Ah, the picture.  Possibly the toughest part of your entire profile and the first thing folks see.  The first piece of advice is get a good picture up as soon as possible – when you get that interview or talk to that customer, you want to be recognizable and profiles with photos get significantly more views.  Which brings me to the second piece of advice – don’t use an old picture.  Don’t use a fuzzy picture.  Don’t use a picture outside of your professional context.  And don’t crop your head out of the group shot at Aunt Maisie’s 80th birthday party – not only will it probably not be big enough or good quality, the pieces of other people beside and behind you are going to be distracting.

LinkedIn DefaultThe very first thing you should do before anything else is look at profile pictures of people you know, people in the type of careers you want or with whom you wish to connect, pictures of people in your industry.  See which ones stand out and make you want to click through.  Lurk, lurk and lurk again.  Pay attention to the ones that you don’t want to click on and the ones where you want to see more.  Pay attention to clothing, jewelry, backgrounds, props (chef with a knife, photographer with a camera, architect in front of a drawing and so on).

  1. Can I use a selfie or do I have to get a professional picture?  Use a good picture, make sure it is a head shot only and that it is a picture of YOU (LinkedIn actually has rules about this, so no full body pictures and no company logos or avatars) and make sure it conveys what you want folks to know about you first and foremost.  That said, it is certainly easier to get a great picture using a professional photographer with a great camera in a variety of settings (which is not generally your 12 year old using your iPhone at the dog park, BTW).
  2. Should I do a formal coat and tie picture?  Again, the first rule is that the picture be good and an accurate depiction – if you wear a coat and tie and feel most comfortable that way, sure.  If you don’t, it’s going to show.  And if you aren’t in a coat and tie job or field, what does that convey?  If you are in banking, insurance or similar industry where suits are the rule, sure (or sales to or within those industries) but if you aren’t, don’t dust off the funeral and wedding suit and shoes (or dress and pumps) for your profile picture.  Remember, you want your connections to recognize you when they meet you.  If you do decide to go for the suit and tie – make sure they (especially the shirt and tie) are of this decade with the correct tie width, collar style, etc.
  3. So I can use that beach selfie or the cool shot of me at the marlin tournament?  Certainly – if you are a surfboard shaper or charter captain!  Otherwise, probably not.  Save those (and the adorable pictures with your kids or pet iguana Squiggy) for Facebook.  If you aren’t going to go for the professional session, try for a great picture that captures what you do for a living and puts you in context or that provides a neutral backdrop so the focus is on you and not a really big fish.  The only acceptable picture with beer, wine or a mixed drink visible anywhere is if you are a wine critic, craft beer maker, sommelier or rock star bartender – no, really.
  4. What about those neat things you can do with photo editors these days?  Again, it’s all in context – if you are in an artistic field or your picture looks great in black and white, go for it.  But tinting it green and putting an orange border around it probably isn’t going to make the best first impression.  Sure, clean it up and crop it, maybe change the focal center or turn it a bit for interest but don’t turn out a Warhol creation.  Turn your body or your head some if you want, include some work related props in the background crop or make it off center for interest (assuming off center makes it more interesting and not just off center), but this really isn’t the place for a neon over grey rendition in a Polaroid frame of that nifty caricature you had done at the theme park last summer.
  5. Hmm… well, what things should I do?  Smile.  Get a haircut (not a radical new look, just make it look neat), shave, manicure and so on, wear subtle makeup.  Wear a color that looks good on you and clothes you are comfortable in (again, not
    Skip the hair net and busy patterns - and smile! (Photo by the very talented Ava Barlow)

    Skip the hair net and busy patterns – and smile! (Photo by the very talented Ava Barlow)

    sweats or board shorts unless that is your normal work gear) – no big patterns and for most people avoid white (especially if the background is white, you’ll look like a disembodied head).  Dress up a little, but don’t go for a fashion shot or evening wear unless you are normally a fashionista, orchestra member or teach ballroom dancing for a living.  Pick good jewelry or accessories that don’t take the focus away from you.  And (again) smile.  Look like someone that people want to meet not the grumpy guy who chases kids out of his yard.  Finally, sit up straight – Grandma was right on that one.

  6. So I have a good picture, now I upload it?  Not just yet.  Make sure it’s the right size in the “zoom view”.  The little picture is only one part of your profile.  People who view you can click it and it will (should, if you’ve done it right) get bigger without getting horribly blurry.  Use a picture on the larger side of the allowable sizes and make sure it is crisp and clear at that size.  Here are the official guidelines:
    • You can upload JPG, GIF or PNG files.
    • File size – 4MB maximum.
    • Pixel size: 200 x 200 minimum and 500 x 500 maximum.
    • Your photo should be square
  7. Are there exceptions?  Sure, even within the same line of work – if you are a police officer you might do a picture with your K-9 if that is what you do, or a formal shot if you are a ranking officer, or a more casual shot if you are primarily community outreach.  If you work with computers or equipment of some sort – you can have them in the shot (or not), stand in front of a server rack, whiteboard, diagram, etc.  I saw a great profile picture for an artist in front of their work with an artfully placed paint smudge.  The point is that your picture needs to get across who you are (or if you are changing careers, who you aspire to be) and it needs to capture the viewer enough to get them to click through and read about you.
  8. So how do I upload it anyway?  Go to Edit Profile under the Profile menu and click the camera inside the picture.  This is the same way you upload a new one when you change pictures.  Which you don’t want to do constantly in case you were wondering.  You’ll get to choose the picture you want to upload and choose who can see it – you really want to have it visible to everyone but if you aren’t sure how it’s going to work out, you could start with visible to connections and come back in and change the settings to everyone after you have gotten some feedback.

Keep in mind your picture is the first thing people see – and if they are trying to remember who you are that will be one way they decide whether to connect with you or not.  Interviewers and customers will look before they meet you so they know who to look for if they haven’t met you in person.  Probably the most important advice in this article is coming up – ask people for their thoughts on your picture.  Not your significant other, kids or mother – ask connections you trust, recruiters you are working with or friends who will tell you the truth.  Then listen to them.