The quality of your LinkedIn profile picture is incredibly important.
It’s the first thing people see when they visit your profile, and one of the biggest factors they judge you on.
But this doesn’t stop people from making major mistakes with their profile pictures all the time.
Because of this, we’ve put together a list of 11 helpful tips that will help you take a professional LinkedIn profile picture.
We give this same advice to our branding and reputation management clients, and it makes a huge difference for them.
LinkedIn is one of the most popular networks out there, and the effect it can have on your professional life is enormous.
This means you have to take everything about your LinkedIn profile very seriously. Even if you’re not a big photo person, you really don’t have a choice.
Let’s get started.
1. Go With Your Normal Look
This is all about setting subtle expectations and eliminating the element of surprise. The whole point of being on LinkedIn is to connect with other professionals in your industry.
If you shave your head but use a profile picture from your time with a massive mane, you’re throwing people an unnecessary curveball.
You might be wondering what the big deal is. Whoever you meet will get used to it right?
Sure they will. But remember, the time it takes to form a first impression is only 7 seconds.
If they spend that time adjusting to your shocking lack of hair, that’s not good for you.
We would bundle glasses into this suggestion as well. If you always wear them, do the same in your profile photo.
Sharing a consistent appearance professionally goes a long way.
2. Put The Focus On Your Face
This might seem obvious, but it’s ignored far too often.
The entire point of your LinkedIn profile picture is for people to see who you are. If we can’t get a good view of your face, what’s the point?
There are some nice rules out there you can follow.
One is having your face take up 60% of the frame. When you start to exceed that percentage it can be a little overwhelming.
But the biggest thing to remember is just use common sense.
No massive or distracting hats. No mustache disguises. Nothing fancy.
Make sure we can all see that awesome face of yours (without going too far), and you’ll be just fine.
3. Head, Shoulders, But Not Knees & Toes
This is an important follow up to the tip we just mentioned.
There are two kinds of shots you want to avoid when it comes to your LinkedIn profile picture:
- Face only
- Full body
These are both no-no’s that are used all the time. You’ll definitely notice them the next time you’re on LinkedIn.
Full body is pretty self-explanatory, but face-only is worth mentioning (especially following the previous tip).
Sometimes users will take “put the focus on your face” a bit too far, and go with a LinkedIn profile picture that’s 110% FACE.
Don’t do this. It looks amateur and can even be little jarring to whoever sees it.
This means you’ll want to use the classic head and shoulders composition for your profile photo.
It looks great and it’s easy to capture.
4. Look Friendly
If you look like an approachable and friendly person, your LinkedIn profile picture will get a warmer reception.
Almost all attempts to seem serious or intense fail miserably. It doesn’t make you look more focused, and it doesn’t make you seem like you have great leadership qualities.
It just looks unnecessarily intense.
On the other hand, don’t overdo the friendliness either. Massive grins or laughter is probably turning the dial a little too far in the other direction.
There’s a lot of advice floating around that encourages you to differentiate yourself with your profile picture so you can stand out from the crowd. In this case it’s better when applied to other social networks.
LinkedIn isn’t the place to go wild and experiment with your expression.
Instead, be approachable. A pleasant expression or friendly little smile is the sweet spot you want to be in.
5. Stick To Your Office Wardrobe
Since LinkedIn is a professional network, your profile picture should follow suit.
This means instead of your favorite Sunday t-shirt, go with what you wear at work.
There’s no need to dress up unnecessarily. Standard office clothes will do.
The only exception to this rule is for casual work environments.
If you work at a young tech company where everyone wears t-shirts and sweatpants, you should probably jazz things up a little. This will help you end up with a professional LinkedIn profile picture that leaves a great impression.
You might end up hearing that it’s better to be authentic and it’s likely that people in your space will be used to that kind of attire. On the surface this makes sense and really doesn’t sound like awful advice.
The reason we differ from this perspective and encourage professionals in this situation to dress up is simple.
It shows that you’re taking it seriously.
There’s something to be said for putting in a little extra effort to leave a great impression.
Think of it this way:
If you attended a wedding wearing a t-shirt and sweatpants would anyone really get bent out of shape about it? Probably not.
But dressing up a little shows that you’re taking it seriously, and other people recognize that. On a professional social network we think this is important.
This doesn’t mean that you have to go overboard and rock a full suit and tie. That would come across as strange, especially if everyone in your industry is more casual.
A simple button up or nicer shirt is the way to go.
6. Keep The Background In Mind
This is often overlooked but can make a huge difference.
The background you use for your LinkedIn profile picture can either help you or hurt you.
