I came across an article on the Inc. Magazine website a while back detailing 8 secrets of perfect LinkedIn headshots. I love a lot of what author Julie Anne Exter writes in it, and have been meaning to share it with you for a while now. Here are my favorite parts, as well as my own take on some of her 8 secrets.
First off, I found her starting thoughts about the need for a professional(-looking) headshot to be downright inspirational:
"Nobody wants to hire someone they perceive to be a slob, or worse, someone with poor professional judgment." If sweatpants and a t-shirt are your preferred outfit, then "your mission is clear: you need to use the magic of technology to trick people into believing that you are a well-groomed professional, the perfect candidate for any challenge that might come your way. It's not a far stretch. You are that person, and you can rise to any challenge. It's just that you have to clear the pesky hurdle of the LinkedIn profile picturein order to look the part and nail that first impression," Julie says.
Julie's Secret #1: "The first step is admitting you have a problem." Here, Julie asks you to take a hard look at your current LinkedIn headshot and to be honest with yourself about whether it's appropriate.
My take: I bet you already know if you have a problem. After all, who in their right mind would think that a LinkedIn headshot of themselves sitting in a bar (with friends who were obviously cropped out of the picture), hugging their dog, or lounging around in a t-shirt and sunglasses is appropriate for a professional networking platform? Everyone already knows it's not appropriate, including you.
The real issue is that you may not realize how much that unprofessional LinkedIn headshot is hurting you, and as a result, you haven't done anything about it. So understand that your LinkedIn headshot is like the cover letter to your resume and tells prospective employers a whole lot about you!
Julie's Secret #2: "When in doubt, go pro." It's a fact of life that no one person is great at everything. While some people are blessed with the talent to create amazing selfies, others will take thousands of "blurry, lopsided pictures of their own asymmetrical faces," only to finally admit defeat. In the latter case, it's worth the investment to hire a professional headshot photographer... "But not just any professional photographer," Julie says.
My take: Of course, as a professional headshot photographer, I would love that Julie says this, and that's because I believe in what I do. Is every surgeon as talented as the next? Is every attorney as service-oriented as the next? Professional headshot photographersare no different, and they are not created equal.
At least half of our professional headshotclients tell me on our first phone call that they're not photogenic. And what that says to me is that they've never hired the right professional photographer. Because when I begin working with them, what I find is that all they really needed was a photographer who could make them feel comfortable and relaxed, and who would take the time to understand what they like/don't like about how they look in photos, and then be able to identify the most flattering camera angles, lighting, and posing.
Julie's Secret #3: "If you go pro, don't go to that place in the mall."
My take: I stifled the strong desire to say "I told you so" as I read about Julie's experience with mall headshots: "Turns out you should not trust the oppressed teenagers who work at the mall place to care enough to shepherd you into flattering poses that you'd feel good about putting out there to your professional network," she confesses.
Honestly, though, not everyone has an eye for photography. In fact, there are many people who I would hazard to say simply can't tell the difference between a good photograph and a bad one. Why else would I see someone post a terrible picture on Facebook that is then flooded with comments about how the picture-taker is so talented?
If you are one of the people who can't distinguish between good photography and bad photography, then honestly, mall headshots may be just the right fit for you. You can expect to pay more for headshots from a boutique photographer than from a teenage mall photographer, so why pay more for something you can't tell is better? Just remember, though. That recruiter, HR director, or hiring manager may be someone who CAN tell the difference, so before trusting your career to an oppressed teenager at the mall, think hard, and also make sure to read Julie's secret #8 below.
Julie's Secret #4: "If you choose to DIY, get ready to take many, many selfies."
My take: I love what Julie says here as well, even as I laugh over it. As a professional photographer, I know lighting, composition, and posing. And yet, I find it EXTREMELY difficult to take good selfies of myself. Past attempts to do so simply prove to me that you really need a professional photographer who will give you guidance and direct you if you want to avoid looking completely ridiculous. And if I have a hard time with selfies, and I'm a professional photographer, I certainly don't expect the average person to capture a really professional-looking selfie headshot.
Julie's Secret #5: "Use a decent camera. Borrow a friend's if you have to. Then, borrow your friend."
My take: I agree that if you're going the DIY route, then it's very helpful to have someone else behind the camera to direct you as opposed to trying to take a selfie.
I must disagree, however, about borrowing a friend's "decent camera." At this "my friend took my headshot" level of photography skill, it's really not about the camera. Rather, it's about the person behind the camera and his/her knowledge of posing, composition, and lighting. A non-photographer won't even know how to handle the controls on that "decent camera." As a professional photographer, I can create better LinkedIn headshots with my iphone than the average non-photographer could with that "decent camera."
Furthermore, if, as Julie says, your friend manages 1 picture out of 1000 that "might not actually be so bad," in my mind, that's not good enough! Do you really want to trust your next promotion to a headshot that's "not so bad"? Or do you want a headshot that is the best picture of you you've ever had?
Julie's Secret #6: "Your most flattering angle is from above."
My take: That's often true, but not always true. Photographing from above is helpful for eliminating double chins, and it's a very flattering angle for many. But what if you're bald? Photographing from above will emphasize the top of your head. What if you have a large forehead and a small chin? Photographing from above will emphasize the difference, whereas photographing from a slightly lower angle will make them more even in size. In addition, photographing from below gives a sense of strength and power.
Julie's Secret #7: "Your photo editing software or app is a great ally."
My take: Julie advises playing around with filters, but honestly, my take on this is that if your headshot requires a filter to make it look good, then it's simply not a very good photograph. The original image, un-filtered, is going to be most appealing to the widest audience, since filters are more subjective. Julie also recommends doing touch-ups, and if you have a software or an app that can smoothen skin without making you look like a porcelain doll, then I agree. And finally, I can go with Julie's comment that black & white adds an instant layer of sophistication with the right photo. Just note that some photographs simply look better in color, whereas others look better in black & white. Regardless of the editing you do, make sure to save the original, unaltered image, so that later on, should you wish to change your edits, you can do so.
Julie's Secret #8: "Your most brutally honest friend is an even better ally."
Agreed. Now, if you hire a professional headshot photographer, you can rely on your photographer's feedback. That said, we always welcome friends and family members at your professional headshot session, if you would like their assistance in selecting your final headshots.
Don't wait around for your next promotion. Take your future into your own hands.