These days, almost everyone is on LinkedIn. Having an updated, relevant, and powerful LinkedIn profile can help you have an edge in moving your career forwards. LinkedIn asks for your profile picture. Scary to think that your appearance is part of this game, isn’t it? The profile picture should be like any other part of your LinkedIn profile – a chance for you to showcase and position for what you want. So what should your professional headshot like?
[Nota bene: The following applies more generally to office job seekers rather than actors and models]
Your photograph should be professionally taken. The difference between a phone picture versus one taken by a professional camera is night and day.
Your face should be the brighter part of the photograph. Photographs where your face is mostly dark, in shadow, or when the background is brighter, takes attention away from you. Your face should also be in focus. You should also be the only person in the photograph.
Your skin colors should be accurate – you shouldn’t look like you ran a faded Instagram filter over your photographs. Also, avoid photographs taken indoor under poor lighting – which can turn one’s skin various shades of jaundiced yellow to taro purple.
Your background shouldn’t be distracting. While I do photograph many of my headshot clients outside, I almost always blur and diminish the background such that all it adds is color and personality, but doesn’t take on a personality of its own. Buildings, objects, cars, roads, should not be in focus. So, what background should you choose?
White background – White backgrounds are quite safe. With the current trends, they work best for people who work in startups, technology companies, creative fields, but in general, anyone can benefit from a white background
Dark gray / dark blue backgrounds – I tend to use darker backgrounds for people who work in traditional firms such as law firms, consulting firms, banks, and other large institutions. A darker background usually makes someone look more mature and more serious, which is suited to more conservative culture
Outdoor / creative backgrounds – Light yellows, greens, and a variety of color can be done in an outdoor setting, but it is not for everyone. I recommend outdoor or creative backgrounds for those working in startups, creative fields, media, marketing, or people whose industries are more fluid and want something more lively and less “boring”. In addition, these headshots aren’t always presented in a cropped format, so we can make use of vertical or horizontal lines. Outdoor backgrounds also work well for those in academia and those who will be published authors. There is nothing wrong with having green even if you’re in a more conservative culture, as long as you are well lit and you dress professionally.
Office backgrounds – This really depends on your office. If your office is brightly lit by natural light, has relatively neutral walls (no crazy designer wallpaper here), it can actually work really well as a site for a headshot. In particular, if your office is decorated in the style of your industry, it will function well as a way to communicate your industrial focus.
And finally, your image should be cropped correctly such that most of the image is your face as well as some of your neck. Too far away and we can’t see your face. Too close… well, I always think it’s awkward when someone is missing a chin.