Thankfully, you don’t have to be a master of photography to make the most of it.
When it comes to selecting a background that works for you, avoid distraction at all costs.
Go for something simple and clean that puts the emphasis on your face. This makes it easy for the viewer’s eye to focus on you.
You don’t want your awesome smile competing with your uncle throwing a frisbee in the background.
Try to be aware of things like contrast when picking your background. If you’re skin tone is more on the pale side, don’t take a picture in front of a white wall.
If you’re wearing a black shirt, don’t stand in front of a dark background. This will help you stand out from the background, and make things easier on the eyes of the viewer.
Another aspect to think about when it comes to background is the blur. You’re probably familiar with this through “portrait mode” on your phone.
In photography this is called bokeh and it’s an incredibly powerful trick to making a subject stand out from the background. If you’re using your phone you should take advantage of this feature.
If you’re getting headshots taken professionally, your photographer will likely do this without you having to ask.
7. Keep The Pose Simple
There’s something to be said for keeping it simple, and that applies to your LinkedIn profile picture as well.
We’ve already established that a head and shoulders shot is the way to go, but that still leaves room for you to come up with an awesome pose right?
Maybe an over the shoulder look? A bottom up shot to make you look a little more authoritative?
Nope. None of that.
Face the camera and smile. Keep it simple.
It works great, and you won’t shoot yourself in the foot experimenting with something that makes you look silly.
A professional network like LinkedIn isn’t really the place to try crazy things anyway. There are other social networks for that.
A straightforward pose is really the only option in our opinion.
8. Choose The Right Size
This is a bit more of a technical tips but it matters a lot.
The size of the image you upload can make a tremendous impact on the quality of your LinkedIn profile picture.
Your photo can be 400×400 or larger with an 8mb max file size.
So what does that mean for you?
We encourage users to upload an 800×800 high quality picture. This means that it will get sized down a bit and still look crisp and crystal clear when other people view your profile.
If you only have a 400×400 photo to use, make sure the clarity is perfect. If it isn’t, there’s a chance that it will end up looking a little funky once it’s uploaded.
The last thing to remember is to scrutinize your picture once it’s up.
After you’ve uploaded your LinkedIn profile photo, view your profile to see how it looks. If it looks even a little bit fuzzy you need to try again.
That might seem a little frustrating, but it’s worth it. A crisp and clear image helps you, and a fuzzy one does the opposite.
9. Don’t Get Tempted By The Filters
LinkedIn has some filters you can use when you upload your profile picture. It’s a pretty common feature for most social networks these days.
We recommend you don’t use them.
The reason for this is it tends to bait people into uploading subpar photos and relying on the filter to make it look nicer.
As great as filters are, they can’t fix a poor photo. Instead, try to get it right in the camera the first time.
This is actually a principle you’ll hear professional photographers talk about as well. A picture that doesn’t need a ton of work in Photoshop or Lightroom tends to be a better image.
Instead of hoping the filter saves you, take a few more shots until you’re happy with what you see.
It ultimately save you time, and give you a better final result.
10. Make Eye Contact
Eye contact is one of the most important ways that human beings connect.
It also helps make you more likable and relatable. When it comes to networking professionally, these are both big advantages.
This means you need to look at the camera in your LinkedIn profile picture. By looking away, you’re creating a natural disconnect between yourself and the person viewing your profile.
You also need to ditch the sunglasses (even if you’re looking at the camera). If we can’t see your eyes, there’s no eye-contact.
For most of you this won’t be an issue, because it’s a pretty natural thing to do when getting your picture taken. However, if you’re not in this group we recommend you take a new photo ASAP.
11. Don’t Over Edit Your Face
Photo editing software is super easy to use and readily available. It can work wonders for clearing up some awkward pimples or evening out your skin tone.
With that being said, practice some restraint.
Going overboard when editing your face can make you resemble a spooky doll, and that’s not the look you want.
If you want to touch things up a little bit, go for it. But we recommend dialing it back as much as you can handle.
We’ve all gotten very good at recognizing photos that have been edited like crazy, and the same thing goes for your LinkedIn profile photo. Part of displaying confidence is being happy with the face you’ve got!
What To Do Next
Some of these tips won’t apply to you. Some will.
Regardless, if your LinkedIn profile picture isn’t flawless you’ll probably want to take another pass to address any improvements that could be made.
The little things add up, and taking a new photo is easy (all you need is your phone).
Remember, your LinkedIn profile picture is what everyone looks at first. If viewers don’t like what they see, they’re not going to check out the rest of your profile.
You’ve spent time making sure your LinkedIn profile looks great. Don’t let a picture sabotage it.