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  • Writer's pictureDr. Gary Witt

10 More Rules for a Great LinkedIn Photo

Marketing Psychology Dr. Gary Witt

This is the second part of the 20 Rules for selecting your LinkedIn photo, see “10 Rules” blog for more.

I did an analysis of over 400 LinkedIn pictures. In about half, LinkedIn members are using a picture (or lack of one) which is hurting them as they seek to make helpful contacts with others. Research shows that when our opinion based on a visual image is in conflict with what we read, we generally are more influenced by the image – so your bad picture can carry more weight with readers than your good profile!

10 MORE RULES FOR PICKING A PICTURE (see prior blog for “10 Rules”)

What are the problems that real LinkedIn photos have as seen through the lens of psychological marketing? Here are some Guidelines for analyzing your photo based on how well it markets you.

1) Don’t be Cute. Sitting on a stone donkey may be great for Facebook, but not for your professional image here! Here’s a guideline: If you wouldn’t attach the photo to your resume when you’re looking for a job, don’t use it on LinkedIn.

2) Focus. It is astounding how many pictures here are not in focus. Lighting and focus are the two sine qua non elements of any photograph you show to other people.

3) Color. An extraordinary number of shots are in black and white. There is no value whatsoever in a black and white photo, especially when it is surrounded by vibrant color photos. Others have such a color shift due to the type of lighting that faces don’t appear natural, “monster shots!”

4) No Frames. Some have put electronic “picture frames” around their photos. The problem here is that your head then becomes about half the size of all the surrounding heads! I saw one in which the person’s head only took up 1/9th of the available picture area! We want to be able to look the other person in the eye, hard to do with a small head. Frames don’t help you at all.

5) Your Pet is Not You. Some people have actually posted pictures of their pets instead of their own pictures, and most often the quality of the picture is pretty poor, like the wide shot of a black cat on a dark brown chair. You need to be in the shot, alone. Let your pet have its own account.

6) Oddities. This is a catch-all warning. A photo which shows you at a diagonal, either by leaning or the camera’s angle does not help you, it will only call attention to the photo while making others wonder what you were thinking. Also carefully scrutinize the background to be sure it doesn’t look like a tree is growing out of your head or there is a disembodied hand on your shoulder due to cropping, or a hundred other such oddities. One photo shows the top half of a short woman’s head appearing to grow out of the man’s shoulder. Also, if you must show other people in the background, carefully check out what all of them are doing. Finally, don’t use high or low camera angles, which can make you look domineering or weak. The camera should be roughly even with your face.

7) Expression. You can see all sorts of expressions in LinkedIn photos. Smiles are the most common by far, but some other expressions seem playful, flirty, serious, angry, and even gaseous! And a few are just plain scary, like the fellow with wide eyes and a sadistic grin! It is probably not wise, as in one photo, to have the hard expression of a cop who has just pulled you over. Choose your expression based on one thing – what personality image do you want to convey to people who don’t know you? What image will help you the most to get more connections? It is no surprise that people rate others higher on friendliness if their pictures are smiling. We like to be around people who are friendly, who seem nice. Your smile is your best calling card. Take a lot of smiling pictures, then pick the best one, never settle for just one or two shot to choose from!

8) Glasses. Certainly no problem themselves, but what they reflect can be. Too much straight ahead light on them and they’ll have so much glare your eyes aren’t visible. Again, scrutinize every element of your photo for problems. Taking the photo is just the first step for your final picture. Remember, people want to see your eyes, not your glasses!

9) Backgrounds. Generally, a plain background is best as it does not detract at all from your face. Patterned backgrounds, like a stone wall, a bookcase (remember to carefully vet the titles and knickknacks!), or other plain backgrounds are usually fine. Be careful of glass. There’s one picture of a person by a slanting window that shows a ghostly reflection of a man who is not in the shot. Windows are not good choices for a lot of reasons including different types of light, reflections, and what is happening outside. Keep their focus on you.

Don’t ever use a background that is confusing to people, they’ll spend their time trying to figure it out, like the picture of a man on a high ladder trying to hang something on something else (it is that confusing.) Finally, be careful of the color (or multicolor) of the background. Stay away from bright or neon colors, and if your hair is dark or you are wearing dark clothing, you don’t want a dark background, parts of you will just disappear.

10) Fix Your Photo. 95% of the photos I examined could be improved with basic editing software. Color, brightness, contrast, red-eye, sharpness, etc. can all be changed with dozens of free, simple programs (I find easiest to use.) Seldom will a picture right out of the camera be as good as it could be with basic editing. Even professional photographers on fashion shoots use high-end programs to make their original photos of models better, so why wouldn’t you do the same?

I hope these Rules for selecting a photo help you create a stronger image online.

You can find 10 more tips in part 2 of this blog. Click here.

In the e-book I wrote with Lon Safko (The Social Media Bible), 7.5 Secrets to Successful Blog, you can read more about selecting pictures and headlines for your blogs and ads. You’ll find it on Amazon at an amazingly low price!

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