5 Tips for the Perfect Profile Picture for Linkedin in 2021

Professional Photo for Linkedin

Linkedin, like Alignable, is the social hub when it comes to making business connections. The sites depart from the casual social connections of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter; they focus on the professional connections to help businesses grow, connect, and thrive. Your headshot, along with your Headline and Summary play a big role in getting your profile noticed. Here are 5 tips for making your Professional Photo for Linkedin shine!

And the first element you’ll see on the site is your profile picture. That single 400px x 400px element has a ton of weight behind it. If fact, according to Linkedin, a profile with a photo gets 21x more profile views and 9x more connection requests. Follow these 8 tips to increase the impact of your professional photo for Linkedin.

1) Use Clean and Soft Lighting

We all have photos that we love of ourselves. And often times we have photos that we hate, too. Over the years of photographing thousands of business professionals, I’ve learned a simple trick that makes an image pop and get noticed. It’s all about the light!

Soft and natural light is the easiest thing you can do to add an instant and professional vibe to your images. This can be accomplished at home by using indirect window light or a “ring light” off of Amazon. Professional photographers will often use large softboxes and umbrellas to achieve this simple and clean lighting when window light isn’t available. The goal is the same – we want to clearly see you without harsh or blotchy shadows. So if your eyes are in deep shadows, you have “oily looking skin” (the technical term for this look is “high contrast specular highlights“), or the light is more distracting/moody than helpful, it’s time to up your lighting game to make your Linkedin picture have impact. Generally, this will mean avoiding direct sunlight and fluorescent office lighting.

As an added bonus, this style of light is very flattering. It’ll reduce blemishes and downplay wrinkles. You’ll have a “pop” in your eyes.

2) Dress for Success

Clothing matters! We use clothing to quickly frame our perception of others. You’d probably be skeptical of an auto-mechanic that is wearing a 3-piece suit. And perhaps even more skeptical of a CEO that is wearing a casual well-worn hoodie. We want all the tiny details of a message we send to have unity. And in a professional photo for Linkedin, we have a brief second to send the right message.

You’ll want to select clothing that is standard for your industry. For most of us, that means Business Casual. A JDP study found that a staggering 42% of Linkedin Profile Photos were Business Casual (button-down, sweater, etc). This is rounded out with 26% having a Social look (dressed for a night out) and 24% having a Formal look (suit/tie). Only 8% had a Casual look (t-shirt, etc).

Obviously, you’ll want to dress in a way that is appropriate for your industry. Industries like banking tend to be more formal while Health/Fitness tends to be more casual.

When you’re putting together your attire, remember that simple is usually better. Avoid Logos and busy patterns. Keep accessories and jewelry to a minimum. We want the focus on you – not on what you are wearing. When in doubt, we what you’d wear to work.

Pro Tip: Blue is one of the best colors for a headshot. It compliments everyone’s skin types! It also comes across as more open, approachable, and friendly. When I work with actors looking to do commercial roles, I strongly recommend blue tops for this reason!

3) Smile! Expressions Matter

Remember, Linkedin is a networking site. We are looking for connections and interactions. When it comes to instantly judging someone as a potential connection, we are most likely to judge their profile picture. If someone looks mean or scary, we aren’t as likely to connect with them. Similarly, if someone looks friendly and approachable, we are more likely to want to connect with them. We’ve heard this echoed in sales and social training from Dale Carnegie in “How to Win Friends and Influence People“, and the social experiments of Robert Cialdini in “Influnce.”

Even if you are a high-profile attorney, a CEO, or a negotiator, we have to keep our audience in mind. You might have other branding images that portray a different message. But for your Professional Photo for Linkedin, you’ll want to be approachable.

The easiest way to get a look that is most likely to get connections is to smile! It’s a basic human trait that works worldwide, regardless of cultural, age, and social factors. Even babies can recognize this. We know a smile means a friend. So by wearing a smile in your image, we can tap into this raw human reaction.

But not all smiles are created equal.

When a camera or cellphone is in front of us, we say “cheese” and throw up that ear to ear grin. It works for some people. But others look a bit crazy with their “fake smile”. The fake smile isn’t real. It isn’t genuine. It’s a facade, and the viewer can see through it. We want the real you and the real smile!When crafting a headshot or a portrait, I always take a few minutes to discover a person’t natural smile.

