9 Tips for a Great DIY LinkedIn Headshot

Last week I wrote about how important it is to have a professional looking photograph on your LinkedIn profile. If you're looking for a new job or in a sales role, it's worth the investment of a couple hundred dollars to ensure hiring managers and potential customers see you at your professional best.

Though the pro photographers know how to light and pose their subjects for the best effect and can use software to do touch-ups on photos when needed, using a professional is not an option for everyone. Drawing on my years working with professional headshot photographers (including my husband), I've compiled a cheat sheet on how to get the best results when you're shooting your own LinkedIn photo. (I recommend you start by reading my previous post "5 Steps to a Great LinkedIn Photo...". It has a lot of guidelines on preparing for your shoot.)

Here are my DIY tips for an attractive and professional LinkedIn headshot:

1. Recruit an amateur photographer.

Make sure they have a steady hand and lots of patience. It helps to also work with someone who is relaxed, positive and can get you to smile easily.

2. Experiment with poses and expressions.

Try a few different facial expressions and poses to see what looks best. What feels good doesn’t always look good and vice versa. You can practice in the mirror, but taking and reviewing test shots in the camera gives you the best idea of what looks good in an image.

3. Avoid the "mug shot" pose.

Turn your body away from the camera about 45 degrees and look over your shoulder to face the camera. (It feels a little weird but looks good.) This avoids the “mug shot” look of being parallel to the camera. Try it from both sides. It's not a myth that people have a "good" side -- figure out which side is yours.

4. Select a great background and avoid bunny ears!
 Neutral backgrounds are best where there’s nothing behind you that will take the focus off you. Nothing is worse than when you get a great shot of YOU then realize it looks like something in the background is growing out of your head or someone has photo-bombed you.
 Select a background doesn’t clash or blend in with what you’re wearing. Make sure there’s enough contrast between your hair and outfit and the background. (e.g., if you have black hair and are wearing a dark suit, don’t choose a black wall as your background.)
5. Framing is key.

Have your photographer position you in the frame from about mid-chest up. Make sure that there’s ample space around your head and shoulders in the frame to crop the way that you want. Even if you want more of an extreme close-up photo for Linkedin, you can create that in editing rather in the original photo. More space in the frame gives you more options later.

6. To flash or not to flash?
 Try the photos with flash and without. If you’re outside, don’t have the sun at your back or if you’re inside, don’t stand in front of a brightly lit room or lamp. Both scenarios will cause you to be back-lit and be in shadow. Also avoid harsh overhead lights or mid-day sun as it will create dark shadows on your face.

If you choose to shoot outside, the best times to shoot are early (just after dawn is ideal) or in the hour before sunset. These are called the golden hours because the light is perfect for great photos. Avoid shooting outside at mid-day as the overhead sun can cause very severe shadows. If you must shoot outside during the day, try to find a place in the shade.

7. Sit up tall and smile.

Pretend that you have a string tied to the top of your head and that someone is pulling it straight up. This will help you have good posture and look slimmer in your photo. Try a variety different facial expressions – though an expression may feel good, it may not convey the impression that you want to broadcast. Think about how you’d like people to perceive you professionally and try to project that in with your gaze, smile and demeanor. A few expressions to try are broad smile with teeth, medium smile with some teeth showing, closed mouth smile and neutral expression. Check the images in the camera frequently as the photo shoot takes place so you can adjust your expressions and poses to get the best image.

8. Turtling, what it is and why it's important for a good shot.

Turtling is something that you can do in photos to look younger and slimmer -- all the celebrities in Hollywood know this secret. Do you I have your attention now? Turtling lengthens the jaw line and gives more visual definition between your face and your neck, thus making you look thinner. In order to turtle, you just stick your neck out towards the camera like a turtle, keeping the rest of your body in its original place. When doing this, be sure to keep your chin down also. It feels weird but looks good. Try it!

9. Use filters for the best effect.
 Once you and your photography partner have captured a bunch of good photos, play around with filters. Look at the contrast, tints, and saturation levels as well as the crop to see what looks best. Try black & white and color to see which appeals to you most. Professional photographers use many techniques to take a photo from average to great. Don't hesitate to use the tools at your disposal to make you look your best. Just a word of caution... unless you're working in the creative field, don't go too extreme with the filters and crops. Know your audience and what will appeal to them.
Now that you've absorbed these DIY headshot photo tips, practice your turtle and get ready for your close-up!

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