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Five tips to get the best LinkedIn profile photo

Five tips to get the best LinkedIn profile photo

I was on a portrait shoot last week with a very interesting woman. While I was taking her photo for her LinkedIn profile and about me page of her website, we got chatting about the awful business photos that people have on LinkedIn. So I thought it might be an interesting blog post to write five tips to get a great profile shot and give some advice from a professional portrait photographer. 

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1. Call in the professionals

Now I know this is an article on getting the best LinkedIn profile business photo, written by a professional photographer on a photographers website, however please bear with me.

Just go and have a look at the many many profile shots / avatars on LinkedIn and see how easily you can spot which ones were taken by a professional photographer and which ones were not. 

Which ones were a holiday snap and which ones are a selfie taken on a phone. Which ones have great and flattering lighting and which ones look like a police mug shot.

Spend a few minutes looking and it’s not hard to see and spot the difference.

What are you using LinkedIn for?

The bottom line is that It’s to advertise yourself. Your biggest asset. The thing you want to invest in the most and the thing you want the best for.

So why use a badly lit, holiday snap mug shot to do so? Get a professional to help you out. 

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2. Keep it simple

If you look at the profile images on LinkedIn, you really don’t get much real estate. So you really need to make your profile photo stand out. 

Don’t have a busy background, don’t be wearing loud or over the top clothes, look at the photos which stand out and why they stand out.

Your head and shoulders, as that’s all you really get (unless you’re me and have a floating head) should stand out from the background which really shouldn't be distracting.

It may be a nice photo of you against some colourful graffiti, but what does that say about you and what is going to stand out more in the image?

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3. Dress appropriately

LinkedIn is for business and work, so although it may seem like i’m teaching you to suck eggs, dress how you would for work. 

You’d be surprised how many people have photos of them in Hawaiian shirts or logo / slogan T-shirts. 

Try to wear what you think appropriate for an interview or business meeting and avoid patters and loud colours.

Think the word ‘professional’ when deciding what to wear. Also bear in mind that well known saying ‘Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.

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4. Smile

What!!! But i’m a serious business person. So what? People want to work with people they like.

Don’t look intimidating, try to look friendly and approachable. Even the slightest of smiles will just soften your face that little bit.

If you’re coming across like a police mug shot, try angling your feet away from the camera and this should naturally turn your shoulders away and then turn your head back and you’ll add some interest to your pose. 

Have the camera at eye level or slightly higher, don’t ever go low and don’t go too high. Now is not the time for that selfie pout or head tilt. Again think professional. Your photographer should be able to help you with posing slightly and still be able to keep it natural.

If you’re struggling for a genuine smile, an old tip that I use is to think of someone who makes you smile or a funny situation you’ve been in, and then you’ll have a genuine happy face which shows in the eyes.

And if that fails use the old Julie Andrews (you know, Mary Poppins) tip. Never say the word ‘cheese’ as it doesn’t look good on camera. Instead say ‘money!’.

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5. Edit your photo

Did you know that you can actually edit your photo very easily on LinkedIn?

Yes that’s right, there are various filters which you can apply through the site itself. Just click on your picture. Some are over the top, but consider putting your image into black and white to simplify it and make it stand out. If you have managed to wear something that is a bit too busy or too bright, just putting it into black and white can really help.

An example of how a black and white image can make distracting clothing stand out less.

An example of how a black and white image can make distracting clothing stand out less.

Or if you just want to increase the brightness / contrast, saturation etc. you can easily do that too. As well as cropping or zooming your image. For some reason LinkedIn crops the image to a circle so that’s something else to bear in mind when your choosing and editing your picture. Have a look first to see how it is with a square crop and that should give you a good idea.

So don’t worry about not having or being able to use Photoshop, just go ahead and use the LinkedIn tool. But remember to only do so if it’s adding and helping your profile photo to stand out.

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That’s about it for now, so hopefully if you follow these very simple tips you can help to banish a few more of those awful business profile shots on LinkedIn. Next time you're on the site just have a look and see how many you can spot that you think could be improved.