There are three smile types. Most of us have never though about what their smile type is. We just smile big when we have to due it on cue, and use a real smile when something makes us happy. With a bit of perception and practice, you can discover the style that is the real “you” and come across as genuine. The three smile types are:
Mouth Open Smile (big, with the the top and bottom teeth NOT touching). This is my “natural” smile.
Teethy Smile (big with the teeth exposed. Top and bottom teeth are touching).
Mouth Closed “Smirky” Smile (lips together smile).

Find your smile and the rest of the expression will fall into place naturally! When you use your genuine smile, your eyes will smile back. It’s human nature.

4) Clean Background

Your background can say quite a bit about you. So make sure it is intentional.

Most of the time when we are looking at images of ourselves we tend to ignore the background. Afterall, we are obsessed with looking at ourselves (Check out the research by Cialdini if you want to learn more about this – I find it facinating). But others don’t fall prety to this; they take in the whole image. Just like they judge you based on your clothing, they’ll judge you on the background, too.

A messy room will probably send the wrong message. A busy background will pull the focus from you. So make sure you are sending the right message with your headshot background.

For my clients, I’ve found that two types of background perform best for professional photos for Linkedin: simple clean backgrounds and blurry enviornmental backgrounds.

Most of the time a simple clean background will be the ideal option. If you are creating this yourself, you can use a simple wall or curtain as your backdrop. It keeps all the focus on you! In a professional portrait studio, we use special papers and background to further compliment your look. This look works with all industry types.

If you go for the blurry enviornmental background (the photographer term of this is bokeh – or shallow depth-of-field), you’ll want to find a setting that compliments your look, style, and industry. A CEO could have a boardroom as a background. A business owner could have their store as the background, and a commercial realator could be downtown. The key is to find a complimentary background that doesn’t distract. A professional photographer will know to acheive this look. If you are doing it yourself, try using “portrait mode” on your iphone.

5) Avoid Common Mistakes

Now that you have the groundwork for having a high-impact Linkedin Profile Picture, be sure to avoid common mistakes by following these tips.

Don’t use a Selfie. This is a professional site. Using a casual image works great for Facebook and Instagram. If you go the DIY route, use a tripod (or have a friend help) so it looks more like a traditional portrait. And yes, this includes taking a selfie in your car. You’ll want to make sure it looks like you have a professional photo for Linkedin.

Look at the Camera. Make direct eye contact with the lens of the camera. It grabs people’s attention and helps for a connection. Don’t look off or sideways in your image.

Keep Hands Away from the Face. A professional acting headshot won’t have the hands near the face because they pull attention away from the model. The same is true for your Linkedin profile. Keep the hands down/out of frame.

Shoot Wide . Linkedin profile images use a circular format for display. Most photographs are square or rectangle. This means you’ll lose just a bit of an image when you use it as your pofile image. It’s a good idea to leave lots of space around your head when creating your headshot so you don’t inadvertantly cut off the top of your head.

Crop Tight when Uploading. This tip goes hand in hand with the previous recommendation to shoot wide. When you upload your image to Linkedin, you’ll be able to crop in tighter. As a general rule of thumb, you want your face to fill most of the circular frame. If you can see your waist in the image, it isn’t cropped in enough. The tighter the crop (without cutting off the top of your head) the better.

Don’t Repurpose Another Image. There might be an existing image out there where you look great! But just because you look good in it doesn’t mean that it’s a great headshot. Common repuposing might include cropping another person out of a photo (awkward random arm around your shoulder???), taking a cell phone image of an exisiting printed photo.

Don’t Over-Edit. It’s tempting to use digital filters, lots of photoshop, and skin smoothing overlays to give your image an extra little pop. But don’t do it. People want to see the real you! Right now the current trend is a soft natural look.

Should You Hire a Professional?

This depends on what your position and goals are. It is 100% possible to have a great headshot taken with your iPhone. If you are just starting out (entry-level), have photography experience, or are extremely photogenic, you’ll likely be fine to follow the tips listed here and end up with a high impact professional headshot.

However, if you are like most of Linkedin’s 300 million active monthly users, you’ll likely want to invest in a professional photo for Linkedin. A professional headshot photographer will know how to help you look good and send the right message. Luckily, the investment for having a professional image is pretty small compared to the return you’ll gain from having an image that sends the right message and lets you network better.