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Create a Professional Online Profile Photo

Professional online photoYour photo is an important part of your online identity and when it comes to professional networking sites, it pays to make the right impression. Here’s how to get it right.

Why you need a picture

You don’t include a photo of yourself on your CV, so why upload one to LinkedIn?

LinkedIn is a social networking site with the purpose of connecting to others. Just like using your real name, you can’t establish social media credibility without revealing who you really are. Leave your profile with a grey box and people may be suspicious about accepting invitations; unsurprising given the number of fake profiles out there. To prove the point, LinkedIn profiles with photos receive 50-70 per cent more inquires than those without.

Last summer, LinkedIn made some changes to their profile page – one of them being a much larger and more prominent photo. Like it or not, your photo now takes up more space on your profile page, so it’s more important than ever to think about what yours conveys.

What your photo should look like

A head and shoulders shot is best (and is stipulated by LinkedIn) and should show you and you alone. While it’s tempting to trawl through existing photos, avoid any where you have to crop someone out or those taken on holiday (you standing next to a famous landmark won’t help your career progression unless you’re a tour guide). For these reasons, you may be better off having a photo taken especially for the purpose, or having it done professionally.

If you do decide to go with an existing image, make sure it’s recent and an accurate reflection of how you look now. If you turn up to an interview and look 10 years older and three stone heavier than you did in the image, how are they to trust anything you say?

First impressions

First impressions count, so follow the same advice for interviews: think about posture (sit up straight with your shoulders back) make sure your eyes are opened, relax and smile.

Wear something smart – whether you wear a shirt and tie will depend on the formality of the industry you’re in (or would like to be in). If in doubt, wear something you would to a real-life networking event where you’re hoping to impress recruiters.

Novelty ties and busy patterns are out but bright colours can make your image stand out and are more appealing than hiding in the shadows of greys or black and white. White can be draining so is generally best avoided.

Photo no-nos

A surprising number of people upload a cartoon, avatar or company logo to their profile page. As well as infringing LinkedIn rules, this is a bad idea. A business logo says that you’re only interested in pushing your product or services, rather than networking with others – a guaranteed turn off and instant way to lose any social media credibility you might have had.

Technical considerations

It may seem obvious, but blurry, dark, or low-res images are a no-no. If your initial photo is inadequate, no amount of post production or digital magic will produce a good result.

Invest in a tripod – or put the camera on a flat, stable surface – and make sure the shot is well lit. Natural lighting is best, avoiding strong back lighting (for example, with the subject sat in front of a window). Subtle side lighting is generally the most flattering. Remember to keep the background simple.

Images can be sharpened up in photo-editing tools, such as Photoshop – but don’t get carried away with adjusting hues or brightness. The natural look is always best.

Ask for feedback

If you’re not sure which shot to choose, ask friends or colleagues to help you choose.

‘Think about how you want people to perceive you, suggests recruiter and careers coach Aimee Bateman of Careercake.

Write down three words and choose a few photos. Ask people who will be honest with you to take a look at the photos you have chosen. Get them to write three words to describe that person (they obviously have to imagine they don’t know you).

‘If the three words they write down are very different to the ones you have written down, then you need to choose another photo. What we think is suitable isn’t always the case.’

Consistency is key

Social-media profiles are becoming increasingly important in building your business identity.

“It’s a hugely powerful branding tool – and you have to be very strategic about building it,” says Nicole Williams, connection director for LinkedIn. Your online identify and image is part of your personal brand – and with any brand consistency is key.

Once you’ve gone to the time and trouble to create a professional looking photo, it pays to use it across all your online accounts – such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Skype, forums etc.

For the sake of consistency that means choosing an image that will last several years – not one you will want to change every few months.

Another good reason to get it right first time.

Image: © Artur Marciniec – Fotolia.com

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