I couldn’t make out his face.
She looks completely different from her photo.
I couldn’t believe she had sunglasses on her head!
The comments above were made by business professionals about photographs accompanying profiles on LinkedIn. Unfortunately, many businesspeople post photographs of themselves on LinkedIn and other social media sites that detract from their professionalism.
I have written about this before, but it’s a message that bears repeating: Your professional image is conveyed through your photograph. It is part of the first impression you make on others. You should post a photograph that is professionally appropriate, and makes you look like a credible, approachable person – not like someone who just came from the gym.
In another life, I was a professional photographer – the first woman photographer at what was then one of the largest 10 newspapers in the country – so I offer the following as my recommended guidelines for photographs used in any business context:
1. Post a headshot – not an environmental portrait. Many sites ask for a profile photo. A headshot highlights your head/face, and usually shows your shoulders and part of your chest. You are the focus of the picture, and people can see you clearly in this type of shot. An environmental portrait places you in a setting that may relate to your profession, but your face is usually a smaller part of such a photograph. These pictures are often used as additional photos on a website, but are not recommended for headshot postings.
2. Look at the camera and keep your head straight. You should be looking directly at the person who is viewing your photo. Many women have a tendency to tilt their heads. Why? I don’t know. But don’t do it. You look less self-assured when you do.
3. Use a clear, uncluttered and well-lit setting. Don’t let the background overpower your image. You should be the point of the photo and people should be able to see you plainly. Check that there aren’t any dark shadows obscuring your face.
4. Make sure your face is in focus. The background may be slightly out of focus, but your features need to be sharply defined, not blurred. Let people see your eyes. Wearing dark glasses hides them. Have a pleasant facial expression. If you are frowning or scowling, why would I want to hire or work with you?
5. Wear appropriate professional or business-casual attire. Appear as you usually would in a business situation. This may mean that you are freshly shaven, or wearing make-up and jewelry. Do not let your accessories (earrings, necklace, glasses) overwhelm your headshot. Additional information on business dress can be found in my book, The Essentials of Business Etiquette: How to Greet, Eat, and Tweet Your Way to Success (McGraw-Hill).
6. Choose a recent photo that flatters you. Sounds obvious, but people don’t always pay attention to their choices. This does not mean you need a glamour shot, but you should look like a competent professional in the photograph. If your photo is more than 8 to 10 years old, people may be very surprised when they meet you.
7. Hire a professional photographer. If all of this seems overwhelming, hire someone who takes photos for a living. It’s worth the investment.
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