A study showed that assumptions made on a jobseeker’s competence, based solely on photos, influence hiring decisions. Whether we like it or not, a hiring manager who sees your account will form their impressions of you based on your Linkedin profile picture in less than 100 milliseconds.

So makes sure your LinkedIn profile picture depicts competence, professionalism, and leaves a strong first impression.

The best news? You don’t need a professional photographer to do this! You only need your camera, some preparation, and a handful of useful tips to take your professional LinkedIn profile picture without paying for headshots.

1. Choose the right location and background

Environment, temperature, and noise can affect your mood and confidence when taking a photo for your LinkedIn profile. So pick a location where you feel most comfortable and relaxed because it will be evident in the pictures if you are stressed and uptight.

You also need to specifically plan the background for your photo as it plays a role in how you will be perceived. Make sure that your background works for your goals, captures your style, showcases your personality and brand in a professional way, and evokes the right feelings from recruiters and hiring managers.

When choosing a LinkedIn profile picture background, take these things into consideration:

  • Choose a background color or setting that complements your skin tone, the color of your outfit, and the mood you want to portray.
  • Whether it’s inside your house or outside, make sure that the background is not too distracting that it pulls the attention away from you. The focus of the photo should be you.
  • Avoid busy backgrounds like words, crowded patterns, complex geometric shapes, or too many objects in the frame. 
  • The outdoors is great for headshots that are more casual and creative. Just make sure that there are no distractions in the background.
  • When in doubt, stick to a clean and simple background. You can use neutral colors like white, black, and gray.

2. Take your LinkedIn profile picture in soft and natural light

In taking your LinkedIn headshot, lighting is everything as it affects the overall mood of the photo and the quality of the image. 

While you can use artificial lighting, the easiest way to get natural-looking lighting for your LinkedIn profile picture without paying for a professional photographer is to use natural light from the sun. And the best thing about it is that it is free! 

Look for a location and background with natural and flattering light to have a more authentic and organic feel to your headshot. 

  • Try taking selfies in different areas with abundant natural light at different times of the day and see which is best for your profile picture.
  • Avoid direct sunlight, shadows, and fluorescent lighting when taking your headshot.
  • Take advantage of the golden hour. This is shortly after sunrise and shortly before sunset, where the light is most flattering. The light is soft and warm during the golden hour – ideal for taking headshots.
  • When taking your headshot outdoors, make sure the sun is behind you to avoid squinting your eyes. You can take your photo under the shade so that the light won’t be too harsh.
  • When shooting indoors, you can take your headshot near a window or door with abundant light, which would create even lighting across your face.

3. Dress the part and look your best

What you wear in your LinkedIn profile picture is also essential. It should make you appear confident and competent in the industry you are a part of. If you wear sloppy clothes, you might be mistaken as unprofessional, and recruiters might not even read through your profile.

  • You can wear neutral, solid colors like cream, white, black and navy. You can also wear bold colors if it fits your personality and brand. It depends on the persona you would want to portray.
  • Always keep your profession in mind when choosing what to wear in your LinkedIn headshot. Your profession might require a certain level of formality, and it would be best to wear professional business attire.
  • You can check for outfit ideas specific to your industry and profession online and get inspiration from them.
  • Choose well-tailored and good-fitting clothing that you are comfortable wearing.
  • Be thoughtful about the accessories you wear for your photo. Keep it simple by using just one to two accessories to keep the focus on your face.
  • You can layer clothes to add a bit more dimension to your look but make sure that you don’t overdo it.

4. Choose the right facial expression for your LinkedIn profile picture

Since your LinkedIn profile picture is your first step to building your personal LinkedIn brand, you need to make sure that your face in the picture exudes competence, approachability, and professionalism. 

Research shows that people view you as more competent, likable, and influential if you smile in your photo. Another study done in 2020 showed that neutral and smiling expressions lead to higher perceptions of competency compared to the usual thinking pose done by most business professionals, where they touch their chin with one hand.

These show that more people will connect and engage with you, and recruiters will notice you if you appear warm and friendly (and of course, professional!) even just in your LinkedIn profile picture.

  • Try different smiles and see how you look in the mirror. Try smiling with your eyes as this creates an authentic grin and makes you appear more friendly and personable.
  • Check your best angle and practice posing before taking that headshot.
  • Don’t smile too big or goofy, as this makes you look unnatural and fake
  • Avoid using the thinking pose as it is perceived as staged, making you appear less competent.

5. Make sure the quality of your LinkedIn profile picture is high and sharp

You have to see to it that your photo is high-quality since anybody wouldn’t like a shaky, blurry, and pixelated profile picture. To make sure your photo is not fuzzy and blurred, you can prop your camera against a steady surface or use a tripod. 

Also, check if your photo is the right size and resolution. The standard profile size on LinkedIn is 400×400 pixels, and your file size should not exceed 8MB. 

If taking a photo on your own is quite challenging, you can always invite a friend to take your headshot. 

More Tips

  • Your face should fill around 60% of the frame, and your shoulders should take up the rest of the frame. 
  • You should be the only one in the photo (don’t include your spouse or your dog, no matter how tempting this is.)
  • Don’t crop group photos because 1. recruiters wouldn’t know which one you are, and 2. it would be weird seeing a random arm or hand in the frame.
  • Choose a photo that reflects how you truly look in person. It would be a nightmare if you appear in the interview and you look nothing like the one in your LinkedIn profile.
  • Avoid using selfies as your LinkedIn profile picture.
  • You can edit your photo but don’t overdo it.
  • Avoid putting filters on your LinkedIn headshot.
  • Keep your LinkedIn profile picture up-to-date (don’t use that photo from four years ago.)

The LinkedIn profile picture makes a huge difference in your job search, professional goals, and personal brand, so you should invest time and effort in getting yourself a headshot that gets noticed and respected. 

Of course, it doesn’t end there. You also need to make sure that your entire LinkedIn profile is optimized so that recruiters would further read about you, engage with you, and give you that interview. 

Try running your LinkedIn profile through Jobscan’s LinkedIn optimization tool and see if your profile is top-notch and optimized.