How to Pick The Right Headshot for Your LinkedIn Profile Photo

How to Pick Your LinkedIn Profile Shot Vail Fucci Photography The Headshot Doctor

Your LinkedIn profile picture is typically the first thing people notice when they visit your profile. Picking the right headshot has a huge impact on how potential clients, colleagues, or employers will perceive you.  Many look to friends, family, and loved ones to help them decide which image to choose.  The problem with this approach is that these people are not the intended audience for your LinkedIn Profile. Your spouse is going to look at your photos very differently from the way your potential boss will. You need an image that paints the picture of how you want to be seen professionally.  Here are the questions I ask my clients during our in person image selection at the end of their session and the qualities I am looking for that make for a great LinkedIn profile shot.

Important Questions to Answer When Choosing Your LinkedIn Profile Picture

What field are you in? Sometimes there are industry standards that are smart to be aware of.  The field you are in will often dictate what you are wearing and what type of background choice is acceptable.  The expression is usually more variable. 

What is your personal brand? Your LinkedIn headshot is a key component of your personal brand. It can help to convey your personality, values, and personal style, and contribute to how you want to be perceived by others in your professional network.  Do you want to be seen as wise, warm, kind, empathetic, powerful, a decision-maker, friendly, smart, casual, formal, energetic, creative, confident, approachable, funny, serious, trustworthy, credible, c-suite, experienced, someone not to mess with, someone who is there to help, a team player, or a total bad-ass? These qualities aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive, but they all can be perceived through your profile shot in a matter of seconds.  When you are reviewing your headshots think to yourself, what do I want my photo to say about me.  Once you narrow your photos down to a select few have a colleague in your industry look at the images too and ask them to give a caption to each shot.  See what each one says to them.

Things to Look for in Your Images

  1. Great Expression: The number one most important thing in your photo is your expression.  It trumps EVERYTHING else.  You do not want to look forced or awkward. Your expression should be genuine and relaxed, reflecting your personality and approachability. 

  2. Eye Contact: It should feel like you are looking straight back at the person.  If your gaze was just a little above the camera or to the side it can be off putting to the viewer.  So make sure the image you pick has GREAT eye contact.  

  3. Composition: The composition should be well-balanced, with your face as the focal point and appropriate framing that draws attention to your eyes.  You may love having your face tilted or turned way to the side in selfies, but LinkedIn isn’t the place for that.  Your face should not be more than a 45 degree angle from the camera.  You also need to pick an image that has enough space above and below your head.  Once you bring the image into LinkedIn it will give you the ability to zoom in or out on your image as well as move it from side to side so that it can fit nicely inside the profile image circle.  Be sure not to have too much body in the little profile circle.  If you have more than just your head and shoulders in the shot your audience likely won’t be able to see your expression at all.

  4. Confidence: Confident posture and expression can make a strong impression. It’s important to convey confidence without appearing overly stiff or unnatural.  Check to see if your shoulders are up around your ears or if they are down and relaxed.  If you had your arms crossed does it look like you feel cold, or does it look like you are at ease with your shoulders back? Shoulders down and back radiates confidence.

  5. Clothing: Your clothes should be a helpful addition to the shot, not a detraction. Expression is the most important thing, but try to avoid clothes that are positioned in a way that makes it look like you didn’t care about how you looked.  Wrinkles, collar gaps, uneven collars, uneven necklaces, and loose ties are the biggest culprits.

  6. Don’t get hung up on your “flaws”: Worried about your newly acquired crows feet? Think you have a five-head instead of a forehead? Think your nose is crooked? Have a pimple or two? Teeth aren’t pearly white? Smile is uneven? Got a case of one droopy eyelid? These are the types of things people fixate on when they are looking at shots of THEMSELVES, but not when looking at photos of other people.  You also have image size on your side.  No one can REALLY notice your self-perceived “flaws” when the image is no bigger than a postage stamp. So focus on your expression, not the things you don’t like about yourself on the regular.   

  7. Authenticity: Your headshot should represent the real you and feel real, not staged.  Avoid stilted smiles.  Look to see if your eyes got a little smaller when you smiled.  Science agrees, this slight narrowing is a sign of a real smile.

  8. Teeth or No Teeth: It’s ok to have a photo on LinkedIn of you smiling without teeth.  Every smile without teeth is not a cheeky smirk.  At the end of the day what matters is it fits the position you are going for or are in.  For some jobs, a super smiley grin is not appropriate.

So now that you are armed with this information which of these headshots would you suggest this doctor who was applying for her medical residency should use for her LinkedIn profile photo?  What does each photo say to you?

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