• Tips & Tricks
  • Aug 21, 2023

Stand Out on LinkedIn: 7 Tips for Professional Profile Photo

You want to make a great first impression on LinkedIn, so you need an authentic profile photo that captures who you are.

A professional yet personable headshot can speak volumes about your brand and expertise.

But how do you take a photo that looks genuine and approachable, not stiff or overly posed? You want to come across as a real person that others would enjoy connecting and collaborating with.

Here are some tips to help you stand out on LinkedIn by taking a profile photo that is uniquely yours.

Why Does Your LinkedIn Profile Photo Matter?

Your LinkedIn profile photo is one of the first things people notice about your profile. It creates an instant impression, so make sure it’s an authentic one that represents you professionally.

A great profile photo shows you smiling and engaged. It should be a close-up of your head and shoulders, wearing professional business attire. Having a simple, clutter-free background helps keep the focus on you.

Keep your expression warm and open. A smile that reaches your eyes will make you appear more likable and approachable. Tilt your head slightly and lean forward a bit towards the camera. This simple trick will make you appear more engaged and enthusiastic.

An authentic, high-quality headshot is one of the best ways to stand out on LinkedIn and make personal connections that can lead to new opportunities.

1. Be Authentic: Dress Professionally but Stay True to Yourself

When choosing an outfit for your profile photo, go with business or business casual attire in solid, jewel-toned colors that you would actually wear to work.

For most industries, a button-down shirt, slacks or a knee-length skirt, and possibly a blazer are good options. Ladies, a nice blouse and pants or a skirt will also work well.

Keep accessories minimal and avoid flashy patterns or logos. You want the focus to be on you, not your clothes! Also, make sure your outfit is pressed and lint-free. An ironed shirt and neat appearance show you pay attention to details.

Even though you want to look professional, you still want to look like yourself. Don’t choose an outfit that you would never normally wear just because you think it looks more “professional.” Your authentic self will shine through, so pick something you feel comfortable and confident in.

A friendly smile, good eye contact, and an open, relaxed posture can help you appear more approachable and engaging.

With the perfect outfit that’s both polished and personal, a flattering hairstyle, and your most natural smile, you’ll have a profile photo that is professional yet authentic.

2. Choose a Simple, Solid-Colored Background

Choose a Simple, Solid-Colored Background

For your LinkedIn profile photo, choose a simple, solid-colored background. Avoid busy patterns, logos, or anything distracting in the background. A plain wall in your home or office usually works great.

Keep the background neutral and complementary to your outfit. Light blue, gray, and off-white are popular, versatile options. They provide enough contrast for your face and upper body without overpowering.

Steer clear of black or white background which can seem harsh. They don’t provide enough contrast and your face may blend into the background.

Avoid having the background and your outfit be the exact same color. There needs to be some contrast between you and the background so you stand out prominently in the photo.

For outdoor photos, a basic sky background also works. Just make sure there are no harsh shadows on your face and that the lighting is even. Natural, indirect light is the most flattering. Avoid direct overhead midday sun.

In the end, you want a simple background that highlights you – your smile, your eyes, and your enthusiasm. Your authentic personality should shine through, not the background. 

Keep it clean and let your image be the main focal point. 

A great profile photo is one of the best ways to make a great first impression and stand out on LinkedIn.

3. Use Natural Lighting or External Lighting Setups

External Lighting Setups

Using natural light is ideal for a professional headshot. If shooting indoors, place yourself facing a window. Make sure the window light is evenly lighting your face—no harsh shadows. 

For outdoor shoots, shoot during the golden hours just after sunrise or just before sunset when the light is soft and warm.

If natural light isn’t possible, use a basic three-point lighting setup. Place a key light, fill light, and backlight around your subject. 

The key light is your main light source and should be placed in front of and slightly to the side of the subject. The fill light should be placed on the opposite side of the key light to soften shadows. The backlight should be placed behind the subject to create separation from the background.

Diffuse your lights by bouncing them off walls or using umbrellas to create soft, even lighting. Make sure there are no dark shadows on the face. The goal is for the lighting to look as natural as possible.

For the best results, consider using additional tools like a light reflector or a ring light.

A light reflector can help bounce more light onto the subject from the key light. A ring light casts even light onto the face, creating a flattering glow and catchlights in the eyes.

Using proper lighting, whether natural or artificial, is key to an authentic, professional headshot.

4. Frame Yourself From the Waist Up

Frame Yourself From the Waist Up

For a professional yet authentic LinkedIn profile photo, frame yourself from the waist up. This focal length is ideal for a few reasons:

  1. It’s a familiar and natural framing for a headshot. We’re used to seeing the upper body and face in photos, so this won’t seem awkward or zoomed in.
  2. It includes your shoulders and hints at your upper body. This gives a sense of your overall physical presence without showing too much. Just make sure your shoulders and chest are facing the camera straight on.
  3. It draws focus to your face. At this focal length, your face will be the central feature of the photo. Your facial expression and eye contact are key to connecting with your viewers and building trust.
  4. Have someone else take the photo if possible. While selfies can work in a pinch, a photo taken by another person will likely look more professional. See if a friend or family member can snap a few shots for you.
  5. Use natural lighting and a simple background. Stand facing a window for soft, even lighting on your face. A neutral-colored wall makes an ideal, distraction-free background.
  6. Smile warmly and make eye contact. A slight smile and friendly eye contact will make you appear open, confident, and approachable. But keep your smile looking natural rather than exaggerated.
  7. Review the options and choose your favorite. Take multiple shots at different angles and compare them to pick one that you feel is the most authentic and professional representation of you.

