We all go to a lot of trouble to craft our personal brand and agonize over our professional bios or resumes so why wouldn’t you put the same thought into your headshot? Before anyone starts to read your surely impressive story they’re going to get their first very important impression from the first thing they see; your profile photo. Would you walk into a job or client interview wearing shorts or drinking a beer? Then why would you present that image online?
I want to point out that in this article I’m not talking about personal pages where there’s nothing wrong with a fun profile photo but all of these photos come from LinkedIn and there’s no reason to have anything but a professional presence there.
What you should not do
Faces have been pixelated to protect the innocent. We all make mistakes.
The “Hey Look at Me” – Is anyone really impressed by this kind of photo? Especially when you’re getting in the passenger seat? I know a guy who lived in his mother’s basement and rented a Mercedes and a private jet for an hour and made a video to show how successful he was. Unless you’re an exotic car dealer, leave the car in the garage…. or at the dealership.
The Family Man – The majority of people who look at your professional profile have kids we care about so what makes you special? And this is about you, not your family. You can explain you’re a family man in your bio if you think that’s important but leave the kids (and the arm) out of your profile photo.
The Pet Lover – Over 36% of households in the US own dogs and over 30% have cats. We get it, you love your pets, but unless you‘re a vet or own a pet shop does it really matter to anyone?
The Full Body – Profile photos are too small for a full body or even a half body shot. They call them headshots for a reason. People want to see your face, not your flair for fashion, Leisure Suit Larry. And if you’re a speaker, put it in your title or bio, we don’t need to see visual proof you know how to hold a microphone.
What you should do
After seeing these examples of what not to do I hope it’s clear what you should do. Use a photo that’s in focus and crop in on your face. If you don’t have a photo already ask a friend to take one for you. They don’t need an expensive camera, most modern smart phones can take very good photos in the right light. Choose a background that provides contrast and isn’t too busy. If you have blonde hair don’t stand in front of a white or beige wall and if you have dark hair make sure the background is light in color. Lighting is a lot easier than most people realize and you’ll get the best results taking the photo outdoors in bright shade. You just don’t want to be in the direct sun.