Your profile photo should meet minimum standards.

Many of the hundreds of photos I studied are horror stories on steroids. However, there are some, like the ones displayed below, which are magnificent and meet all the professional rules of a great profile photo.  If your profile photo does not measure up, then you are creating a competitive disadvantage for yourself when recruiters, customers, or talent scouts come to visit your profile. So, pay attention. I provide a checklist of “Don’ts”.  And, below you will see some great examples of the “Dos”.

Did you know a shoddy photo tells the viewer that you have no clue about who your competition is? Would YOU hire somebody who is clueless? One of the dangers of using a sub-standard profile photo is that it can chase away opportunities even before you are aware of them.

What separates a bad profile photo from a good profile photo? The telling of your persona, your best quality. Let me repeat that for you article skimmers: YOUR PHOTO HAS TO FEATURE YOUR VERY BEST QUALITY. If your photo meets this criteria and the technical aspects are of a high quality, then you likely will have a smoking-hot profile photo.

A great photo resonates because the photographer uses various rules of photographic composition to coordinate all elements to tell the right story. Everything matters. From lighting and camera angle, to background, to pose, to how to feature your best [employment], eye position. You get the picture? Everything in a photo matters, if you want it to work for you as part of your profile to attract prospective employers or to project a professional-level of competence.

If you can’t meet these criteria yourself, then don’t set up or take your own photo. Go to a professional.

Before you go to a pro, take the time to think deeply about your message, your most important employment attributes, and so on. The photographer must be told what expression to capture, what mood to project in the photo, and so on. Leave those logistics to the photographer, but you do that by telling the photographer who you are and what you think your greatest attributes are. He or she will work to capture that in the photo.

I have extensive professional photography experience, including awards and publications,  and extensive business management experience.  Let me say that when employers seek candidates, if you have a profile photo it can have an impact. On the other hand, if you don’t have a profile photo on a social media site such as LinkedIn then you may raise suspicions. So, you are stuck with having to have a profile photo to make LinkedIn work for you. Is your photo going to create a positive impact? That’s up to you.

Use this as a checklist. Treat a profile photo as a thing of value. [Also SEE our article R U a LinkedIn Clutz?  by clicking here.]

Don’ts–what to avoid:

  • Cluttered backgrounds, too colorful, or things growing out of ears or out of the top of heads–trees, towers, fences, buildings, windows, chairs, etc.
  • Cheap curtains in background for backdrop
  • Poor lighting, confusing lighting, carless placement of shadows
  • Direct-on flash makes your face fat and flat
  • Mug shots, “macho” shots. Even a slight smile can be worth a million dollars.
  • Messy hair.
  • Shiny skin or noticeable makeup.
  • Close ups that are way too close and feature more body part than head and shoulders
  • Hiding in a shadow across your face–common in amateur outdoor shots
  • Reflections in the lens of one or both lenses of eyeglasses.
  • Too far away to show your facial character. Sometimes a full body shot works often it doesn’t.
  • “I’m-tough” body language  such as a stern look or arms crossed as if to say, don’t mess with me. There’s an art to posing with crossed arms. If in doubt, don’t.
  • Leaning too far toward camera. You create a parallax that makes your head seem way too intelligent for your body!
  • Straight on portrait, square-looking with no focal point or center of interest/attention. Even faces have focal points and centers of attention that a professional can pick up on.
  • Looking too far off to the side rather than towards the camera
  • Hair blends into background-black hair on black background, or, in my case white hair on white background
  • Attire is way too casual, and non-professional for your intended audience
  • The predominant shoulder(s) photo with one shoulder placed too close to the camera lens.
  • An obvious edit of backgrounds to cut your photo away from an undesired background. Don’t try to rescue some photo by using Photoshop to cut out distracting backgrounds. The human eye is so perceptive as to be able to consciously and often unconsciously pick up on a “doctored” photo.
  • Resting your chin on your fist unless… you are a kung-fu expert who just punched him- or herself.

HERE are some examples of GREAT Profile photos

Notice that, in the photos below, the photographers either used the background strategically, as in the case of the photo of Dianne Collins, an author and speaker, or used a plain background to keep the focus entirely on the subject as in the case of the photos for Dr. Biali and Alycia Hall. Also notice how all 3 photos engage the viewer and simultaneously and INSTANTLY build a subconscious feeling of trust, respect, and generates a feeling that you almost know them already even before contacting them. Although each photo uses much the same elements the combination of those elements and slight differences in lighting, pose, and expression makes these photos stand out as excellent examples of great profile photos.


Dianne Collins at book signing

Dianne Collins, creator and author of QuantumThink® a revolutionary system of thinking. Here the background works to support her career–book publishing-and suggests the literacy associated to professional speakers. Yet background is not distracting. Also notice how the pose suggests a welcoming, friendly, approachable professional. [Used with permission]

Photo of Dr. Susan Biali, MD,

Dr. Susan Biali, MD, “Health and Happiness Expert, Professional Speaker, Coach and Author of “LIVE A LIFE YOU LOVE” visit Photo Credit Kevin Clark. [Used with permission]

Photo of Alycia Hall Life Coach

Alycia Hall is described by clients as a “gifted Life Coach”. Her experience and intuitive style permits her to rapidly help clients break through their success-supressing fears and develop success-oriented outcomes. She is a great Life Coach for clients wishing to identify and overcome the root causes of their challenges in a very short period of time. [Used with permission]