Social media has gone way beyond being just a way to keep up with your friends. With LinkedIn now clocking in at 500 million users, and with more than 10 million active job posts at any one time, it’s proven to be a hub for all things business.
Whether you’re looking for a new job, recruiting for your company’s latest role, or looking for the most cutting edge industry news, LinkedIn truly has it all.
But if you want to reap all the benefits, you’ve got to play the game. That means setting up your profile properly so it’s an all-singing, all-dancing resume: filling in your career history, crafting a compelling summary and selecting the perfect professional profile picture.
In fact, it’s the latter of these that can sometimes be overlooked. We all know there’s nothing more off-putting than the blank default image, but what people don’t realize is that any old photo won’t do.
In this article, we’re going to take you through 5 professional secrets to make your LinkedIn photo more clickable than ever.
1. Dress the part
Sure, you might have looked amazing at 3am in that nightclub, but photos like that should stay on Facebook and Instagram. When choosing what to wear for your LinkedIn profile picture, first think about what your dream job is – and then dress for that!
When recruiters and potential employers look at your profile, you’ll look the part and fit in with other candidates in your industry. On the other hand, an inappropriate outfit can be a glaring black mark against you.
It is worth pointing out that this doesn’t necessarily mean an expensive three-piece suit. Workplaces are changing, and increasingly businesses are ditching traditional formal attire in favour of a more relaxed dress code.
It’s a good idea to see what other people in your industry are wearing and then fall in line with that – after all, they’re the people you’ll be competing against for jobs and networking opportunities. This might mean if you’re looking for a creative role in a digital agency, t-shirts and jeans are very much the norm.
On the other hand, traditional corporate roles like banking and law have tended to retain long-established dress codes and it’s probably best to toe the line.
2. Say cheese
Looking likeable in your LinkedIn profile picture is one of the most important factors. It’s tempting to think that a sombre expression will make you look ready for business, but it’s simply not the case.
Ultimately, whether you’re running a business or trying to advance your career, you’ve got to get people to trust and like you. Scowling at the camera won’t have that effect.
At the end of the day, a genuine and approachable smile is your safest bet. Smiling on cue can be difficult though, and can end up looking forced. A quick hack to make a smile look friendlier and more authentic is to narrow your eyes ever so slightly or “squinch”.
A smile that reaches the eyes is always more convincing. In fact, if you only smile with your eyes it can look fake which might make you look a bit untrustworthy. That’s the last impression you want to give to a potential employer or business connection!
If you’re struggling to look natural, a professional photographer can help you to relax and capture you in your best light. They might even help you forget the camera’s there at all! They’ll also have the expertise to guide you in the subtleties of posing and posture.
For instance, looking into the camera, leaning slightly and tilting your head towards the camera will make a photo more flattering – but it can be difficult to judge this on your own.
3. Let there be light
The last thing you want is a horribly backlit photo where it’s impossible to even tell if the subject is human. Correct lighting is a fundamental part of any portrait, and can make or break your LinkedIn picture.
Often, this comes down to a choice between natural and artificial light. At the right time of day, natural light can be really stunning and you’ll be able to take a high quality photo without much effort.
It might sound counter-intuitive, but this right time of day isn’t when the sun is high and bright. Taking photos in overpowering midday sun produces harsh and unflattering results.
For headshots and professional photos, the natural light at dawn and dusk is often perfect; the sun is low in the sky and the sunlight is gentle, diffused and flattering.
Professional photographers often refer to the first and last hours of daylight as the “magic hour” or “golden hour” due to the splendid results that can be achieved at these times, as the soft light produces lovely, warm and glowing photos.
Artificial light, on the other hand, can be a bit more tricky and will often require a professional setup to get right. The overhead yellow light produced by electrical lighting can cause unseemly shadows below your eyes, nose and chin.
A photographer can remedy this with a custom lighting rig, including reflectors, strobes, continuous lighting and soft boxes to diffuse light and make it appear less harsh.
A professional studio will also often have large windows that let lots of natural light in, meaning you can get the best of both worlds and play around with different lighting setups.
4. The fine details: choosing the right camera settings
For the uninitiated, photography jargon like aperture, ISO and shutter speeds can sound like an alien language. Ultimately, photography’s both an art and a science, and it requires serious technical expertise to truly excel. Setting up your camera to capture the best shot is just one part of this.
There’s not necessarily a ‘one size fits all’ solution for camera settings, and they should always be carefully adjusted to suit context. That said, there are some go-to tips and tricks that generally produce good results for portraits.
For instance, unfocused backgrounds are a very easy win, as they’re such a popular choice for portraits at the moment and so can add a professional finish to any photo, as seen in the picture below:
Achieving this effect is all in the settings. You’ll need to manually set the aperture and shutter speed. Aperture is the hole within the lens that allows light to enter the camera.
It can be set to be larger or smaller to allow different amounts of light in – much in the same way that the pupil of your eye changes size depending on light levels. A wider aperture is what’s needed to blur the background and sharpen the subject.
As people don’t always sit still, a shutter speed of 1/200 of a second is normally the go-to choice for portraits. This is because it’s fast enough to capture a focused and natural picture even if the subject moves a little.
You’ll also want to consider ISO, which is your camera’s sensitivity to light. High ISOs are used in darker settings, but portraits require a good amount of light so a lower ISO will normally do the trick. A setting of 100 works well in sunny conditions, but if it’s cloudy or a bit duller, this can be increased to 200.
Again, if this all sounds a bit much, a professional photographer will have the know-how to make your LinkedIn picture look polished with virtually no effort on your part. If you don’t have much experience with cameras, going down the professional route is often the best choice to ensure an optimal result.
5. What Not to Do
Finally, we’re going to talk you through the cardinal sins of a LinkedIn profile picture. LinkedIn is rammed full of unprofessional and unsuitable photos, so avoid these common mistakes and you’ll stand out from the crowd.
As we’ve said earlier, the most basic error you can make is not having a picture at all. People just won’t trust you if they can’t see you, and developing strong professional relationships is essential when building your career.
Next, you should be the sole focus of your picture, as it needs to help connections recognise you. It doesn’t need to help your dream employer recognise your best friend, your mum, or your pet hamster.
Group shots with all your friends are the worst example of this sort of bad LinkedIn photo – very few people are looking to hire you and all your mates, after all. Similarly, you shouldn’t be using pictures that don’t include you at all, like company logos.
This isn’t just for the sake of helping people to know who you are either – it’s actually a bannable offence on LinkedIn to have a photo that doesn’t include your likeness.
A photo of you from years and years ago isn’t much use either. Try to update your photo every couple of years as you get older – you’d be surprised how much appearance can change over a relatively small amount of time!
Ultimately, try to keep it simple. Your photo should be a flattering and recent headshot – nothing more, nothing less.
The background, what you’re wearing, or who you’re with shouldn’t detract from the main subject: you. With this in mind, don’t use pictures from major life events like weddings, or from that football game last weekend. Selfies can also be very hit and miss; get someone else to take the photo!
And remember – if in doubt, a professional photographer will know how to get it right.