Your LinkedIn profile picture is the first point of contact many people will have with you. This is their first impression and first impressions stick. What does your picture say about you?
1. Wedding picture (or holiday, party, restaurant)
Always cropped (cutting off the edges of the image) from a bigger scene and often with someone else’s ear just in the picture or a disembodied arm around your shoulder. The quality is never good and they give the impression that anything will do as long as it meets the basic requirements. Not a good professional image.
2. Black and white
Some people think these are OK but I would suggest that unless you are actually black and white, they don’t give an accurate impression. There is also a lingering idea for many people that black and white is the cheap option from the days when colour photography was the more expensive of the two.
Save black and white for art. Your profile picture should look like you.
An absolute no no. They make you look shifty, insincere and insecure. People will trust you much more readily if they can see your eyes.
4. Logo or text
Your personal profile page should have a picture of you. A logo or your favourite epigram is not appropriate. Keep logos for your business page and aphorisms for the main body text of your profile.
5. Cartoon or painting
This isn’t you. It’s someone’s interpretation of you and will not show your features accurately. It’s fun but it’s not for serious business use.
6. Fuzzy, under- or over-exposed
A frequent problem with snaps – no matter what they are taken with. If it’s out of focus, your dark blues look black, or the yellows are white, then the shot has been taken with insufficient care (or inadequate knowledge). Either way you’re losing detail and not looking good. The poor quality will reflect on your own offering.
7. Close crop
Cropping is perfectly acceptable so long as you don’t overdo it. It’s OK to lose the top of the head but not much else. If your chin is missing, you’ve gone too far. You don’t want to look chinless, do you?
8. Vanity shot
Anything that makes you look unusually good. They tend to be either excessively produced or from years ago. If you’ve hired a make-up artist and hair stylist for your profile picture, you’re going way too far. Hanging on to out-of-date profile pictures is also a favourite of some people. Aging is not a character flaw. Remember, anyone who meets you after seeing your profile picture will get a shock if you’ve suddenly aged 20 years. Embrace your changing appearance and celebrate it. With age comes character. Get a fresh profile picture every year or two; or every new hair style; and look like you – but smart.
You might be at a conference, a trade show or at your desk and and maybe you’re looking slick and professional, doing whatever you do. Unfortunately, to give any useful context, you are probably going to be quite small in the picture. Let’s face it, it’s probably more of an ego trip for you than something giving a useful idea of what you look like and unless shot by a pro, the quality probably won’t good either.
Perhaps the worst sin of all. A total lack of effort. Is that the sort of impression you want to give? If you don’t want your profile looked at by anyone then this is a good start. The ubiquitous, anonymous silhouette is a sure fire way to get completely overlooked especially in the forums. It’s the digital equivalent of hiding. You’re not doing yourself any favours.
How to get it right
To be safe, use a white or black background. Some other colours are OK if they work with the top you’re wearing and aren’t too loud. If there is something else in the background (e.g. a building or foliage), then make sure it’s sufficiently blurred to not be distracting. The subject should clearly stand out from the background.
Include just your head or head and shoulders only. Don’t forget these pictures are presented small. They only serve to identify you – and that’s all we’re after. A wider shot will lose definition in your face and starts introducing the problem of what to do with your arms.
Look at the camera. Get eye contact with your viewers. Looking elsewhere just looks odd.
Smile! Forced smiles look, well, forced and unnatural. If you’re a gifted actor, you can probably produce a genuine smile to order but many people can’t. It’s the photographer’s job to entertain you and get a genuine, full-face smile.
Dress appropriately for your profession.
“I’m a musician/carpenter/electrician, can I include my instrument/tools?” Only if you can observe the guidelines above. You could easily get the neck of a guitar in a picture but including a piano without it becoming a distraction is a bit more of a challenge. Some sheet music in the background could work.
Here are some examples from our library of what we think a good profile picture should look like.
We would have liked to include examples of poor profile pictures but that’s a very quick way to upset people. However, now you know what to look for, you can browse your own connections. You’ll find plenty.