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5 Steps to the Perfect LinkedIn Profile Picture

You’ve slaved away creating an incredible LinkedIn profile, making sure to avoid typos and other mistakes. The only thing that’s missing? The perfect profile photo!

A LinkedIn profile photo can really add or detract from your overall online personality. It can either give the impression that you’re an extremely put-together professional worthy of being taken seriously… or it can make you look like an amateur.

But don’t worry! Her Campus is here to make sure your LinkedIn profile picture is worth a thousand words in five simple steps.

1. Use a quality camera.

For your a picture, use the best camera possible, like a digital SLR camera. Taking photos with your iPhone or webcam can be hit or miss, and you could potentially end up looking grainy or the picture could have funky lighting due to the camera’s settings. Poor photo quality can also illustrate a lack of professionalism, so talk to your friends and classmates and see if any of them have a camera you could use!

Kate Masters, a junior at Wesleyan University, has a friend who is into photography, and she offered to take pictures of Kate for her LinkedIn profile picture. “It was a really fun photo shoot!” she says. “I had a great time, and my pictures came out so much better than they would have if I’d used my cell phone.”

2. Make sure it’s all about you.

Jaime Petkanics, founder of The Prepary, a career and job search advice website, reminds collegiettes that they should be the most important part of the photo! “Be professional and appropriate; your LinkedIn profile picture really should be of you and only you,” she says.

It seems obvious, but make sure you’re the only one in your LinkedIn photo! Aside from avoiding pictures where there’s someone in the foreground with you (steer clear of those cute photos of you and your best friend!), make sure there are no people or items in the background. For example, don’t take photos in a crowded space, especially in an informal one like a party or a bar, and make sure there are no random objects sticking out in the background (a bookcase, a lamp, etc.). Be sure to also avoid just cropping a group photo—how awkward is it to have half of someone else’s face in your profile picture?

3. Pick a stellar background.

Petkanics recommends using a simple background free of any clutter, like people, objects, bright colors or anything that could take away from your gorgeous face.

Take your photo in front of a neutral wall or backdrop that complements your skin tone, and make sure you have plenty of light. You don’t want to look like Lindsay Lohan in one of her many infamous mug shots when you take your picture!

Furthermore, when looking for the perfect backdrop to your LinkedIn profile photo, be aware that your photo doesn’t have to have your entire body in it. “Cropping it to just your face will make it the perfect size,” says Petkanics. Many LinkedIn profile photos typically only go down to the shoulder or mid-chest region.

4. Dress to impress.

Now comes the difficult part—figuring out what to wear for your big LinkedIn photo debut! Petkanics points out that one of the most difficult parts of choosing your outfit, hair and makeup is that levels of formality differ on LinkedIn; some industries value very formal attire (a power suit and your hair up in a bun), while others are just fine with a professional but more informal outfit (a button-down with your hair down).

Petkanics’ advice? “I think the best rule of thumb is to first imagine yourself going to a job interview at your dream company,” she says. “Then get dressed and present yourself the way you would if you were going to that interview in person.”

Still stumped? One other easy way to figure out what outfit to wear is to look at other people’s LinkedIn profile pictures. What are the big names in your industry wearing in their photos or professional headshots? If they’re going all out in a button-down shirt and a blazer, it may be good to follow suit.

Lucy Cruz, a senior at the University of Florida, hopes to work in business after college. “I wanted to look the part of a high-powered business executive in my LinkedIn photo, so I wore a light green button-down shirt and a blazer,” she says. “I put my hair back in a bun and kept my makeup very, very minimal, only wearing some eye shadow, mascara, a little eyeliner and some lip gloss.” Lucy felt more confident putting her photo online and can’t wait for her professional contacts to see it!

In contrast, Kate wants to be a journalist, a career that doesn’t always require such formal attire. “I still wanted to look nice, so I wore a dark purple dress that complimented my skin tone with a black cardigan over it,” she says. “I think it comes off as more casual than a suit but also illustrates that I’m professional, put-together and fun!” Kate, like Lucy, also went for elegant touches with her hair and makeup, clipping her hair back and keeping her makeup simple so as not to detract from her face.

Finding an outfit that screams “classic” can be difficult. An easy route to go with is a crisp white button-down shirt with your hair up in a bun or ponytail and minimal makeup. It’s an elegant look that will make you look professional but approachable. If you’re looking for a twist, go with a different-colored shirt or wear a more colorful sweater or cardigan over your shirt. Just make sure that your outfit doesn’t take the attention away from your face!

5. Tilt your head and put a smile on!

Little Orphan Annie said “you’re never fully dressed without a smile,” and the old saying rings true today! Smile in your picture and look personable. Is a toothy grin not your personal style? That’s totally fine; even a closed-mouth smile works.

Next, positioning yourself at a slight angle is key—no weird facial profile shots, straightforward mug shots or artsy images (LinkedIn is not the place for your favorite hipster Instagram photos!). Your LinkedIn profile should look as no-fuss as possible.

Kate says to think about when you took photos in grade school (ew, yearbook photos!) when considering the angle for your photo. “The photographer never asked you to look straight ahead,” she says. “Your body was usually positioned to the side, with your head slightly tilted and looking forward. Try to copy that same sort of stance!”

If you use all of these steps, a beautiful and professional LinkedIn photo is just a few camera clicks away. Keep your photo clean, classy and high quality, and you’re sure to make a job recruiter or potential employer give your resume an extra look!

Lily is a member of Wesleyan University's class of 2016, where she double majored in government and sociology. She's a writer, editor, and social media manager, as well as co-founder of The Prospect (www.theprospect.net), the world’s largest student-run college access organization. In addition to her work with Her Campus, she also serves in editorial roles at HelloFlo and The Muse.
Quinn Cohane is the Product Manager at Her Campus. She develops new features for Her Campus's web properties, including HerCampus.com, HerCampusMedia.com, HerConference.com, and CollegeFashionWeek.com, from initial conception to final installation. She collaborates with the Client Services team to implement custom landing pages, content hubs and sponsored content for client campaigns. Quinn also works closely with the Chapter Development team, training new team members on using Her Campus's content management system and leading the onboarding of new Campus Correspondents, national writers and bloggers, and national interns. Additionally, she oversees technical support for Her Campus and the uploading of national content. Quinn first joined the Her Campus team as a remote intern in February 2010; her past roles include Production Associate, Digital Media Manager, Chapter Advisor, and Study Abroad blogger during her semester in Copenhagen, Denmark. She graduated Cum Laude from Bowdoin College in 2013 as an English major and computer science minor. A native of Scarsdale, New York, Quinn enjoys attending theater and dance performances, traveling the world, reading, the beach, and apple crumb pie. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @quinncohane.