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A Photographer’s Tips to Create Your Best LinkedIn Headshot

By Anna Hosey
Career and Educational Resource Specialist

The world of networking is moving online. Just as you would dress up and put your best foot forward at an in-person networking event, you should also present your best self in a professional online environment like LinkedIn.

So how do you make sure you look professional? A lot of it comes down to the very first thing people see when they click on your name: your LinkedIn headshot.

Your headshot can say a lot about you. It can even determine whether or not someone wants to connect and network with you online. As a professional photographer who has worked in the industry, here are my top four tips for ensuring your LinkedIn headshot is “connect-worthy.”

Keep Your LinkedIn Headshot Authentic and Updated

Traditional headshots are not the way to go in today’s online environment. They’re stiff, generic and very outdated. Instead, try tastefully showcasing your personality in your LinkedIn headshot by giving a genuine smile or reaction, keeping your attire business casual, and incorporating a little bit of your personal or professional interests.

Like to write? Sit down at your favorite desk or coffee shop with your pen and paper. Looking for a job as a landscaper? Take a photo outside near your favorite garden. This strategy will tell the viewer a little bit about who you are and will professionally showcase your personality.

Remember to update your LinkedIn headshot annually. This change will keep your online appearance fresh and let your viewers know what to expect if they plan to meet you in person. The last thing you want to do is accidentally catfish someone, so make sure your headshot reflects your current, everyday self.

Focus on Good Lighting and Pay Attention to Your Environment

Whether you take your LinkedIn headshot inside or outside, you’ll want to follow a few basic guidelines. If you’re inside, try to find natural light by a window. You can use a ring light instead if you have no access to natural light.

If you’re outdoors, make sure you have even light by taking your photo at sunrise or sunset or seeking out a shaded area if it’s sunny.

Try to find a visually neutral space with a background consisting of muted colors, like green, brown, white, black or grey. Avoid capturing distractions in the background, such as other people, animals, readable signs, traffic cones or trash cans. If you’re inside, you can easily avoid these distractions by decluttering your background.

As a rule of thumb, try to avoid these common photography mistakes:

  • Harsh, uneven light on your face
  • Trendy or artsy tactics, like blind shade shadows
  • Filters
  • Expressionless faces
  • An overly stylized environment with props
  • Warped angles, like those created by the fish-eye effect or shooting diagonally

Make Sure Your LinkedIn Headshot Is High Quality

Verifying that your photo is in focus, the correct file size and cleanly edited is important in retaining photo quality. It also demonstrates that you have basic tech skills and are able to present yourself professionally online.

When taking your LinkedIn headshot, make sure your eyes are the focal point in the image, as the eyes are the first thing the viewer will naturally look at when identifying your face. File sizes differ greatly across online platforms, but for professional networking platforms like LinkedIn or even Facebook, a square ratio image with a maximum size of 8 MB is recommended. This size will ensure your image uploads correctly and appears clearly online.

Editing your LinkedIn headshot can be tricky. Luckily, “clean” editing is the easiest kind of editing and takes minimal effort.

The key to clean editing is to slightly adjust the exposure, highlights, shadows, saturation and contrast of your headshot so it looks naturally enhanced. You can edit your photo with editing apps on your phone or computer. Avoid using presets or filters, as this will make your headshot appear unprofessional and outdated.

Know When to Take Your Own Headshot or to Pay a Professional

Professional headshots can cost a pretty penny (with good reason) and can range anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars for the perfect photo. So how do you know when you should invest in professional headshots and when you should take your own?

If you’re a company CEO, business owner or public figure — or if your headshot is going to be featured in any kind of print publication — my best advice is to invest in a photographer you feel comfortable with and spend a little extra money on getting professional headshots done.

Professional photographers have the technical skills to produce high-quality, print-friendly photos in a short amount of time. They also have an eye for fashion and will ensure you look your best.

If you simply need an updated LinkedIn headshot, new social media content, or need the photo for a feature on a website or other online publication, a DIY photoshoot will certainly get the job done. Just make sure to be yourself, have fun with it and be patient!

As a professional photographer myself, I can tell you that my last photos are usually my best photos. So it’s well worth the time in getting a little creative with your headshots.

Get a LinkedIn Review from a Career Coach  

Your headshot is only one aspect of your LinkedIn profile that influences the way professionals in your industry perceive you. If you’re wondering whether or not your social media presence reflects your best professional self, request a LinkedIn Review from a Career Coach. They can provide constructive feedback and help you improve your profile.

Anna joined Career Services in 2020 as a Career and Educational Resource Specialist. Using her skills in digital media production and project management, Anna assists in developing strategies for projects, social media marketing, and resource development. In addition to this work, she also assists in Virtual Career Fairs. Anna holds a B.F.A. from Shepherd University.

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