LinkedIn Photo Tips: The Why, What and What Happened?

11 LinkedIn Photo Tips You Need to Follow for LinkedIn and Business Success

You might think you should just make a LinkedIn account, upload a random profile pic or not even publish a photo of yourself, and off you go. This strategy, while quick and easy, will prevent you from reaping the full benefits of being on LinkedIn. Instead, you should be aware of and try to follow all of the LinkedIn photo tips that I will tell you here.

LinkedIn, like any other social media channel, is a social networking platform. This means that people are connecting with each other while revealing who they are and what they do. LinkedIn reminds you to do this when you log in by making sure your profile is 100% complete. Part of getting to 100% completion is uploading your picture, and here are all the LinkedIn photo tips you need to know about why you should upload your photograph, sizing tips for a successful upload, and what could happen to photographs and profiles if you’re not careful.

That’s right: Your profile photograph could be forcibly removed. Read on for more details.

1.) Yes, you need to upload a photo to your LinkedIn profile

The first of these LinkedIn photo tips should be the most obvious one!

There used to be some debate as to whether or not you should include your picture in your LinkedIn profile. The advice by some then was that including a photograph in LinkedIn profiles could mean that a company might not want to hire you, because the fact that they saw what you actually looked like could be used against them in a discriminatory lawsuit. 

Everyone who commented on that blog post I link to above said there was absolutely no truth behind that argument, and I have even heard from some employment lawyers that many of their clients pass the task of sourcing talent to an impartial 3rd party, within or outside of their organization, so that there are no potential issues here.

Regardless of the above argument, there are many fundamental reasons why you want to upload a photo to your profile if you haven’t done so already:

  • There are fake profiles on LinkedIn. A photograph shows that you are real, and it helps establish your social media credibility.
  • Why would you be on a social networking site and not display who you are? What are you afraid of? Failing to include a photo can make profiles seem suspicious or strange. In fact, I list this as the 1st thing in my 10 LinkedIn Profile Mistakes You Want to Avoid post.
  • A photo will help bring your LinkedIn profile to 100% completeness.
  • For your personal branding, a photograph is essential. And as they say, first impressions mean everything, and often our first impression is a visual one.

2.) Make sure your photo is within LinkedIn’s photograph requirements

This information actually comes straight from the source at Customer Support in Mountain View when I had problems uploading a photograph myself. Here are the requirements to pay particular attention to:

1. The file type is a PNG or JPG.

2. The file size is no larger than 8MB.

3. The pixel size is between 400 x 400 and 7680 x 4320.

If you still have trouble uploading pictures, additional advice indicated trying to use a different browser than what you normally use.

Now let’s move on to some more specific LinkedIn photo tips about your photo itself.

3.) Use an up-to-date photo

Making sure the photo you are using is up to date will ensure that you are putting your best foot forward, and providing potential connections, employers, and coworkers with a clear idea of what you really look like. This can make in-person meetings and even online conversations more honest and direct, and can help you seem as though you are more trustworthy.

If available, use professional headshots that are no older than 1 or 2 years.

4.) Take a headshot

Tempting though it may be to use a full-body shot on your phone, a full-body image does not deliver as clear a picture as to what someone looks like, and they are rarely used in professional settings, such as staff pages. To maintain a consistent sense of professionalism, mimic the industry standard for staff and professional images, and use a headshot, or a photograph that goes no lower than your shoulders.

Make sure to avoid anything that clearly comes from a personal phone or uses filters or photoshop.

5.) Look approachable

Do not stare down the camera, as though you are looking for a fight, or trying to intimidate a potential suitor into just walking away. The goal of LinkedIn is to improve connections and network with professionals in your given or preferred industry. Looking approachable in your business profile picture can further encourage potential connections to reach out to you–while an intimidating or intense headshot can have the exact opposite effect.

Smiling, looking into the camera, and letting your smile reach your eyes are all simple and effective ideas used to appear more approachable.

6.) Choose the right expression to best represent yourself (hint: smiles work best)

This is in line with looking approachable and friendly. After all, no one is looking for a coworker, employee, or team member who appears to be largely surly and unpleasant in their off time. Sixty years ago, a stern, serious-looking person might have been the ideal for a job recruiter, but these are no longer the kinds of shots that stand out.

Smiling into the camera and using an open, friendly expression is ideal for your LinkedIn profile photo, because it makes you appear to be a kind, friendly person and radiates confidence.

7.) Wear your normal professional attire.

Save the glamour shots and date night clothes for Instagram, and wear good quality, professional attire for your LinkedIn site. LinkedIn is considered a social network, but it is specifically geared toward professionalism, and you should mirror this in your profile’s photography.

8.) Look straight at the camera.

