Headshot Guide: How to Stand Out on Linkedin

Updated Dec 21, 20227 min
Headshot Guide: How to Stand Out on Linkedin

Headshot Guide: How to Stand Out on Linkedin

Elise GelwicksUpdated Dec 21, 20227 min
Headshot Guide: How to Stand Out on Linkedin


 🏆 Goal

Make a strong, positive impression on hiring managers and recruiters with the best headshot you can muster. 

📗 Reason to read

A Linkedin profile with a professional headshot on LinkedIn gets 14x more profile views and 36x more messages! It's the #1 most considerable bang-for-your-buck improvement you can make to your Linkedin profile.

🔑 Most important takeaway

Invest in getting a professional headshot taken to see your smiling face and upload it across the Internet.

⌚ Time to Complete

2 hours

✅ Done When

Your new professional headshot is uploaded to LinkedIn (and any other sites). 

Why Do This

We know, we know. You might not love getting your photo taken. Here's why you should do it anyway:

  • 14x more profile views and 36x more messages on LinkedIn. 36x!

  • Creates a strong, positive first impression on hiring managers, recruiters, future teammates, and people who will help you in the job search process. First impressions have an outsized impact on whether you get an offer or not from a company.

  • Everyone we work with is glad they did it! We regularly hear candidates who get 1-2 inbound messages from recruiters immediately after adding a professional headshot to Linkedin.

  • It's not even that difficult. Especially not with this handy guide. 

  • It can be kind of fun. Really :)

How To Get a Professional Headshot

Follow these steps at a high level! 

We'll walk through each one in detail below:

  1. Find a Photographer

  2. Get Ready

  3. Take Photos

  4. Edit & Pick

  5. Upload Everywhere


Find a Photographer

Hire a Professional

It's a common misconception that professional photographers are prohibitively expensive, or not very good, or slow, or something. 

None of those things are necessarily true. It's pretty easy in 2020 to hire a local professional photographer via a site called Snappr. They'll meet you locally, spend 30-60 minutes with you depending on your package, and share you back the edited results. Pretty straightforward. Their pricing starts at just $59.

To address a couple of common questions:

  • We understand you might feel uncomfortable about having your picture taken by a stranger. Rest assured that for anyone who is a professional photographer, making people feel comfortable is part of the job. 

  • Photographers on Snappr will meet you at a location of your choosing. Or, they can recommend one for you. 

  • Snappr supports most major metro areas in the US. We've had candidates work with them in NYC, Atlanta, San Francisco, and many places in between.

  • Go with a professional for the best and most reliable quality. It is also clearly the best option if you don't happen to have any tech-savvy photographer friends or don't want to bother them.

  • No, Placement doesn't make affiliate fees with Snappr. We just like them, and they've done an excellent job with lots of our candidates.


Some candidates we work with at Placement opt for the DIY route. Generally, this means working with a friend or family member who has a nice DSLR camera. In a real pinch, you can also make this work on a recent iPhone. 

If you're interested in going this route, take a look at some actual portrait photos this person has taken in the past. Make sure they line up with the style of what great looks like in a headshot photo.

Get Ready

There are a few essential qualities of top-notch headshots. Make sure you take these steps to maximize your opportunity to get a great picture.

Pick Your Location 🏡

You'll want to find a neutral background so that it's not distracting and the attention is on your face. Generally, a solid-colored wall in white, tan, light gray, pale yellow, or steel blue works excellent. You want it to feel warm and inviting.

Things that work great in the era of COVID are: outside city hall, outside a downtown office building, outside an art museum, a public park, or a backyard garden.

Think About Lighting ☀️

It's incredible how much difference lighting can make in the quality of a photo! You'll want to make sure there's clear, consistent light across your face. Natural light or studio light works best.

If you're opting outside, plan so you can take the photo during "golden hour". That means 1 hour after sunrise or 1 hour before sunset. Be sure to set your meetup time for 15 minutes early so you can be taking pictures at precisely the right time. It's incredible how quickly the light fades.

What to Wear 👔

You'll want to wear clothes that feel like interview clothes that match your industry. 

Not sure what that means? Go on Linkedin and look up the profiles of 5 people who do the exact sort of job you're interested in in the industry that you're interested in. Wear something that's more formal than the most casual of the five and less proper than the most formal of the 5. Can't go wrong with that.

A couple of tips:

  • Wear something solid colored so it doesn't distract from your face

  • Look through the past few photos of yourself that you loved. Observe the color shirt you were wearing - that's likely a good color for you.

