You Online: Ten Tips for a Better Profile Photo

By Kristen Harris

When we first started Portfolio Creative, one of my advisers told me I really needed to add a picture of myself to my LinkedIn profile. “No, I hate pictures of myself! I’m not photogenic, no one wants to see a picture of me.” She didn’t care about my hangups. “Get over it. People like to know who they’re doing business with. Get a headshot taken and put it up there.”

She was right. In this digital world we ‘connect’ with people long before we meet them, and we might never meet in person. Potential clients, employers and business contacts use your online image to gather a little more information about who you are.

It’s important to use a profile picture that conveys the right message on LinkedIn and other professional networking sites. Simply put, you need a professional-looking photo that looks welcoming and doesn’t give the viewer a negative impression. (Sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are more personal, so you have more leeway. But don’t forget that professional contacts can still find and see images you post there too.)

Ten tips for a better profile picture:

  1. Do smile. Who wants to work with scowly frowny guy? It’s not cool; it’s off-putting when they don’t know anything else about you.

  2. Don’t made weird faces or crop out a piece of your face. One giant eyeball is just weird, and doesn’t help me find you in a crowded coffee shop.

  3. Do have a photo taken specifically to use in your profile. Go to a professional photographer, or have a friend, relative, or co-worker take a few that you can choose from.

  4. Don’t pull out a random snapshot from your wedding or last year’s holiday party. The busy background and other people are distracting.

  5. Do make it mainly your face and torso. Online images are so small, it’s easiest to see your personality expressed through your face.

  6. Don’t include cats, dogs, kids, or weird props. It’s just distracting.

  7. Do wear a color that looks good on you. Most people look best in colors, not black or white. Solid colors and simple patterns photograph the best.

  8. Do choose your location wisely. Pay attention to what’s around and behind you. It’s fine to have some texture or objects in the background, as long as it’s not distracting.

  9. Don’t crop yourself out of a photo that has another person in it. We can tell your arm is around someone, and their disembodied hand on your shoulder is awkward.

  10. Do let your personality shine. Have fun, and pick a photo that feels like a person you’d like to meet. Others will feel the same way!

Overall, keep the profile picture simple and focused on you. Fair or not, that photo is on the internet and people WILL make judgements based on it. With a good profile picture, they’ll make the positive judgement you’re looking for.