How to Take and Choose a Professional Photo for LinkedIn

professional business woman
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Just like when you go on a job interview, the first impression you give a recruiter on LinkedIn matters the most. Your photo is an integral part of your profile and, along with your employment history and other credentials, markets you as a strong prospective employee or a solid networking connection.

Why does having a professional photo on LinkedIn matter so much? Your photo is a very important part of your LinkedIn profile for a number of reasons. When you meet a LinkedIn contact in person for the first time, they will be able to recognize you because of your photo.

When you send a LinkedIn invitation to connect with someone you already know, they will feel comfortable accepting the invitation because they recognize your face. Finally, a photograph humanizes your profile and makes you appear more approachable. Uploading a quality photo into your LinkedIn profile will help you make the right impression and maximize the number of people who view your profile.

How to Pick a Perfect Professional Photo

Here are tips on how to take a professional photo and how to select the best one. These guidelines also work well for LinkedIn and other sites where you need to project a professional image.

© The Balance, 2018

Pick the Right Photographer. If you can afford it, a professional photographer can make it easier to get that perfect headshot. However, you don't necessarily need to go to the expense of hiring a professional.

Simply ask a friend or family member (who knows how to handle a camera) to take several shots of you. Select someone who can make you smile in a natural way. A warm, friendly smile will make you look accessible, and encourage others to engage with you. Have the photographer (and a few other friends, if possible) look at the photos and ask them for their feedback.

Take a Selfie. If no one is available to take your photo, you can always take a web shot of yourself using your computer’s camera (if you have one). If you've got a phone with a high-quality camera, you can take a selfie. Do be sure it looks professional before you upload it. Take a lot of pictures and then decide which one is best. You'll be able to upload the photo directly (on iOS and Android) to LinkedIn. If the picture, once you’ve posted it, doesn't look like you expected it to, it's easy to start over and take a few more photos to try.

Pick a Head Shot. Because profile photos appear as small thumbnails on LinkedIn, your photo should only be of your head, neck, and possibly the top of your shoulders. If you include your entire body, your head will appear too small, and viewers may not be able to recognize you.

Dress Professionally. Because LinkedIn is a professional career and business platform, make sure that your photo depicts you in a manner appropriate for your field. Typically this means a dress shirt for men, a dress, blazer, or nice blouse for women, or a suit for either gender. Choose solid dark colors like blue or black, and don't pick anything with a pattern that's too busy. Avoid white; it can make you appear washed out, and red does not translate well online.

Avoid wearing a strapless dress, top, or anything else too revealing that will make you appear naked. The key word here is “professional.” Dressing professionally also means avoiding the use of too much makeup or jewelry and distracting hairstyles.

Keep it Simple. Your photo should be of you, and only you. Do not include objects, pets, or children. Avoid busy backgrounds. It's best to stand against a solid-colored, light background.

Select a Current Photo. Do not include a dated photo no matter how young and attractive you look. Use a current picture, so people aren’t surprised when they meet you in person. It's strange to be introduced to someone in person who looks twenty years older than their online photos!

Be Consistent. When developing your professional online brand, consistency is key. Therefore, it is a good idea to use the same photo for all your professional and social networking profile pictures.

This will make you more easily recognizable.

LinkedIn's Photo Guidelines

LinkedIn suggests using a headshot with your face taking up 60% of the frame. The standard profile photo size is 400 (w) x 400 (h) pixels. You can upload a larger photo and LinkedIn will resize it, but it can't be bigger than 8MB. After you've uploaded the picture, you can change the position and size, then preview it before saving.

Your best bet is to stick with a headshot but, if you are feeling creative, note that LinkedIn has a list of what not to use as a profile photo, including company logos, landscapes, animals, and words or phrases. If your photo doesn't meet the image guidelines, it may be removed from your profile.

Uploading Your Photo

LinkedIn provides step-by-step guidelines for uploading and editing your profile picture. You'll be able to adjust the size and position, crop your image, and enhance it with filters. You can upload an image directly from your phone, use a webcam, or use an image you have saved on your computer.

Don't just upload a photo and forget about it. It's a good idea to refresh the image you're using every once in a while. At the same time, check the images on your other pages so your professional brand is consistent and up-to-date on all the social channels you use.

Add a Background Image

In addition to your profile picture, which is typically a headshot, you can add a background image to your profile. The background image is above and behind your profile picture. With this one, you'll need to add and edit it from your computer rather than your phone. Here are the image guidelines for background pictures: file type JPG, GIF or PNG, maximum size 8MB, and recommended pixel dimensions of 1584 (w) x 396 (h) pixels.

Keep it Professional

You'll see a variety of different types of photos on LinkedIn. With some of them, you might think you clicked on Facebook by mistake. LinkedIn is designed for business and career networking and using an overly casual photo isn't going to impress the recruiters or potential connections who review your profile. Play it safe and keep it professional.

Once your photos are set, go through your profile information to make sure your experience, education, and accomplishment sections are current and reflect your latest achievements. You'll be able to make a terrific impression on the web’s most important site for career networking.