All things being equal, if you’re looking at LinkedIn for a contractor, freelance, employee or partner and you have the choice between someone with a profile showing a picture and someone without a picture, you’ll probably choose the person with a picture. If the choice is between the person with a good picture and the person with a bad picture, all other things being equal, you’ll choose the person with a good picture.
So what’s the difference between a good picture and a bad picture? The answer to that question depends on the individual making the judgment. You can never know what personal influences and prejudices will affect their judgment, but you can assess the professional and social expectations and seek to meet them. A professional profile picture is not a portrait and it’s not an opportunity for self-expression. A professional profile photograph is there to market you as a person, a professional, a provider of specific services. A professional profile photograph is a marketing asset.
Create a Brief for Your Profile Portrait to Meet
You should be very clear in your mind about what your picture is for. Whether the photographer is a professional or a colleague, you both need to remember that you’re not creating something just to fill a hole in a webpage.
Here are three questions to consider. The nearer you can get to answering them, the closer you are to knowing what you want.
i) Who do you want to address through the picture? (Target audience)
ii) What do you want them to take from seeing the picture? (A single-minded message)
iii) What picture will provoke ii), from i)?
Of course you can save time by commissioning a professional photographer, it’s our job to create images that fulfill a specific purpose.
Who’s Your Audience?
With whom do you wish to connect on LinkedIn? Your audience might be potential clients and customers, the senior team in a particular organisation, or recruiters and head-hunters. If you can envisage your target as one person, real or imagined so much the better, it’s easier to think through what picture might work and what might turn them off.
What’s the Take Away?
This is what you want to leave with the person seeing your profile picture. It could be a message like ‘I can solve your problem’ or ‘I am an expert in this field’. Or it could be a feeling like ‘you’d like to meet me’ or ‘I’ll fit in your organisation’. Ultimately, you probably want people to get in touch. The purpose of this post is to help you get a profile picture that reinforces whatever objective you have for your LinkedIn presence.
What Picture Will Help Achieve Your Goal?
This is the nub of it, and the hardest to answer. The visual language available in a profile portrait is quite restricted; smile, stance, dress, location. But, within each of those there many possibilities, and of course the right combination depends on you and your objective. Always concentrate on the output, not the input – so not which tie looks best, but how will my target audience be influenced. Conceiving the right profile picture to take involves imagination – put yourself in the shoes of your target, imagine seeing this (yet to be taken) photograph and think about how you would feel and what you would take out of seeing it. If this all sounds a bit much, spend some time looking at stranger’s profile photographs and ask yourself;
- What do I think?
- How do I feel?
- How has my impression of this person been changed by looking at the picture?
Then think about your answers to the questions – is that how you want people to feel when they look at your profile picture? If not, keep looking until you find one that does! Once you’ve found a picture that you think works in your own terms, you can use it as a template for your own profile photo.
I came to portrait photography from being a creative in the BBC. I interpreted briefs from marketing and developed ideas to deliver a defined message to stimulate a response or action in a defined audience. A good profile portrait picture on your LinkedIn page will help you do the same, it will be a marketing asset. Every picture will tell a story, make sure it tells the right story.