Top 5 Tips for a Memorable LinkedIn Headshot

Oct 15, 2018 | LinkedIn

An example of an excellent LinkedIn Headshot, taken professionally by Nat Welch and featured on Let's Eat, Grandma's blog.

So you want a new LinkedIn headshot…but where do you start? You don’t need to be a great photographer to have a great profile picture. Check these tips from an NYC photo professional for a LinkedIn headshot that will attract attention.

Updated February 2023.

By: The Writing Team at Let’s Eat, Grandma

If you’re reading this, you are probably already somewhat convinced that you should have a good LinkedIn headshot, but you know a few tips from a professional would really make it shine. 

While getting your headshot professionally done is a surefire way to make sure it looks great, not everyone has the time or money for that. 

With this in mind, we sat down with Nat Welch, a professional photographer in New York City, to discuss a few tips for taking your own solid LinkedIn headshot. Welch has photographed high-profile people and events (from Tiger Woods to magazines such as Rolling Stone, GQ, People, Time, and more).

So, before you have your amateur photographer spouse or friend whip out their iPhone, take a look at these pointers. We will be using examples from Welch’s work throughout the rest of this blog to give you a sense of the principles he mentioned.

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Why is it important to have a great LinkedIn headshot?

Whether you like it or not, recruiters will judge your abilities as a job candidate by your picture. And if you’ve ever heard the expression that “a picture is worth a thousand words,” you understand that visuals can leave an impression on someone within seconds.

Additionally, the first thing people notice about your LinkedIn profile is your picture. Therefore, recruiters will be less likely to thoroughly read through your profile without that initial first impression of the profile picture. This is why we actually recommend a mediocre photo rather than no photo … but by following Welch’s suggestions, you can take your photo from mediocre to magnificent.

5 tips for taking your own LinkedIn headshot

Here are 5 LEG-endorsed tips for making your LinkedIn headshot look great:

#1) Pay attention to your lighting

Good lighting is essential to a good photo, and according to Welch, bad light is the most common mistake he sees when looking at LinkedIn headshots.

You can have the best camera in the world (or even a smartphone with a good camera), but the color and clarity won’t shine if your lighting sucks.

Bad lighting makes it more difficult to recognize unique features and will reduce the sharpness of the photo.

Make sure you’re well lit, but avoid direct overhead lighting or harsh lighting (imagine those white, bright fluorescent lights in your high school cafeteria).

Example: Good lighting

An example of an excellent LinkedIn Headshot, taken professionally by Nat Welch and featured on Let's Eat, Grandma's blog.

Example: Bad lighting

An example of bad lighting for a LinkedIn headshot.

#2) Dress to impress

Ever been told that you should show up to an interview wearing what you would wear on the job? We recommend the same for your LinkedIn profile. When in doubt, go more formal than you would otherwise.

Employers want to see that you are a good fit for the position, and whether you like it or not, they will judge you based on your attire.

An additional tip: Avoid busy patterns, and try to wear dark tones because dark tones will make your face pop. You want people to remember your face, not your clothes!

Example: Good attire

A headshot of a smiling man in glasses and a sportcoat – an example of good attire for a LinkedIn headshot.

Example: Bad attire 

An example of bad attire for a LinkedIn Headshot

We might drink a beer with this guy… but would we expect him to be a good hire if this is how he presents himself on LinkedIn?

 #3) Smile! (or at least look welcoming)

We know you you want to show you are a serious professional, but Welch still recommends smiling in your LinkedIn profile. We’re confident you can let a little sunshine come through your photo without looking like a Looney Tunes character.

The theory is this: would you rather meet an intimidating, serious person or a friendly, smiling person? Recruiters will see that your smile could positively contribute to the workplace!

Example: Good facial expression 

An example of a good expression to make in a LinkedIn headshot.

Example: Bad facial expression

An image of a woman scowling, an example of a bad expression to make in a LinkedIn headshot.

Even if you want to show off how tough of a negotiator you are — scowling or squinting does not give a good first impression.

#4) Avoid busy backgrounds

If you look at Nat’s photos, you will notice he chooses a clean grey or white background to provide enough contrast with his subject.

LinkedIn gives very limited room to display your profile picture (thumbnail sized), so it’s important that you place as much emphasis as possible on, well you

Example: Good background

A photo of man against a plain white backdrop, an example of a good background for a LinkedIn headshot.

Example: Bad background

A smiling woman with an ornate gate behind her, an example of a bad background for a LinkedIn headshot.

#5) Use the appropriate crop

LinkedIn gives so many pixels to display that wonderful face of yours. Do not take the picture from too far away, and make sure to crop your photo well. 

Your LinkedIn photo should range from the middle of your torso to the top of your head. Too much torso in the photo means you will be less visible when recruiters are scrolling through a list of candidates.

Example: Good crop 

An example of an excellent LinkedIn headshot, taken by Nat Welch and featured on Let's Eat, Grandma's blog.

Example: Bad crop 

A photo of a man in business dress to the waist down, an example of a bad crop for a LinkedIn headshot.

It’s also important to leave enough head space at the top for LinkedIn’s additional “circle crop.” This seems like a great photo on the surface, but when imported into LinkedIn, the circle will eliminate the top of the photo.

Should you consider a professional photographer?

I will be flying out to New York City sometime in the next year or so. When that time comes, I will be sure to use Nat’s services, because I understand how good of an investment a professional headshot is. When it comes to your personal brand, your headshot is incredibly important — especially when everything is online.

Therefore, if you have the means, I highly recommend teaming up with a professional photographer.

If you are interested in working with Nat, please contact him here.

Strapped for cash? While no one can beat a professional, you can still manage a good LinkedIn photo on your own (and a photo you take is still way better than nothing!) Learn how to take a decent headshot with only an iPhone on our Career Warrior Podcast.

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