You should look like you normally do while at work. For example, don’t curl your hair for your photo if you normally wear it straight. Similarly, if your signature work look is jeans and a button-down shirt, wear that on the day of your photoshoot. There’s no need to wear a suit if you don’t normally wear one at the office.

Further, you should make sure you use a current picture so that it matches what you look like today, not the person you were five years ago.

3. Go big

Don’t make recruiters have to squint to see what you look like. This means using a close-up shot as opposed to a picture taken from far away. At a minimum, your face—from the top of your shoulders to the top of your head—should fill 60% of the frame.

While using a picture that’s too small diminishes you, you don’t want to go too far the other direction either. A close-up that takes up the entire frame can be off-putting.

4. Smile, but not too much

According to a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, people who smile are viewed as being more sincere, sociable, and competent—all things that employers are looking for in a potential hire. Moreover, recruiters are much more likely to remember your name when you are smiling in your picture.

The type of smile you use matters too. Most importantly, make sure your smile is real. Don’t say “cheese” and then keep your mouth frozen in a fake grin. If your eyes don’t squinch a bit with your smile, people will know you are faking it.

A good way to make sure your smile comes across as natural is to practice smiling in front of a mirror. While you’re practicing, make sure your smile shows your teeth, as research shows that people rate toothy grins as twice as likable as they do toothless smiles. However, don’t go overboard into a laughing smile, as the same study shows that this type of smile makes you appear less competent.

5. Look at the camera

You should be taking a picture of your face, not a picture of your profile. Regardless of how artistic you think it makes you look, don’t choose a sideways-looking pose that only shows one side of your face. Recruiters want to be able to see all of your features.

6. Use a boring background

You should be the focal point of your picture. As such, you need to ensure nothing else in the shot is competing for the viewer’s attention—this includes the background you’re standing or sitting in front of.

This doesn’t mean your background needs to be an empty, white room, however. Many indoor and outdoor settings can be interesting without being distracting. Ask your photographer to help you choose the ideal location.

The “more boring the better” rule also applies to your jewelry, your makeup, and your hairstyle.

7. Choose a high-resolution image

When it comes to choosing a good LinkedIn profile picture, it’s important to get the size right. If your picture is too large (over 8MB), LinkedIn will reject it. However, if it’s too small, your face might appear blurry.

For the best results, use a picture that has a 1:1 pixel ratio. LinkedIn suggests using photos that are at least 400 x 400 pixels (or a multiple of 400, like 800 x 800 or 1600 x 1600, so the image doesn’t get distorted when LinkedIn fits your picture to its frame), but you should use something much larger. 

It’s also a good idea to use only original photos, as photos of photos are usually of poor quality.

8. Don’t use pictures that include other people

Your LinkedIn profile photo should showcase you, and only you. 

You may love your team members, or your kids, or your cat, but there are several reasons you shouldn’t include these things in your picture. 

Most importantly, those who don’t already know you will be confused as to which person in the picture is you if there are other people in the shot. There’s also the chance that you might accidentally leave in someone’s arm or hand if you use a group picture and then try to crop out the other individuals.

Additionally, LinkedIn is not the venue for family pictures. Including your children (or your fur babies) will only make you look unprofessional. Save these snaps for your Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram profiles instead.

9. Take advantage of natural light

Lighting can make or break a picture. Therefore, it’s important to use the best light possible: diffused, natural light—but not direct sunlight, which can be too harsh.

For the best results, you can try shooting your pictures on a cloudy day, in a shaded area, or at twilight. Another idea is to stand in the light from a window, being careful not to stand with your back to the window, which will make it difficult to see your face.

10. Make sure your filters look natural

LinkedIn has six filters you can use to change the look of your profile picture. You can also use the platform’s built-in tools to crop your photo, as well as change the brightness, saturation, contrast, and vignette. However, it’s important to avoid going overboard with your edits and ending up with a picture that looks fake.

People don’t like obviously altered pictures. As such, it’s important to ensure your picture looks natural.

11. Use contrasting colors

A great way to grab recruiters’ attention as they scan through dozens, if not hundreds, of profiles is to use contrasting colors in your profile photo. For example, if you glance at the image below, you’ll find your eyes are drawn to the pictures with sharpest color contrasts.

12. Follow the rules

LinkedIn’s rules require your profile picture to be an actual photograph of yourself. For example, you can’t use someone else’s picture in an attempt to impersonate him or her. Nor can you use any of the following as your profile picture:

  • Company logos
  • Landscapes
  • Animals
  • Words or phrases

If your photo breaks any of these rules, you might not be able to upload it. LinkedIn might also remove it from your profile.


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