April 15, 2015 Nik Livadas

LinkedIn Picture Tips

By now you know the importance of good LinkedIn pictures.
I’m not going to waste any time talking about why a good Linkedin photo matters in this day and age.
You’re ready for the useful info, so let’s dig in!

1. Cropping LinkedIn pictures

There’s 2 conflicting best practices out there on profile/avatar headshot photo composition.

1) Pro photographers recommend using the rule of thirds so that your eyes are approximately 1/3rd from the top of the image.
LinkedIn cropA

2) Social Media experts recommend a tighter crop, so that when social networks reduce your photo to a teeny-tiny thumbnail, you will be more recognizable.

LinkedIn cropB

Both are technically correct, so I recommend keeping 2 variations of the same profile pic.
For Twitter and Google I use a tight crop, and for LinkedIn I use the formal portrait.

For Facebook I use something more informal and spontaneous.
There is no “right way” but there is psychological science behind how people interpret faces.

2. LinkedIn Picture Selection

What you consider to be your best photo, may not be your best. Maybe you have an entire folder of possibilities to choose from and can’t decide.
Enter crowdsourcing. One of my favorite new websites of 2015 is PhotoFeeler.com (via @kmin #StartTODAY.)
I even borrowed the photo of it’s creator, Anne Price for the example above.

PhotoFeeler is like a ‘Hot or Not’ voting community for Linkedin pics. Don’t roll your eyes, it’s actually extremely useful.

This website allows you to upload photos of yourself for the site’s users to rate. There are different criteria that make for a good Facebook or dating profile photo.
For the purpose of selecting a LinkedIn photo, other business people are rating your submission based on their perception of your trustworthiness, intelligence, and competence.

The people who rate and view your pictures can be more critical than your friends and family, but but generally helpful and friendly.
We all want to help each other do our best.

You’re going to want as many votes as possible in order to get a clear consensus.
I recommend voting on a bunch of other user’s pictures to earn the required credits for a “very precise sample” size quality.

If you don’t like the whole voting process, ask your friends who are on LinkedIn for help.

3. LinkedIn Picture Feedback and Results

Ok, I’ll open up and share with you my results.

At MetricModel.com we used this color scheme in our branding.
MM LinkedIn Photo
There first thing I learned from the PhotoFeeler community is that getting creative with b&w and color made an impression, but not a good one.
I got 1 “Great photo!” canned response. 4 People use the canned response, “Would like it better with a different background.” and the rest wrote it out to make the point.

  • The B&W on a blue background just seems so unprofessional.
  • Not sure how I feel about the blue background….. but great photo of you. Friendly and relatable yet able to get the job done
  • I don’t like the background with the black and white photo. It looks odd.
  • Background too dominant
  • Would like it better with a different background. the gray-scale and background makes the image look a little funky to me, but that’s just my opinion
  • I like the greyed out image, not the blue background.
  • don’t use the blue background

My second submission was the original photo from Adapt Courseware.
It’s very traditional because we marketed to conservative college administrators.
I wondered if the PhotoFeeler voters would prefer this done-to-death backdrop.
LinkedIn AC Pic1
The Comments were mixed and most used a canned response.

  • Great photo! (x8)
  • Would like it better with a more natural background. (x3)
  • “Sets an impersonal, cardboard cut-out tone overall”

Next, I tried Photoshopping in a different background. I used a stock photo of a retail environment from a recent video production project we completed for a client.
What a difference a different background can make! The numbers don’t lie:

LinkedIn Frank
Most of the comments were positive. There was one canned response, but the rest were personal.

  • Great photo! Just perfect.
  • Would like it better with a different background.
  • Works well!
  • Great photo!
  • Too sharp/shopped.
  • Background is a little distracting. But GREAT photo.
  • I really like this photo. The quality is spot on.
  • Great expression, good lighting, background is very distracting because of the bright areas that pull my eye away from the face.

Lastly, I wanted to know what the voters would think of a tightly cropped version of the same photo.

Cropped LinkedIn Headshot
  • Nice!
  • Great photo! (X3)
  • Would like it better with a different background. (x3)
  • Nice clean, confident look.
  • Would like it better zoomed out farther away.
  • Good headshot photo. Background is a bit busy, but because it’s out of focus, it works.

There was a noticeable dip in Competency and Likability when I was “zoomed in.” People don’t want to be that close to you.
As a 48px by 48px thumbnail, I think it works: LinkedIn Photo

Does the idea of being rated by strangers seem fun or weird you out?
Do you disagree with any of these tips on LinkedIn picture selection?

About Nik Livadas

As a well-rounded native, I’ve developed the acumen required to chief various tech-tribes — 1.0 & 2.0 web-firms, eCommerce shops, eLearning providers, and adaptive eduTech startups. Since 2001, I’ve helped savvy CEOs and CMOs from NYC to LA conceive and execute award-winning digital, automate action after analysis, and ultimately make an exit.