Expert Advice: Say Cheese!
Advice from a professional photographer on how to capture that perfect LinkedIn photo.
As you can imagine clients are always asking me questions and 95% of the time they are right up my alley of expertise. Occasionally I get questions that are in the ‘gray area’ when it comes to my knowledge, skills or abilities. I thought it was time to pull in some experts to get professional advice on the most common ‘gray area’ topics that you, my clients, inquire about. Our first interview will cover the elusive LinkedIn photo.
Kristi Potter is the Southwest Washington based photographer who captured my professional photograph. Her photographs come to life as opposed to the standard off color, shadowy mugshot that you often see on LinkedIn. I thought she would be the prefect expert to share advice with you on how to capture that perfect LinkedIn photo.
As a side note, she is also an amazing family photographer that captured these cherished photos of my family.
Thank you Kristi for your expertise and helping my clients capture that perfect LinkedIn photo.
Q. My clients are often asking me, ‘how do I capture a perfect LinkedIn photo’? Kristi, what suggestions do you have for business professionals who want to try and capture a great photo at home or with an amateur friend photographer?
With a little forethought you can capture a great LinkedIn photo on your own or with a friend. LinkedIn profile photo spaces are only80 pixels x 80 pixels so a well lit, uncluttered, photo that is in focus is essential. Of course you’ll also want to make sure that you’ve spent time planning what you’re going to wear and on your personal grooming. Keep your smile friendly and natural. Natural, outside or window light is very flattering while creating natural shadows that help you look your best. Keep it clean and simple. LinkedIn is not the place to try out funky photo filters or give your photo the “Instagram touch”. Most importantly, you want to stay within LinkedIn’s Terms of Service “Don’t undertake the following: 6. Upload a profile image that is not your likeness or a head-shot photo.” Make sure the photo is you and only you. We think your baby is beautiful, admire your long-term friendship, and think your dog is awesome but LinkedIn is for professional networking, please keep it as such.
Q. What steps should they take to get started?
Most cameras have a “portrait mode” setting that you can use. It will tell the camera to focus on you, the subject. Avoid using the onboard flash on the camera. It will look harsh, wash you out, create unflattering flat light and worst case, also give you scary red-eye. Again, natural light is great but avoid harsh direct sunlight. Open shade outside is both easier to work with and flattering. If you opt to take the photo inside, make sure there is no clutter behind you and position yourself near a window. If you are doing it self-portrait style, avoid the outstretched arm shot. Just don’t do it. Instead, use a tripod or another stable surface and set the self-timer on your camera. Pay special attention to the angle of the camera, you don’t want to be shooting from so low that your nostrils become the center of attention. It isn’t the easiest undertaking to capture your own profile photo but with a little patience and planning, it can be done successfully. If you have a friend who also needs to update his LinkedIn profile, plan a day and help each other out. It’s a lot easier to capture a natural look and smile when there’s a friend behind the camera. One of my favorite head-shots of myself was taken by my 4 year old. An authentic smile and expression go a long way.
Q. What attire looks best in a headshot photo like this?
A step up from Business Casual is a great way to go for most people. It allows you to remain professional but still makes you and your photo eye-catching. With so many profiles right at a prospective recruiter/employers fingertips, this is your opportunity to catch their attention before anything else on your profile is taken into consideration. However, keep in mind that this photo will be chest/shoulders up so it’s more about wearing an attractive color, and for women, accessories that aren’t going to enhance but not overwhelm the image. Avoid all-white, it has a tendency to wash most people out, avoid busy patterns which can distract from your face and make the image feel cluttered. Aim for mid-tone clothing that is flattering around your neckline and properly fits your shoulders.
Q. If you had to pick one thing that makes the difference between a good headshot and a fantastic headshot what would it be?
The lighting. If everything else is equal, proper clothing choice, ease with the photographer, equipment… It doesn’t matter if it’s natural lighting or studio lighting, it’s amazing what a difference there is between good lighting and great lighting. Good lighting can help you capture a nice clear image but great lighting will make you and that clear image shine while portraying the feeling that you want to present to the world.
Q. If taking a headshot at home is not an option how would you suggest business professionals select a headshot photographer?
Anytime you choose to have your photo taken it’s so important that you feel comfortable and at ease with your photographer. Thanks to the Internet, it’s easy to search for Portrait Photographers or Head Shot Photographers in your area but I’m a big proponent of finding professionals via word-of-mouth. Do you have friends or colleagues whose images you admire? Ask them for recommendations and then take some time to chat with the photographers and check out their portfolios. You want to make sure that you are going to be provided with a clean, crisp photo with accurate colors. Hiring a professional goes both ways and you should “click” with each other. When you connect with your photographer your smile will come easier and your photographer will be able to provide you with an authentic representation of the best you.
Q. Finally, how often should a headshot be updated?
A great headshot is timeless. You definitely don’t want to be changing your LinkedIn photo too often – people often remember faces before they remember names but you do want the image to reflect your current personal presentation. If you’re meeting with someone who has been viewing your LinkedIn profile whether it be at a networking convention or a job interview it’s important for you profile photo to look like you on your best day.
If you have a drastic change in hairstyle/color, weight, or if you feel like you’re looking more mature than in your current profile photo, it’s probably best to update it. Your LinkedIn photo helps build trust and authenticity. You would hate for a perspective employer to question the accuracy of your resume based upon the inaccuracy of your LinkedIn profile photo.
It’s also important to remember that your LinkedIn profile photo is part of your professional branding. If you use Twitter, have a professional Facebook profile, comment on blog posts, Digg, Google+ – the list is ever-growing in this digitally connected world – your profile photo should be a strong one that reflects who you are and what you look like. It’s a good idea to use the same image for all of your professional online activity. In this world of networking, it’s your digital signature with a smile.
– – –
Great advice Kristi! I am taking notes and have a few things to adjust in terms of my marketing and my ‘digital signature with a smile’. Thank you!