LinkedIn Photos: A Photographer's Thoughts

Why worry about the LinkedIn profile picture? It is a rare opportunity to show recruiters your personality.

Headshot photography is an art of it own, completely different than any other type. This is because the photos taken will have to go on and serve a purpose (other than hanging on a wall or cluttering instagram feeds). In the case of a LinkedIn profile picture, the purpose is to make you the connections required to get you hired. It is an opportunity to show employers that you have a vibrant personality, which is much more difficult to do on a traditional American black and white resume.

When looking for a job, you (as a job seeker) might be overwhelmed trying to communicate work experience or job skills that you’ve acquired throughout your life. Honestly, it can be hard to think about anything else, but don’t sleep on the profile picture!

Think about online dating applications. Even if you have never created an online dating profile, you can still relate to this. 90% of all decisions are made within the first 100 milliseconds of looking at a picture of the person.

A collection of 5 minute headshots I took at an Onward to Opportunity event for transition service members and their families.

A collection of 5 minute headshots I took at an Onward to Opportunity event for transition service members and their families.

Simply by looking at an image, you can tell whether a person is trustworthy, confident, intelligent, kind, or if their personality will mesh with yours.

Hiring managers and recruiters can see those same things by looking at your LinkedIn profile picture.

Much like film techniques (such as camera angles and movement), most of the impressions given by an image are subconscious. Essentially, this means that certain camera or lighting techniques affects the viewer’s mood and perception without the viewer knowing why, or sometimes even without noticing. Recruiters may not be professional photographers or art critics, but they will DEFINITELY pick up on these subtle mood altering characteristics given off by your photo.

You could be repelling recruiters and hiring managers without even knowing it!

Now, I know none of you want to do that, so let me give you some tips aimed towards common mistakes I see all the time on LinkedIn:

  1. Make sure your face is well lit and is either the brightest part of the image, or the same brightness as the brightest part of your image.

    • A great way to tell is to view your photo as a thumbnail on LinkedIn and ask yourself what you see first in the image. If your face is a shadow, you will likely see the background first. You want your face, specifically your eyes, to be the first thing noticed. The eyes are the windows to the soul!

    • Some lighting tips:

      Make sure the main source of light is not overhead. This casts very unflattering shadows on your face and hides your eyes. Try standing in front of (facing) a window.

      If you are outside, stand in the shade facing the light. Make sure there are not spots of light on your face or upper body. Also, try to find a background that is simple and plain. The easiest option is to stand about 10 feet in front of some trees (so that all you can see are the trees).

      You want to be at least 5-6 feet away from the background to help you stand out.

  2. Make sure you are looking directly into the camera.

    • Don’t pick a picture of you looking off in the distance or anywhere other than directly into the camera.

    • Without eye contact, people have a hard time trusting you. Even if it is a beautiful image of you sitting on a couch, sipping coffee, looking out the window, it still doesn’t convey confidence from the viewer.

      • (I suppose this type of image would be ok if you are a blogger or writer who is not actively looking for employment, it could make you look thoughtful or intellectual)

  3. Don’t worry about your physical insecurities: chubby cheeks, pimples, double chin, wrinkles, etc…

    • If I’m honest, you shouldn’t worry about those things ever. YOU are the only person who notices these things. If you know anything about perception, this is a case of top-down processing. Your friends, family, and especially hiring managers and recruiters just see you as a whole; they don’t have the time nor need to overanalyze your face or body.

    • Ok ok the point of this comment is to NOT pick a picture in which you think you look cute over a picture that looks professional and shows your personality. A good example of this is people who think they have an “ugly smile.” Let me just say that recruiters would MUCH rather see your ugly smile than a dimly lit picture of you in your bathroom that you took on your cell phone. They want to see that you are a nice, trustworthy, and relatable person, and the best way to show them this is through a genuine smile.

  4. Don’t post a selfie.

    • Just don’t do it. Save those for your instagram. Or you could always save them in your phone and spare the public.

Notice that none of the tips involved hiring a photographer or using a fancy DSLR camera. This article is actually targeted to LinkedIn users who did not hire a photographer, because I’m hoping that if you did, you wouldn’t have to worry about these (except #3).

Depending on your field of interest and your level of marketability, you may be able to get away with breaking these rules. Fields such as IT or engineering tend to care less about the cover photo, especially if you are over-qualified for the position. Those fields are often desperate for qualified candidates and don’t particularly care what you look like. On the other hand, if you are going into HR or Project Management, you better have a perfect photo.

I hope these tips help a little bit as you are finding the perfect image for your LinkedIn profile. Please feel free to ask questions in the comments below or reach out to me through email for more advice.

About the author: Through volunteering and being hired, Colin has provided LinkedIn headshots to over 200 different individuals. Colin is a transitioning military service-member who wants to help his peers get hired after their transitions. He has worked with non-profit organizations such as Onward to Opportunity, Hiring our Heroes, Soldier for Life, USO, Read to Me International, and Hale Kipa.