Tips for your professional headshot

Even just a few years ago, some of us thought we could get away without a headshot on LinkedIn. Well, surely you’ve noticed that approach is now the exception. The new rule is: “If it’s not a good headshot, it’s a dead shot.” According to LinkedIn, profiles with photos are 14 times more likely to be viewed.

Here are some tips to consider before you say, “cheese!”

Get camera-ready.

Give thought to your hair and wardrobe, but avoid any drastic changes (like an extreme haircut or a spray tan), and dress how you normally would at the job you have—or are looking to get. Usually wear glasses? Wear them in the photo. Wear makeup? Keep your look to “Monday morning” and not “Friday night.”

Go pro.

Not the camera, the type of photographer. Often, companies will have a headshot day with shots for free or at a nominal charge. Take advantage of those opportunities. Have a friend who is a professional photographer? Maybe you can trade services. But for a LinkedIn headshot, always say “no” to a selfie or cropped party picture.

“Anything that could be used in a police booking parody leaves me baffled and a bit frightened. I mean, what were you thinking?!”

—Mike Maddock, Founding Partner of Innovation Agency Maddock Douglas

Be yourself.

You don’t want people to double take when they meet you in person, so pose in a manner that’s naturally you. Researchers at NYU concluded that when someone looks slightly happy, they appear more trustworthy, so don’t force a big grin or pout. And PhotoFeeler found that casually smiling with your teeth visible is the most beneficial look for a headshot, as well as squinting slightly to demonstrate confidence.

“I want personality to shine through, but it has to be a professional photo. In other words – look at the camera, smile, maybe tilt your head a little, look engaging and approachable.”

—Jill Kremins, Head of Marketing and Communications at BNY Mellon Wealth Management

Use a neutral background.

You want to be the focal point of your headshot, not what’s going on behind you. While PhotoFeeler found that “setting doesn’t make a noticeable difference in your overall shot”, you should still pick a backdrop that supports your personal brand without overshadowing you.

Consider composition.

According to Entrepreneur, angling one shoulder forward and slightly down can help avoid a ho-hum shot that belongs in your passport. Semi-profiles can be a good choice, too, especially if you have a “better” side. And keep the frame limited to your shoulders and above.

“I look for approachability. Comfort. Style (attire). Confidence. Natural pose vs. forced. I don’t need eye contact; in my book it’s OK to be more creative and catch someone in a moment.”

—Betsy Fiden, Director Client Services, Partner at McGuffin Creative Group

Be cautious with Photoshop.

There’s nothing wrong with a little bit of retouching, but too much airbrushing is too easy to notice. Anyone who knows you will raise their eyebrows. Anyone who meets you will be surprised.

Your headshot says a thousand words. Take care to use a photo that clicks rather than using no photo at all.

“The lack of a headshot would suggest to me that the candidate isn’t very savvy with social media. That would be a major red flag.”

—Mike Sanders, Vice President / Director of North American Brand Strategy and U.S. Advertising at BMO Financial Group