If you’d like to find out more about how to look good in staff / company head shots have a look at this post that I wrote all about it.

Or do get in contact to see how I can help you improve your profile shot.

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10 tips to look good in business head shots / professional corporate portraits / about me profile shots

10 tips to look good in business head shots / professional corporate portraits / about me profile shots / staff photos

I’ve been shooting professional commercial portraits for almost 10 years now and I’ve picked up a few tips that can really help out when having your photo taken. Lets face it, no one gives you any advice, so I thought i’d try and help you get the most out of having your profile photo taken. So here they are:

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1. Think about what you are going to wear

So don’t wear any graphic logo t-shirts or band names or funny slogans on your top. The chances are that they may be cut off in the shot and look silly. After all who wants to wear a T-Shirt with the slogan “my mum went on holiday and all I got was this lousy T-shirt’. When thats photographed and it’s just a head shot, it’ll be your face with the words ‘my mum’ below it. You’d be surprised how many people have writing on their tops and it just looks bad. After all this photo is probably going to last a couple of years on the companies website. So a band who may be cool now, might not be in two years time. Or you might have got a promotion and don’t want to be associated with One Direction any more now that you’re a manager.

Also patterns and thin stripes don’t work well on camera and computer screens. There is a thing called the moire effect when thin strips close together create a secondary rippling pattern. This is especially evident when an image is small on a screen. Also patterns which look cool on your clothes may just be a busy visual noise on camera. So if you can think about wearing something plain that will look good no matter what size the image is.

A lot of portraits get converted into black and white. So something else to consider is the tones that you wear. That pink tie with that light blue shirt may look great in real life, but by the time the image has been converted to black and white, they may be the same tone and just blend into one an other. So think about contrast and tones and if in doubt take a couple of shots of yourself in the mirror on your phone and convert them to black and white and see what looks good.

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2. Shiny skin

Most of the time when a photographer comes into your work place and sets up a studio the chances are they will be using artificial lights. This is to ensure that they can get constant results from the portraits. This is great as they will usually set up the lighting to get the most flattering image of you. However one of the disadvantages of studio lighting is that it can often make your skin look shiny / glossy / sweaty / greasy. This is especially true in the summer when it’s a hot day. So ladies i’d recommend a bit of concealer / foundation. And gentlemen I trip to the toilet to wash your face just before you have your photo taken, or a quick wash with a baby wipe also works well. As no one wants to look like a sweaty mess in their photos.

3. Your hair

I’ve had so many people arrive to have their staff photo taken and they’ve just rushed over to me though the wind and their hair is a total mess. I have to admit this is more likely for women than men as the guys tend to have shorter hair and it doesn’t get messed up that much. But the ladies with long hair, I’d always recommend bringing a brush with you to the shoot. You want your hair to be like a shampoo advert. Looking all smooth flowing, full bodied and neat. Don’t have loads of straggly strands of messy hair. Make sure that it’s all brushed and neat around the edges. If you have a fringe and want that looking good, try not to have any big gaps in there, unless that’s what you like. Photoshopping hair is so difficult as there are so many different lines in so many different directions that it really is a specialist job and usually over and above what is included in the job. It’s so much easier to get it right before the photo is taken than afterwards.

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4. Make up

This is a professional shot of you at work. So think about that when you’re applying your make up. A natural look always works best. Don’t go overboard, what you’d do for a big night out, probably won’t work for a corporate head shot. Keep it simple and make sure it feels good for you. If you normally wear a strong lipstick, then thats fine, but don’t go for a bold look if you don’t normally look like that. After all you want the image to be a good professional representation of yourself. 

5. Glasses

This isn’t a big one, but it’s probably worth mentioning. So if you normally wear glasses and people are used to seeing you in them. Wear them. If you only wear them for computer work (like me) and don’t often wear them when meeting people, make the decision beforehand whether or not to wear them in the photo. If you aren’t going to wear them, make sure you take your glasses of way before you come to have your photo taken, so you don’t have two red marks either side of your nose. It takes a while for them to go down. So leave plenty of time. 

