I’m surprised to see so many of my connections without a professional LinkedIn headshot. This is the primary “professional” social media channel, and there’s no type of business where it makes sense to use a selfie as your profile photo.
This is the first impression complete strangers outside your network get about you. A professional profile picture entices people to look for more information about you, follow you or decide you look completely unprofessional.
LinkedIn is primarily a professional networking channel but as a business owner, it makes sense to use it as a marketing tool, too. If someone is researching your business and they Google your company’s name and your name, chances are one of the top results in search will be your LinkedIn profile.
If they click it and see a photo of you in a hot tub, that might be disconcerting, unless your company sells and/or services hot tubs.
Professional headshots convey professionalism. They project characteristics like confidence, trustworthiness or congeniality through body language and facial expression.
Those are attributes you want people to associate with you, right?
Snapping a selfie with your phone isn’t good enough
It doesn’t matter how many megapixels your phone’s camera has. It doesn’t matter how many filters you apply. It doesn’t matter what capabilities the optical zoom or variable aperture has. It doesn’t matter if you’ve found a nice backdrop. There are just some things your camera can’t do for you and decisions it can’t make.
You might be able to ask Alexa if your red blouse says “savvy business owner” but I’m confident she doesn’t know.
Achieving the most flattering angle, the best lighting, proper exposure, appropriate cropping while ensuring your background is neither overly busy nor contains inadvertent elements of your bathroom can be difficult with your phone, even with a selfie stick. See below several photos I would not use on LinkedIn.
Utilizing one of these amateur photos may detract from the message you are trying to send. Instead of seeing professionalism, your prospects see someone that took the cheap way out, didn’t care enough about their appearance and is otherwise unprofessional and indifferent.
Overcoming a bad first (second or third) impression can be difficult.
Can I use my high school photo?
Your high school photo probably looks pretty good. Let’s face it, you were young, carefree and a professional photographer took the headshot for your yearbook.
If you are currently an 18 – 22 year old, this might suffice. But if you have matured in your career, it’s best to be honest about it. You don’t want people to be surprised when they meet you and feel they were “catfished.” “Oh, I wasn’t expecting a 40-year-old. Your LinkedIn photo is … deceiving.”
Get a professional LinkedIn headshot
There is an art to creating professional and flattering headshots. Trained photographers provide a variety of services, expertise and advice that not everyone can. For example, a professional photographer can:
- Find your most flattering angle
- Advise you on how to hold your head and position your body for the best results
- Provide some humor and conversation allowing you to relax and appear more natural
- Touch up little imperfections (though be cautious, you don’t want to alter your appearance too much. See the “catfishing” reference above.)
- Make suggestions on outfits and styling
- Bring out your personality
You don’t necessarily need to hire a photographer who makes their living taking photos. There are some really good photographers who hold other jobs. But make sure they have experience with headshots, training and proper equipment as well as a portfolio that shows their experience with headshots. A great event photographer is not necessarily the best choice for portraiture.
One more tip
For businesses with multiple team members, consider using the same photographer and location or background to create consistency in your materials. Think about headshots as an element of your brand and your brand message. You want brand consistency not just on your website but also on social channels such as LinkedIn. You want to make sure they convey the same message while respecting and portraying individual personalities.