How you can win with a unique profile picture on LinkedIn

By Kimberly Vanlaningham | Aug 15, 2022

Kimberly Van Laningham is a freelance copywriter who works with Ready for Social. She has been creating content for nearly a decade and currently lives in Chicago where she trains at The Second City Training Center. She loves entertainment and has written listicles for the entertainment site Screen Rant.

Whether you use LinkedIn to job search, network, connect with current team members or all of the above, it’s crucial to have a profile picture that pops. After all, your image should reflect your personality and your personal brand for the professional world to see. 

Does this mean moving your favorite Facebook profile picture over to serve a new purpose? Not exactly. A LinkedIn profile picture should set a professional tone that stands out from social media you enjoy for personal use. While this explanation makes sense in theory, it still doesn’t explain what your profile picture should entail. So, what does the perfect LinkedIn profile picture look like? And how do you go about taking one? 

Worry not because we created an easy-to-follow eight-step guide to help your profile stand out in the best way: 

1. Hire a professional photographer to take your LinkedIn picture. 

How you go about this first step will largely depend on your budget and whether or not it allows for a professional shoot. Some photographers focus specifically on corporate headshots, which make for the ideal LinkedIn photo. A quick Google search reveals that the average business headshot cost ranges from $65-1500, but there are always photographers who charge more or less, and the price varies depending on the package you choose.  

Professional photographers have an incredible eye and can even assist you with some of the decision-making involved in later steps. Any feelings of comfort and ease translate well through the lens, so try to relax and follow their lead. A friend who is a professional photographer works just as well and may even be a better choice since you likely feel more comfortable around them. 

Ultimately, the biggest takeaway from this step is to have someone else take the photo. A creative friend with little photography experience beats a selfie or a self-timed shot. 

2. Wear something professional for your LinkedIn shoot. 

Attire is an excellent way to demonstrate professionalism, hence why most organizations have workplace dress codes. Choose an outfit you would wear to work when deciding what to wear in your photo. 

Of course, you should have a little fun with this part. What is your favorite work outfit or your favorite color? What brings out your eyes? These are the types of questions you want to ask when narrowing it down. Solids typically look better than patterns. If you go for an outfit with a unique design, choose a simpler one that is not too busy. Adding a layer like a cardigan or a blazer can add dimension or a pop of color. 

No matter what you select, make sure it is something you feel confident and comfortable in. How you feel in the moment will translate in the photo. 

3. Look like your approachable self in your LinkedIn profile picture. 

Since the primary purpose of a LinkedIn profile picture is to represent your personal brand, you want the photo to look like you, capture your essence and make you look approachable. This step is especially important since you will be connecting with some people you have never met in person, and you want them to feel comfortable reaching out. 

If you wear makeup, go for an everyday, natural look. Much like your outfit choice, go for something you would wear to work. Your hair can be an everyday style, too. Aim for what you want to look like on your best day! 

And don’t forget: A smile goes a long way, and not everyone likes to smile the same way. Stay true to yourself and let your natural good energy radiate. 

4. Shoot with optimal lighting to get the most out of your LinkedIn pic. 

Lighting makes a significant difference in photography, and it’s definitely an area where a professional photographer’s expertise comes in handy. But no matter who captures your next LinkedIn profile picture, avoid dim lighting and shadows. Instead, aim for natural light! A natural light setting will help you look like yourself and keep the image nice and bright, making it pop! 

By the way: Natural lighting does not have to be synonymous with the outdoors. While outdoor shoots are a great choice, you can also stick to indoors and opt for a spot close to a window. Alternatively, your photographer can set up natural-looking studio lights with the same effect. 

5. Choose the right background to stand out with your LinkedIn profile. 

There are many different background options for your profile picture, but simplicity wins. Avoid a busy or patterned backdrop. Many people go for white, grey or blue, but these aren’t the only options if you feel like portraying something different. 

Colorful backgrounds are becoming more popular these days, and they really help people shine! It’s best to consult a professional if you want a bright color to ensure it suits you well and will not become overwhelming. 

A bokeh background is another popular, fun option that uses out-of-focus light to create a subtle yet captivating effect. 

6. Use high resolution to make your profile photo high quality. 

A LinkedIn profile picture should be a quality image, and high resolution equals high quality. Photos that are high resolution have more pixels per inch, which make them look crisp, clear and fresh. 

High resolution is beneficial on LinkedIn since your profile picture will be captured in a small circle on most of the site. You wouldn’t want to risk your photo appearing blurry. That would have the opposite effect and make you stand out negatively. Allow your connections to see your image clearly, no matter how big or small it appears. The crisper, the better! 

7. Gather input from those you trust when it comes to your profile pic. 

It’s hard to pick out the best shot of yourself because you are used to your mirror image and may have a different read on your expressions than those who know you best and interact with you regularly. Gather feedback from trusted family, friends and colleagues to decide on the image that best expresses what you want your profile to convey. Share your personal brand with them and gather their input on the image that represents it best. 

If you want to see how your image would stack up with LinkedIn profile pictures in general, believe it or not, there are also LinkedIn photo analyzing tools that use hard data and AI to determine the strength of your image for use on the site. Let your family or AI determine your good side, whoever you trust more. 

8. Select a headshot of your face to lift your LinkedIn profile to the next level. 

Not all professional photos are headshots, but nice headshots make for the best LinkedIn profile pictures, especially since the platform crops the profile image into a circle. You want your face and expression to be clear and easy to read.  

LinkedIn recommends you aim for your face to take up 60% of the frame at a minimum. If this isn’t already done when the picture is taken, you can crop it later to showcase your face better before you upload it. 

Are you ready for your best LinkedIn profile picture yet? 

And that’s it! Simple, right? Simplicity is key in every step, so keep this in mind when you get your next LinkedIn profile photo taken. Don’t overthink it! The goal is to clearly capture your genuine self for the professional world to see, so just be yourself and follow these easy steps and you will have a clean, captivating profile picture that catches your network’s eyes.  

Do you feel ready to book your next photo shoot now? What helps you feel confident in front of the camera? Please share any tips you’ve learned that may help others capture their best selves below. 

Photos by Christina on Unsplash; Shipman Northcutt on Unsplash; May Gauthier on Unsplash;  Thanh Duc PHAN on Unsplash; Sigmund on Unsplash; and Christian Buehner on Unsplash.


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