What Should Your LinkedIn Headshot Look Like?

Oct 15, 2018 | LinkedIn

An example of an excellent LinkedIn Headshot, taken professionally by Nat Welch and featured on Let's Eat, Grandma's blog.

So you want a new LinkedIn headshot…but where do you start? You don’t need to be a great photographer to have a great profile picture. Check these tips from an NYC photo professional for a LinkedIn headshot that will attract attention.

(Psst… check out these blogs to learn how to create a great LinkedIn summary and headline as well!)

By: The Writing Team at Let’s Eat, Grandma

If you’re reading this, you are probably already somewhat convinced that you should have a good LinkedIn headshot.

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Whether you are deciding to get yours professionally done (or have your amateur photographer friend whip out their iPhone X), there are some important things you should know regarding your LinkedIn headshot.

We sat down with Nat Welch, a professional photographer in NYC, to discuss best practices for getting a solid LinkedIn photo. Nat has photographed high-profile people and events (from Tiger Woods to magazines such as Rolling Stone, GQ, People, Time, and more).

Now, he’s going to help you understand what it takes to have a standout LinkedIn photo.  We will be using examples from Nat’s work throughout the rest of this blog to give you a sense of the principles we are trying to teach you.

Why is it important to have a great LinkedIn headshot?

Whether you like it or not, recruiters will judge your abilities as a job candidate by your picture. And if you’ve ever heard the expression that “a picture is worth a thousand words,” you understand that visuals can leave an impression on someone within seconds.

Additionally, the first thing people notice about your LinkedIn profile is your picture. Therefore, recruiters will be less likely to thoroughly read through your profile without that initial first impression of the profile picture. (We actually recommend a mediocre photo rather than no photo). 

So we will continue by discussing some tips for taking your photo from mediocre to magnificent…

Tips for Taking Your LinkedIn Headshot

Here are 5 LEG-endorsed tips for making your LinkedIn headshot look great:

#1) Good lighting is essential.

According to Welch, bad light is the most common mistake he sees when looking at LinkedIn pictures. You can have the best camera in the world (or even a smartphone with a good camera), but the color and clarity won’t shine if your lighting sucks.

Avoid direct overhead lighting or harsh lighting, as these features will detract away from the photo. (Imagine those white, bright fluorescent lights in your high school cafeteria.)

Good Lighting Example:

An example of an excellent LinkedIn Headshot, taken professionally by Nat Welch and featured on Let's Eat, Grandma's blog.

Bad Lighting Example:

An example of bad lighting for a LinkedIn headshot.

(Bad lighting makes it more difficult to recognize unique features and will reduce the sharpness of the photo.)

#2) Dress to Impress.

Ever been told that you should show up to an interview wearing what you would wear on the job? We recommend the same for your LinkedIn profile. (When in doubt, go more formal than you would otherwise).

Employers want to see that you are a good fit for the position, and whether you like it or not, they will judge you based on your attire.

An additional tip: Don’t wear busy patterns and try to wear dark tones, because dark tones will make your face pop! You want people to remember your face, not your clothes!

Good Attire Example:

A headshot of a smiling man in glasses and a sportcoat – an example of good attire for a LinkedIn headshot.

Bad Attire Example:

An example of bad attire for a LinkedIn Headshot

(We might drink a beer with this guy… but would we expect him to be a good hire if this is how he presents himself on LinkedIn?)


#3) Smile! (Or at least look welcoming!)

As much as you want to show you are a serious professional, Welch recommends smiling in your LinkedIn profile. (Plus, who says that you have to look like a Looney Tunes character by letting a little sunshine come through your photo?)

The theory is this: would you rather meet an intimidating, serious person or a friendly, smiling person? Recruiters will see that your smile could positively contribute to the workplace!

Good Facial Expression Example:

An example of a good expression to make in a LinkedIn headshot.

Bad Facial Expression Example:

An image of a woman scowling, an example of a bad expression to make in a LinkedIn headshot.

(I don’t care if you want to show off how tough of a negotiator you are — this does not work well as a first impression.)


#4) Avoid Busy Backgrounds

If you look at Nat’s photos, you will notice that he chooses a clean grey or white background to provide enough contrast with his subject. LinkedIn gives very limited room to display your profile picture (thumbnail sized), so it’s important that you place as much emphasis as possible on, well you

Good Background Example:

A photo of man against a plain white backdrop, an example of a good background for a LinkedIn headshot.

Bad Background Example:

A smiling woman with an ornate gate behind her, an example of a bad background for a LinkedIn headshot.

#5) Use the Appropriate Crop

LinkedIn gives so many pixels to display that wonderful face of yours. For that same reason, you will need to make sure and crop your photo well. Do not take the picture too far away.

Your LinkedIn photo should range from the middle of your torso to the top of your head. (Too much torso in the photo means you will be less visible when recruiters are scrolling through a list of candidates).

Good crop example:

An example of an excellent LinkedIn headshot, taken by Nat Welch and featured on Let's Eat, Grandma's blog.

Bad crop Example:

A photo of a man in business dress to the waist down, an example of a bad crop for a LinkedIn headshot.

(It’s important to leave enough head space at the top for LinkedIn’s additional “circle crop.” This seems like a great photo on the surface, but when imported into LinkedIn, the circle will also eliminate the top of the photo.)


Should you consider a professional photographer?

I will be flying out to New York City sometime in the next year or so. When that time comes, I will be sure to use Nat’s services, because I understand how good of an investment a professional headshot is. When it comes to your personal brand, your headshot is incredibly important — especially when everything is online.

Therefore, if you have the means, I highly recommend teaming up with a professional photographer.

If you are interested in working with Nat, please contact him here.

Strapped for cash? While no one can beat a professional, you can still manage a good LinkedIn photo on your own (and a photo you take is still way better than nothing!) Learn how to take a decent headshot with only an iPhone on our Career Warrior Podcast.

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