By Lydia Laughlin, Senior Consultant

Whether you are currently employed or in career transition, LinkedIn is essential when it comes to effective networking.

It allows you to stay connected with your network, to navigate your levels of network to get in contact with target audiences, and to create a space online that truly represents your brand and your value as a professional. When someone lands on your page the first thing they see is your photo.

Time and time again I get asked the question “Do I really need a photo on there?” and the answer is an emphatic YES. The numbers do not lie – a profile with a photo has 21 times more views, receives 36 times more messages, and nine times more connection requests. When you think of the typical goals of using LinkedIn (networking, job search, being found by recruiters, employers, clients, like minded professionals), an increased number of views and reach outs is what we are looking for.

Now when it comes to photos, not just any photo will do. No matter how much you like that selfie, holiday, or even wedding photo (yes, that is common), it typically does not represent your professional brand. In an ideal world, everyone would be using a professional headshot for their LinkedIn profile, however this is not always possible as costs are inhibiting and in these unprecedented times, we are all avoiding unnecessary in-person contact. So set up a tripod, enlist your spouse or family member, and take a photo that truly reflects you as a professional.

Here are the top tips for optimizing your LinkedIn photo.

  1. Your Photo Should Be Just You. Make sure this is a solo shot, not your dog, not your kids, not your spouse, etc. And please don’t just crop them out of the shot, we can usually tell, and it ends up looking careless and sloppy.
  2. Make Sure Your Face Is The Focus Of The Photo. You might have a wonderful photo of you with a great scenic background, but viewers need to be able to clearly see your face. Your photo should be from mid chest to just above the top of the head with your face taking up about 60% of the frame.
  3. Your Photo Should Look Like You. Though it might be tempting to use a photo pulled from your archives, it is important that your photo is an accurate representation of you now. Using an older photo or one that is heavily edited beyond recognition can create an awkward situation when meeting someone for the first time and may impact building rapport, trust, and overall come across as a lack of transparency.
  4. Neutral Photo Backgrounds. Make sure your photo background is not distracting. Pick a nice neutral background so that your face is the focal point. This could be a solid light-coloured background or one where the background is blurred.
  5. Dress Your Best. Wear what you would wear to an interview. Keep in mind this is your first impression online. What you wear should be representative of your own brand and style and keeping in mind the type of role and industry you work in or are targeting. If you are a Graphic Designer who works at a start-up a suit might not be the best fit. So, pick something that fits for you and look the part you want to play.
  6. Smile! This is not a passport photo! Give your best warm and inviting smile and look directly at the camera. Make sure you look friendly and approachable and like someone that people want to work with and reach out to.
  7. Use A High-Quality Photo. Use a high-resolution photo. The ideal size for a LinkedIn profile picture is 400 x 400 pixels. Larger file sizes can also work (with 8MB being the max), but try to avoid small, low-res images. With the high quality of cameras and cameras on smart phones, no one should have a blurry photo. If your camera or phone has portrait setting, use that as it helps the photo look more professional. You’re welcome to edit the photos to your liking, but do not go overboard and avoid using filters.
  8. Colour Photo Versus Black and White. This is a matter of preference, but typically B&W photos have a more serious feel to them and sometimes fall flat. For most people I suggest using a colour photo, they feel more warm, engaging, and approachable. As our goal is to build connections and relationships, let’s break out the colour.

Lydia Laughlin is a Senior Consultant with Feldman Daxon Partners.