If you are going to wear your glasses, there are a couple of things that are really worth doing. First of all give them a really really really good clean. It’s surprising how much dust / fingerprints / eyelash hair etc. can show up in the final image. So make sure the lenses are spotless and if your frames pick up fingerprints or grease marks give them a clean as well.

Lastly when you’re having your photo taken, make sure you push your glasses back as far as they will go. Often glasses just slip slightly down the nose and tend to cover your eyes every so slightly. In profile photos, it’s really important to see your eyes, so when the glasses are pushed back that shows them off to their best.

5. Your best side

A lot of people know how they look on camera and what side of their face they prefer. I personally don’t so it always surprises me when people say this is my best side. But it really helps me and makes my life easier as I’ll focus on that side and work with it. 

Likewise if there is a feature of your face that you don’t like or something that you are self conscious of let the photographer know. So I’ve often had people let me know that they don’t like the fact that one of their eyes is bigger than the other. So i’ll make sure I shoot with that eye closest to the camera, so perspective makes it look slightly bigger. I’ve also had lots of people tell me they don’t like their teeth, so we’ll get them smiling with their mouth closed. It’s much easier to tell your photographer these things, than to put up with a portrait that you don’t like. Think of us photographers like doctors, you can tell us anything without being embarrassed. Chances are we’ve heard it all before.

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7. The right height

Try to get the same height or just below the camera lens. Your photographer will always advise you what works best for the portrait. However if you’re very tall you are probably used to seeing photos of you shot from below. This can emphasise double chins and isn’t the most flattering of angles. So if you are really tall, one thing you can do is to spread your legs as wide as you can. Yep thats right adopt that rock pose. This will have the effect of bringing your height down a couple of inches. It’s much better to do this than to squat a bit. When you squat for a period of time, it tends to hurt. Thats why lots of people do it for exercise as it’s a good work out for your muscles. However when you’re in pain, guess what, that tends to show on your face. Which will show in the photo and you’ll look awful. So the advantage of spreading your legs is that it’s much more comfortable that a squat.

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8. Shut up

I can guarantee that one of the first things that people say to me when they come into have their photo taken is ‘I hate having my photo taken, I’ve never had a picture that i’m happy with.’  And then they proceed to nervously chat away in front of the camera and all i’m capturing is them talking and pulling faces. So if thats the kind of thing that you’ll do to calm yourself, don’t. Stop talking for a few minutes. Take a deep breath and relax. You’re in safe hands. The photographer wants to take the best picture that they can of you and make you happy. Just have trust in them.

Saying that I often talk to my subjects to relax them a bit and make them feel comfortable in front of the camera, but just be aware of how much you’re talking and if you’d talking too much.

9. Smile

Easier than you may think. How do you like yourself when you’re smiling in a photo? Lips shut or lips open? If you’re not sure, ask your photographer what looks best. They can take a few tests shots and can work with you to find what suits you best. Or take a few photos of yourself and ask friends and family.

I’ve always found that when you ask someone to smile for the camera, it tends to look a little fake. It’s not a proper smile and what I mean by that is that it doesn’t show in the eyes. So I never ask people to smile. I either try to make them smile or I ask them to think about someone or something that makes them laugh. That way I get a great reaction and a genuine smile. So if you think about someone / something funny when having your photo taken it’ll look much better and more natural.

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10. Visit the mirror just before you have your photo taken

Lastly, I’d always advise a quick stop off to check yourself in the mirror before you go to have your head shot done. The chances are that the photographer has never met you before, so they don’t know what you look like. So just give yourself the once over to make sure that you’re happy with the way you look. That your hair looks good. Your neckless hasn’t slipped round. You’re tie is straight and the top button isn’t showing. There is no food in your teeth etc.

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So thats about it for now. I may do a follow up one at some point in the future as this isn’t a definitive list by any means but just some easy tips that i’ve picked up over the years.

To have a look at some of my company profile head shots have a look at this link.

If you have any more tips or anything that’s worked for you, or you’d like to add to this, please do leave a comment below.