We've all met someone where we've thought, "You look nothing like your social media picture". It doesn't help you build a credible or authentic professional brand if your LinkedIn photo doesn't reflect how you look to others.
Your LinkedIn profile picture is like a newspapers’ front-page image - it’s often the first thing you notice and entices people to read more. Simply having a photo increases your views by 21x, according to LinkedIn.
Your photo has a hard job to do. A series of psychological experiments shows that it only takes a tenth of a second to form an opinion of a stranger.
Not only should your photo look like you. If you want to build your network and increase your chances of your target audience wanting to connect with you, your LinkedIn profile picture needs to give the right first impression.
Here are our seven best tips for doing so:
1) Use The Right Facial Expression
The right facial expression can make all the difference in how people perceive you. Appearing warm and friendly invites your target audience in, so it's best to appear approachable and likeable, while still conveying competence. Depending on your goals, you may even wish to portray that you're influential.
That may seem easier said than done. A blog by Photofeeler broke down how to achieve the “perfect photo” based on a study of over 60,000 photo ratings, where users rate people based on their perceived competence, likeability and influence on a scale of –5 to +5.
- Show your teeth when you smile: According to the website, our smile has the most significant impact on how you come across, increasing your perceived competence, likeability and influence. A closed smile has half the effect on likeability but doesn’t affect perceived confidence or influence.
- Don’t laugh when you smile. A laughing smile increases likeability even more but at the expense of competence and influence.
- Don’t cover your eyes. Sunglasses make you less likeable and hair, glare and shadows reduce your perceived competence and influence.
- Try "the squinch”. A slight squint that relaxes the eyes like in a genuine smile improved all perceived trait ratings.
2) Use Professional Photographer Tricks
You don't need to hire a professional photographer to create a great profile picture. (Although it does help – they know how to relax subjects and use tools such as lighting, distance and the right lens to create flattering, approachable photos.)
Here are some photography tricks of the trade which will help enhance your photo:
- Ask a friend. Get a friend with an eye for taking photos to take one for you. They can help relax you and direct you towards a better pose.
- Create soft lighting. Find a spot with a solid background near a large, bright window that doesn't receive direct sunlight as this provides softer, more flattering light.
- Select the right height. The right height can make all the difference to how flattering a photo is. Digital Camera World generally recommends taking photos from a slight elevation.
Source: Digital Camera World
- Use the rule of thirds. This well-known photography rule of thirds draws people's interest in a visually appealing way to your main focal point – in this instance, your eyes. When cropping your image, imagine dividing your image into nine equal parts and placing the main points of interest along those lines.
Source: Digital Photography Review
3) Use LinkedIn Profile Picture Rating Tools
If you want to ensure that your LinkedIn photo portrays you in the best possible way, why not use a rating tool?
Snappr’s PhotoAnalyzer pulls through your existing LinkedIn profile picture and uses an AI algorithm to rate it out of a perfect score of 100 based on:
Your face: It analyses your smile for perceived competence, influence and likeability, whether your jawline is clearly defined and whether you’ve adopted “the squinch”.
Composition: The tool looks at your level of zoom (i.e. does your face fill the screen?), if you’ve mastered the rule of thirds and if your background is clear and not distracting.
Editing: The brightness, sharpness, contrast, saturation and colour temperate are also scored.
The tool also provides you with tips on how to improve – all for free, as it’s in Beta testing mode.
PhotoFeeler is another tool where you can buy credits (40 for $9) that buy you ratings from real people on how friendly, likeable and influential you look, as well as their general comments.
4) Ensure It Looks Like You
While you may have a "best angle" for photos, ask yourself if it's up-to-date and reflects the "everyday you” at work.
- Do you wear your hair up or down at work?
- Do you wear glasses regularly?
- Do you dress smart-formal or formal in meetings?
- Is make-up a must or do you prefer the natural look at work?
Make sure your photo reflects this and aligns with how you want to represent your professional brand.
5) Make Sure Your Photo Takes Up 60% Of The Frame
You should be recognisable in your profile picture as people scroll through search results, so try to avoid full length pictures or aspirational pictures of you above a mountain top. (You can always incorporate creative branding in your banner image).
You should ensure that your face takes up at least 60% of the frame. A top of shoulders to top of head photo therefore usually works best. Yet it's best to avoid artsy close-up shots as the same Photofeeler study mentioned above found that they tend to reduce your likeability.
6) Keep Background Noise To A Minimum
When taking the photo, ensure the background isn't too busy or distracting so that the viewer focuses on the key part of the picture – you. Logos, adverts or other people detract from this.
LinkedIn recommends a light or white background but a darker background is fine as long as it doesn't distract from you. You don't need to limit yourself to a block colour – you can add tonal effects or even take a photo outside and blur out the background.
You can still incorporate creative elements into your LinkedIn profile to make it stand out but that’s best left to your banner image. Here are ten LinkedIn background photo ideas you can redirect your artsier side to.
Our own Social Business Enabler, Anna Troidl, is a great example. She uses a slightly moody, tonal grey background where her face takes centre-stage. She reserves an artsier image for her banner image where she shows her workplace, tools of the trade and a camera lens to portray her love of photography subtly.
7) Avoid Photo Faux Pas
It may seem obvious but cropping an image from a group photo or using a selfie image are major faux pas. They look unprofessional and, with selfies, the angle and distance mean they often look less like the real you.
Yet a LinkedIn photos study by JDP found that 9% of people use selfies and 15% use images cropped from a group. The best guess as to why they would do so probably boils down to them not feeling happy with the photos they have available.
As we’ve seen, there are plenty of ways to achieve professional and flattering photos without resorting to a selfie, cropped photo or hiring a professional photographer. It may take a few hours to perfect your picture but it's always worth the effort if you want to maximise your chances of LinkedIn success. Remember - you can always experiment with your LinkedIn profile picture to see which one works best for you.