Looking off to the side of the camera can appear awkward, and can make it seem as though you are uncomfortable or unwilling to engage directly with the people looking at your profile. Although you should not stare down or glare into the camera, keeping your eyes trained on the lens as you smile will make it appear as though you are looking at your potential connections.

9.) Have a clean background.

Nothing will ruin LinkedIn portraits quite like having a muddied, cluttered, or distracting background. Avoid loud patterns, background pictures, and a large jumble of different colors in your camera’s field of vision, and try to take a photo in front of a neutral backdrop, such as a wall, fence, or designated area set up by professional photographers. Before taking any new picture, keep your background in mind, and make sure you have a plain background or at least keep your background simple.

10.) Make the picture about you and you alone – not your hobbies

While it can be useful to feature hobbies on LinkedIn profiles, your profile photo should highlight who you are as a professional connection. Take a clean, simple photo of your head, neck, and shoulders, and avoid pictures of your skiing or spending time with your beloved canine friends.

11.) Familiarize yourself with LinkedIn picture requirements

The final of these LinkedIn photo tips falls more into my advice based on what I have seen happen to some unlucky folks in the past.

A blog post of mine on why your LinkedIn account may be suspended has been getting a lot of views as well as comments from those who suddenly found that they were locked out of their accounts for no reason.

Imagine one day you noticed that your LinkedIn profile was naked, i.e. your profile picture was missing! I’ve never heard of this happening in Twitter or Facebook, but it has happened on LinkedIn.

First things first: I already mentioned why you don’t want to have a company logo or an irrelevant picture for your profile, so if you are still not using a personal photo, you may want to reconsider your strategy in light of the fact that your photo could be removed and your profile potentially “flagged” by LinkedIn. Otherwise, you may be asking for trouble.

The next thing that is worth mentioning is that anyone can go to a profile and, regardless of your connection status, and report to the “LI Authorities” that a photograph is either an advertisement (i.e. company logo), copyrighted material, inappropriate content, a misrepresentation, or “other.” This is probably the mechanism that alerts LinkedIn to “suspicious” photos.

I don’t plan on blocking the former President of the United States, but to show you how this works, note the “Report a photo” option that LinkedIn allows its users to do from any LinkedIn profile simply by clicking the Report / Block option which appears after clicking the More… button:

report someone on LinkedIn because of their photo

It is worth noting that LinkedIn has a clear Photo Policy in its User Agreement, which provides specific terms and rules for profile shots:

LinkedIn provides the opportunity for users to upload a photograph to assist other members in recognizing that person. As a professional networking site, there are guidelines to determine which types of photos are appropriate. We consider a photo appropriate as long as it does not contain content that is copyrighted or unauthorized for public distribution and does not contain offensive content. Additionally, if your photo is not an image of yourself or does not contain an actual photograph, it is considered inappropriate. Your photo has been flagged for inappropriate elements and has been removed from your profile.

Additionally, if your photo is not an image of yourself or does not contain an actual photograph, it is considered inappropriate. Your photo has been flagged for inappropriate elements and has been removed from your profile.

Normal users should not have any fear about the photographs that you use, but there are some people who like to use effects, like those you find on the Photo Booth application on a Mac or any picture-editing software, to make a statement about their personal brand. You see many of these types of profile pictures on other social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook. LinkedIn, however, is holding rigid to its policy of “professional photos.”

Even a gentleman who had an “Obamicon” of himself back in the day, the same profile picture that was on his Twitter page, recently had his photograph removed. I believe that the photograph definitely helps “to assist other members in recognizing that person” as pointed out in LinkedIn’s Photo Policy. Is it that disturbing that the picture had to be removed?

Should you follow my LinkedIn photo tips advice above you shouldn’t run into any issues like these, but just in case, I thought you should know!

Any other LinkedIn photo advice that you would like to add? Please drop them in the comments below.

Hero photo by Ryan Clark on Unsplash

Here's 11 LinkedIn photo tips together with advice on why you should upload a photo to your LinkedIn profile, photo requirements, and more.
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Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer is a leading authority on helping businesses through their digital transformation of sales and marketing through consulting, training, and helping enterprises large and small develop and execute on social media marketing strategy, influencer marketing, and social selling initiatives. President of the social media agency PDCA Social, Neal also teaches digital media to executives at Rutgers University, the Irish Management Institute (Ireland), and the University of Jyvaskyla (Finland). Fluent in Japanese and Mandarin Chinese, Neal is a popular keynote speaker and has been invited to speak about digital media on four continents in a dozen countries. He is also the author of 3 books on social media, including Maximize Your Social (Wiley), and in late 2019 will publish his 4th book, The Business of Influence (HarperCollins), on educating the market on the why and how every business should leverage the potential of influencer marketing. Neal resides in Irvine, California but also frequently travels to Japan.
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