I have been getting this question a lot lately so I decided to write a blog post to answer it...and let you all know that there's a right way and a wrong way to do this.
Your LinkedIn Profile can be your #1 selling tool - whether you want an awesome job, a promotion, more deals, to expand your network, or something else. Your photo is the first thing that people view on your Profile. Do you like how you portray yourself?
If the answer is "No" or "I don't know", keep reading.
Now, I'm not a photographer (so I pulled in my friend Sonya who is!), so you can decide if my opinion is worth anything. But I do have a background and a passion for rock star online brands. And I know what a good photo can get you.
So, let's get down to it.
Think about your industry and the industries you serve, and consider a backdrop that is a natural fit. But before you crop yourself onto a glossy building or in front of a beautiful oak tree for the sake of getting creative, consider how LinkedIn may manipulate the background once it's uploaded.
"A creative background with the right intention may seem like a good idea but can become distracting if cropped a certain way, like a branch coming out of your neck or a street light over your head," says Sonya Highfield, creativepreneur, freelance and fine art photographer.
As a good rule of thumb, when it doubt, your easiest choice is to stick with a solid backdrop color, and make sure your upper half covers 80% of the total image frame.
In your effort to portray professionalism, it's easy to come across as too stiff or "all business." It's just as important to seem approachable, and don't be afraid to inject a little bit of your personality. Even at the executive level, photos that are too stuffy can rub others the wrong way.
As a good rule of thumb, show up for your photo shoot in your favorite professional outfit. One that makes you feel confident and comfortable in your own skin. If that's too difficult, try a sports jacket with a button-down shirt, and leave the tie at home. For a more feminine look, try a blouse and maybe a blazer with some fun jewelry, if that's your thing.
And there's rarely an instance where a full suit is the recommended choice. Unless of course you work for J. Hilburn.
When it comes to colors, "steer clear of bold patterns and over accessorizing" to avoid contrasts that won't make for an optimal photo. "Bold or saturated colors work well, and jewel tones look complimentary on everyone."
As a good rule of thumb, "Make sure your outfit colors don't clash with the backdrop. Discuss and plan ahead with your photographer where you'll be, and ask for the color of the backdrop in advance and for recommendations on what to wear."
I try to encourage my clients not to cross their arms, (although many of you look radiant in this pose!) which can stake a physical (and perceived) barrier between you and the person you want to reach. Sitting or standing are both OK, as long as you have a vivid connection with the camera. Your photographer should give you plenty of frames, so to avoid a stiff face, pause, shake it out and reframe.
As a good rule of thumb, shoot for a relaxed pose with good posture and always, ALWAYS, give a genuine smile.
The format of your photo should be high resolution. A blurry image just looks like you rushed the process. Too, photos that are stuffy or "too corporate" don't send a good vibe. Take these, for example, that I found on Pinterest (Is it just me or does the one on the far right give off a condescending vibe?).
On the other hand, a picture that is authentic and shows your uniqueness while remaining professional, is ideal (and might I add, easy on the eye!)
These too, of course (shout out to my friends, Dan, Anusia and Kate).
In some cases, using a sentimental prop can show another side of you and be a great conversation piece (far right).
When you're in front of the camera, try this:
For the best chances of getting a frame you and everyone else will love, think of something that makes you genuinely happy or a time in your profession when you were in your element.
Think about what you want your future career to look like and dress for the job you want, not the job you have.
Your photo should not only be clear enough for someone to recognize you at a meeting or networking event, it should also portray who you are. It should allude to your personality and expertise, and convince anyone that you're worth having a conversation with (and even better, that you're worth hiring).
Sonya Highfield is a Boston creativepreneur and has been running her commercial and fine art photography business since 2012.