Your LinkedIn profile image is the most potent tool in your arsenal for making a good first impression. A good photo makes all the difference in conveying messages of trust, respectability and professionalism. Good profile photos are really important if you want to command respect, and they can be used across all your social media accounts to project consistency and reliability.
With today´s cameras, even smartphones, it is not difficult at all to take wonderful photos. The sensors, the colors and sharpness are great. But there are limitations when it comes to portraits. Most smart phones capture a wide angle, not very flattering at all for portraits, because they distort the face. Selfies are so obvious, so what tricks can you employ to get a good head shot at minimal expense and effort?
Here are my recommendations:
1) Choose a neutral white background, or, an uncluttered background that will not interfere with the main subject: you. Make sure there is enough of it so you can stand a bit in front of it (and not right up against it).
2) For best results, shoot outside on an overcast day, and don´t use (or overuse) flash. If you do try it with flash, just a little bump in the light will do wonders. You want to avoid harsh shadows of any kind, caused also by the sun or color casts that accompany various indoor lights. A bright overcast day is your best bet for soft lighting. Alternatively, find a plain background next to a window, again on an overcast day, and let the light fall on one side of the face, but you don´t want the other half in too much shadow. You always have to try, adjust settings, and try again.
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3) Experiment with a variety of positions and angles. Most typical and professional is the straight on, or angled, headshot of just the head and shoulders. Avoid extreme close-ups of just the face. Medium shot portraits of head, and upper torso can also be effective. Don´t use photos from presentations in poor lighting with projection screens included as your profile photo. If you have a great presentation, include it in the ´media´ section of your Linked In profile. Don´t use it as the profile photo itself.
4) Choice of Camera – if you can possibly manage it, use a regular digital SLR with a lens focal length of between 70-200 mm, in other words, a telephoto lens. This is the typical lens used by pros for portrait photography. If you must use a smartphone, do not use the front-facing camera setting, which is of lower quality than the rear camera.
5) Regardless of your choice of camera, unless you are an expert in photography, it is pretty much impossible to take the photo yourself, and even then I don´t recommend it. Ask someone else to take the picture for you, and take many, many pictures so you have a choice of selections. If you have an extra friend on hand, get them to hold a very large sheet of white poster board to reflect the light back onto your face, which will act as a kind of homemade reflector. Don´t rush it, use a variety of settings and positions. One hour of patience will pay off, and don´t forget to smile with your eyes.
Obviously, the ideal is to hire a professional photographer who can shoot in the studio or just as well outside, with the right amount of flash. Most pros will never use the straight on flash on top of the camera, and will always bounce it off a wall or reflector of some kind. And a little bit of re-touching can work wonders, if you know how to do this in Photoshop. For any further advice, retouching or a referral to a pro in your area, feel free to contact me via my photo website.