Frame yourself from the waist up, focus on your face, use natural lighting, and smile—you’ll have a profile photo that helps you stand out for all the right reasons.

5. Make Eye Contact and Smile Genuinely

When taking your professional profile photo, make eye contact and smile genuinely at the camera. This conveys confidence, openness, and friendliness.

Looking directly at the camera engages the viewer and creates a personal connection. However, don’t stare intensely—a soft, relaxed gaze is most natural and appealing. Glance away from the camera briefly if needed to relieve any tension and appear more at ease.

A warm, genuine smile makes you appear more likable, trustworthy, and competent. Think of something pleasant to stimulate an authentic smile. Let your true personality shine through! 

A tense, forced smile will seem insincere.

Keep your smile subtle rather than an over-the-top grin. A smile that crinkles the corners of your eyes is ideal. If showing teeth, do so naturally. Practice your smile in a mirror to achieve the right balance of eye contact and an authentic, engaging smile.

An authentic yet professional image makes a memorable first impression.

6. Check Your Posture and Facial Expression

For your LinkedIn profile photo, check your posture and facial expression. How you present yourself makes a big first impression.

Sit up straight with your shoulders back to appear confident and engaged. Have a slight smile on your face—not too big, but enough to seem friendly and approachable.

Make eye contact with the camera so you appear open and sincere.


  • Slouching or hunching over. This can make you seem uninterested or lackadaisical.
  • Crossing your arms. This body language comes across as closed-off or defensive.
  • Looking away from the camera. If you’re not making eye contact, you’ll seem distracted or aloof.
  • An exaggerated smile. A smile that’s too wide might appear insincere or forced. A slight, natural-looking smile is best.

Your profile photo is your chance to show your personality and professionalism. So sit up, smile, and look at the camera! You’ve got this.

7. Get a Second Opinion From a Trusted Friend or Colleague

A professional profile photo is your chance to make a great first impression. Ask a close friend or trusted colleague to review your options and provide honest feedback.

They know you best and can test which photo is the most authentic representation of who you are.

When reviewing the photos, consider these questions:

  • Does this photo reflect my personality and professionalism? You want a photo that shows you as approachable yet competent.
  • Do I appear engaged and friendly? A warm smile and eye contact with the camera can help you appear more likable and personable.
  • Does the lighting, background, and image quality look professional? A simple, clutter-free background and adequate lighting are important. Blurry or poorly composed photos will not make a good impression.
  • Would I want to connect with the person in this photo? Your photo should make you appear open to networking and building new relationships.
  • Does anything about my appearance seem distracting or off? Double-check that there are no spots on your clothes, crumbs on your face, or other imperfections that draw attention away from you.

Getting input from someone who knows you well is invaluable. 

They can provide an objective assessment and help determine which photo will make the best first impression on anyone viewing your LinkedIn profile.

Their feedback will give you confidence that your photo is an authentic representation of your professional brand.

FAQs: Your Questions on Professional Profile Photos Answered

You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers. Here are some of the frequently asked questions about professional profile photos:

1. Can I use a selfie in my Professional Linkedin Profile Picture?

Selfies are casual and usually poorly lit. It’s best to avoid them for a professional profile. Have someone else take your photo, or use a tripod and timer.

2. Should I smile?

A natural, authentic smile is best. Don’t force an exaggerated smile. A relaxed, friendly smile shows you’re approachable and confident.

3. How should I dress?

Dress in professional business attire, like what you’d wear to an interview. For most profiles, a button-down shirt and slacks or a blazer for men, and a blouse and slacks or knee-length skirt for women are good options.

4. What about the background?

Choose a simple, uncluttered background. A plain wall or plants are good options. Make sure there are no distracting patterns. You can also use Slazzer to remove the background completely.

5. Do I need a professional headshot?

For the best results, consider hiring a professional photographer to take a high-quality headshot. They can help ensure proper lighting, framing, and retouching. If budget is a concern, at a minimum have someone else take your photo, in front of a simple background, wearing professional attire and with good lighting.

6. How often should I update my photo?

It’s a good idea to update your professional profile photo every 2-3 years. Subtle changes in appearance, style, and age are natural over time. An updated photo helps you continue to present a professional image to your network and connections.


You’ve got this. Now that you know how to take an authentic and engaging LinkedIn profile photo, put those tips into action. With the right photo, you’ll be well on your way to maximizing your LinkedIn presence and taking your career to the next level.

Happy Clicking!


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