TL;DR: You should be the feature of your head shot. Ease off the photoshop, weird props and non-professional clothes. Also no other people in your photos.
I feel passionate about a strong headshot especially for professional networking sites like LinkedIn.
What that means to me:
1: It’s a crop of your head and shoulders.
2: It’s in focus.
3: Your eyes are visible-no sunglasses, no hard glare if you wear glasses.
4: No one else is in the photo. I know you love your family, but no. NO.
5: NO ONE ELSE IS IN THE PHOTO. See number four above. This means you cannot simply crop someone else out of a photo. If it looks like someone has their arm around you, this is not a headshot.
6: You are not holding a photo frame, you aren’t eating food, you aren’t doing anything except being an easily identified person in a photo. IF (and this is a big IF), you are someone whose job is particularly related to a physical object, you may hold it. For example, a camera in a photographer’s hand, a knife in a chef’s hand. Most of the time, this looks staged and uncomfortable and worst of all, forces the crop to be too wide or from a distance when the focus should be your face.
7: The photo is not from your wedding. Sorry, you may have looked AMAZING and you had a professional take your photo. But you are clearly in your wedding attire and that’s not what one wears to work. It’s distracting.
8: Speaking of what you would wear to work, maybe your job is super casual. That’s great! You are super lucky! I’ve seen some super casual pictures on LinkedIn of both men and women in their swimsuits. Again, unless a swimsuit is DIRECTLY related to what you do for work (surfer, swimsuit model) I would still recommend throwing on an amazing casual button up and showing how versatile and flexible you are! At the end of the day, LinkedIn is a professional networking site in which people (and recruiters) are looking for business connections.
9: Oh, this one you would think would be obvious, but it’s not. It should be a picture of you. Not a car or a building or a cartoon version of you. It should be you. EVEN IF YOU THINK YOU ARE NOT GOOD LOOKING.
10: Piggy backing on number nine, the photo should not be over-photoshopped. Your lovely face should be recognizable if someone ran into you in a coffee shop. Resist using an old photo because you look younger. Your face is important and fight the good fight showing that brains are the most important part of a person’s work.
11: I don’t know how this one happens, (maybe a super small image being uploaded?) but make sure the photo fills the whole image. I’ve seen some photos surrounded by a blurry frame on LinkedIn.
12: Upload a photo and make sure the privacy settings show it.
12: No lens flare unless you are J.J. Abrams. And then it’s hilarious and you should have it.
Things to do:
1: Relax. You don’t have to smile but you can! I’d guess more people see you smiling than you see of yourself smiling. Give it a try but don’t force it. The best way to get a genuine smile is to think about someone you love or doing something you love!
2: Dress in something that you feel comfortable in. You don’t have to wear stuffy clothes. Go out and buy a new shirt if that makes you feel confident.
3: Roll your shoulders back, sit up straight and poke your head out like a turtle. Feels weird but looks great.
4: Find a professional photographer who takes good head shots. Or have someone take a photo of you in filtered light. Or get a selfie stick if you are desperate. But don’t take a selfie unless you are skilled at selfies and don’t use your wedding photo like we discussed above.
5: Don’t get caught up in perfection. No one is perfect. You don’t look perfect, your work isn’t perfect. Just upload a photo that you feel pretty good about and start networking! If you have thought long and hard about breaking one of the guidelines I’ve outlined here, well, it probably works for you! I’d encourage you to try what I have suggested and see if you find it to be useful in your professional career. At the end of the day, have a photo that features YOU. And if it makes you feel any better, I updated my own photo on LinkedIn after writing this with a picture I took on my phone using a selfie stick. Perfect? No. Does it look like me? Yes.
selfie I used on LinkedIn. Here in the blog, you can see the fade from the image processing I used on my phone, but if you click through to LinkedIn, you can see it looks clear from being scaled down.
Need to see some examples? Check out a small image gallery I have here or here.
The challenge! Click here to go to LinkedIn and evaluate the photo you have. Could it be improved to show who you really are? If so, take a new one!