Professional Profile Tips, Guide, Checklist: Cropping, Sizing, Smiling, Cover Backgrounds & Images, Black & White Profile Photos, Changing Photos With Examples

LinkedIn is one of the most heavily trafficked website on the planet. As a marketing and research tool, it is often times the default method for recruiting, competitive intelligence, finding a professional, evaluating possible employers, prospecting clients and partnerships as well as a screening tool for online dating. Users with profile photos receive up to 21 times profile views than those without photos.

Do You Need a Professional Headshot?

The first thing you should ask yourself is Do I even need a headshot? Some professions don’t benefit as much from others when it comes to headshots. Individuals who are not customer facing or rarely change jobs in their careers often fit this mold (doctors, nurses, academia, teachers and many blue collar jobs).

With that said, you never know when layoffs can occur, when you might be pursued by a competitor, have a career change, need a photo for press purposes or will be searched for when using dating apps. Obtaining a headshot on short notice can be a stressful process (haircut, wardrobe styling, posing, facial hair, securing a photographer etc. takes time).

Some people are good at taking a photo of themselves via a selfie stick, timer but most folks need help to take a good photo. For one, taking a photo too close to the subject can distort the person making them appear wider, bigger. Second, taking a photo of yourself is challenging – lighting, background, unbiased feedback are a few of the advantages a professional brings to the table. Selfies can appear unprofessional and that is the last thing you want to convey on a professional networking platform.

What Size Photo Do I Need? How Should I Crop My LinkedIn Headshot?

A LinkedIn headshot photo has a circular crop for photos and the minimum size is 400px by 400px. I usually recommend clients stay at or slightly above (500 to 600 pixels). Anything bigger is usually too big and will take up too much of one’s screen, reveal less than flattering detail and increases opportunity for theft, misuse etc. 

Due to LinkedIn’s circular crop, not all photos can easily be formatted to fit a LinkedIn profile. Often times users have a portrait oriented headshot (photos taller than they are wider by a factor of 2-3x) that is too tall and narrow and ends up being cropped too closely on the left and/or right sides resulting in the face taking up too much of the space provided.

I typically recommend heads and top of shoulders should occupy around 70% of the frame. Anymore is too close and anything smaller is too distant and small for traditional headshots. When taking photos for clients, I always provide various options for crops for clients to accommodate various needs (websites, press releases, social media etc.). 

Should You Smile in Your Headshot? How Should I Pose?

When it comes to smiles, there is not a perfect universal answer. Everyone has a different smile and some people are more sensitive about their looks, specifically their skin and wrinkles caused by bigger smiles. My general rule of thumb is that headshots should be approachable and authentic, the last thing you want a first impression to convey is deception, disingenuous appearances and awkwardness. Many folks prefer smaller smiles with or without teeth over larger mouth wide open headshots. A good photographer should take various smiles and tell you what’s look best for you.

As for posing, you should look straight into the camera but not too intense looking. Your body and face should be facing the camera but it doesn’t need to be perfectly perpendicular like a mugshot or DMV photo. Rotating your body 5-30 degrees in either direction provides some asymmetrical, relaxed pose. Placing weight on the balls of the feet brings you into the frame. Shifting weight and hips slightly to one foot adds dimension and liveliness to photos.

What Should You Wear in Your LinkedIn Photo?

The old adage comes to mind when it comes to headshots – dress for the job you want not the one you have. Keep in mind that if you overshoot you can appear to like a misfit when it comes to company fit and culture at your existing company or to future employers. Clothes you wear should fit well, should be clean and ironed.

Make sure clothing colors don’t clash with your skin tone nor background. Stay away from loud patterns. White shirts should generally be avoided unless coupled with a tie or jacket, scarf or cardigan. Turtlenecks and shiny clothing is generally a no-no. When in doubt, send a snapshot of the outfits you are considering to your photographer for specific, customized recommendations. Most photographers do not consult on specifics of your wardrobe but if they do, take advantage of it. Some general inspiration can be found on these Pinterest boards I have put together for men and for women.

Online Dating and LinkedIn

If you happen to be on dating apps, you should expect matches and future dates to Google you at some point, even if briefly. The rise of scams and catfishing has led to an increase in users conducting quick backgrounds checks on Facebook, Instagram, Google and LinkedIn to verify identities, employment status, age, looks, relationship status and more.

LinkedIn provides a quick easy way for people to get a closeup look at their possible match and date but also verify looks, approximate age, employment status and more. Having a LinkedIn profile and headshot is not guarantee (photos can be outdated and photoshopped) but they are another data point when evaluating suitors in a rather anonymous vacuum that is online dating.

Black & White Profile Pictures

Most people who use black and white profile photos because they use their company headshots which are sometimes use for consistency – it is not a preferred or intentional act. I advise most clients to use color in their photos whenever possible. Black and white photos will limit your visibility to others making it more challenging to recognize you.

How To Change My LinkedIn Cover Photo

Step 1 – Click the edit icon below your cover photo in the bottom right side of the photo.

Step 2 – Click the edit icon on the top right of the cover image in the top right corner.


Step 3 – Click ‘change photo’ and make sure you adhere to recommended size of 1,584 x 396 pixels.

Things To Avoid In A LinkedIn Headshot

Group shots, selfies, excessive photoshopping (skin softening, darkening, shadows lightening), filters, loud backgrounds and outdated photos (more than 3-5 years old or photos that no longer reflect your current appearance – hair length, hairstyle, facial hair) should all be avoided.

LinkedIn headshots are often the first thing people notice about you when looking you up online. Your professionalism, approachability are called into question. Networking is made easier. Trust and familiarity is improved slightly. Without LinkedIn headshots, people are forgotten and often out of site, out of mind. Stay connected, use the status update of a new headshot to trigger an opportunity to get in touch with lost connections. 

Update 7/1/2020 #OpenToWork Photo Frame – Linkedin released a photoframe (Open To Work) for those seeking jobs. You can enable this function already in your settings but now Linkedin has made it more visible within your photo.

Further reading: For additional headshot tips to consider, read this more general post on things to consider when taking headshots.

About Eddie Hernandez

San Francisco Photographer: Professional Headshots, LinkedIn Photos, Corporate + Business Headshots, Creative Branding Portraits, Company Culture.

Specialties include: casual employee headshots, work style corporate headshots, LinkedIn headshots, business headshots, executive portraits, professional headshots, office headshots, online dating profile photos (and dating profile critiques), creative branding portraits, modern company culture and environmental office head shots. I primarily shoot outdoors, public spaces and client sites (on location, before work, after work, lunch breaks) and specialize in location scouting and creative direction. Assistance with wardrobe and styling is available. 

My ability to put people at ease, guide poses, provide unique backgrounds and create a fun photoshoot filled is what separates me from others. If you hate taking photos or are camera shy, you have come to the right person for your pictures.

Serving the greater San Francisco Bay Area including Sausalito, Mill Valley, Oakland, Berkeley, San Francisco, San Mateo, Marin County, Petaluma, Sonoma, Napa, Palo Alto, San Jose, Stanford, Silicon Valley, Larkspur, Mountain View, Sunnyvale and Menlo Park. Will travel to Los Angeles, New York City, Montreal, Mexico City, Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, Philadelphia, Chicago, internationally and client sites.

Contact me today for your headshot session:

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