  • For most jobs, a collared shirt looks great. Hard to go wrong with that.

  • If you're a woman, wear something that's high cut. Otherwise, it will look funny when you crop the photo to fit your face 

  • Try on what you're planning to wear and take a few test selfies on your phone the night before. Don't worry about the lighting or anything; just make sure the clothes look right and feel good.

Take Photos 📸

On the day of the photoshoot, take some time beforehand to make sure you're feeling happy. Hang out with a pet, say hi to a friend, listen to some fun pump-up music. Start your brain thinking about warm, happy thoughts.

Don't try to make the first few pictures any good. Just work with your photographer to get the background right, the lighting, and the face frame.

Have your photographer focus on your face and the tops of your shoulders. You're going to end up cropping the photo so that your head takes up the majority of the frame (it's called a headshot for a reason!). This might mean that they stand closer to you than you're used to having people stand. If it helps, have them take a couple of funny face ones first to get you comfortable.

Once you're ready to dive in, let your photographer know. Have them take about 15-20 photos fairly quickly. As they're taking pictures, think about the warmest, happiest, most confidence-building moments that happened recently in your life. Do your best to radiate warmth, happiness, and confidence. It sounds weird, but it works!

Oh, and be sure to look directly at the camera. Eye contact sells. 

Enjoy the process! We know it can feel a little bit uncomfortable to have photos taken of yourself but know that it will pay off in your job search.

Sean Headshot Comparison

Not all that glitters is gold

Just because you have high-quality photography doesn't mean every high-quality picture is a great headshot. The photo on the left has some issues:

  • Not making eye contact with the camera

  • Does not look happy or confident

  • The pose is not suitable for future cropping

The photo on the right is a slam dunk:

  • Has a warm, welcoming smile

  • Wearing professional clothing

  • Looks confident and sharp

Elise Headshot Comparison

We love selfies too, but not for headshots

We're all about selfies for Instagram and Facebook. But they just aren't the right fit for your headshot. Not only is the photo on the left a selfie, but it also:

  • Has an unprofessional background

  • It dimly lit

  • It isn't adequately centered around the face

The picture on the right is far better because:

  • It was taken by a professional (so obvious!)

  • The background isn't distracting

  • A smiling face is the focal point 

Alaina Headshot Comparison

Let the professionals handle the editing

Unless you're a professional photographer or photo editor, don't try to edit your headshot. Leave that to the experts! The photo on the left isn't the right fit for a headshot:

  • There's a generic color filter

  • It's not professionally taken

  • There's someone else visible in the image

The photo on the right is #headshotgoals:

  • The lighting is perfect

  • There's a neutral background

  • Your eye is drawn to the smiling face of the person in it

Anya Headshot Comparison2

This is not the time to be artsy

Even though the photo on the left has a nice background, it's not great for a headshot because:

  • It does not clearly show the person's face

  • She isn't smiling

We love the photo on the right (and recruiters would, too) because:

  • She's looking straight into the camera with a gorgeous smile!

  • The background is professional and not distracting

Yasa Headshot Comparison

Small Changes Make a Big Difference

Both of the pictures above show a warm, smiling person looking directly into the camera. The image on the left isn't quite right, though, because:

  • It isn't professionally taken

  • The background is distracting

  • There's food in the photo, which takes the focus away from her face

The headshot on the right is a keeper because:

  • It has a neutral background

  • Her head takes up most of the image (it's called a headshot, after all!)

Edit & Pick 😍

Assuming you hired a professional photographer, they'll primarily take care of the editing, making minor adjustments to the lighting and color. If not, you can use a free online photo editor like Pixlr if needed. 

Either way, you'll likely have a few different photos that you and your photographer like. Show them to a few friends, and pick the one with the most votes! Assuming, of course, that it makes you feel good too.

Almost everyone will need to crop the photo and Zoom in. It should feel like your photo is a little more zoomed in than is comfortable. At that level of zoom, you'll be zoomed in just enough!

Think about it this way: across Linkedin, Gmail, Twitter, and any other sites, you have the opportunity for an interviewer to see your face a few times before they meet you. This makes them more likely to feel comfortable with you, thus more likely to pass you on to the next round. The more zoomed in your photo is, the greater the effect here! 

Of course, do leave a tiny bit of whitespace. Still, you'll want your head to be taking up the majority of the frame in your picture. 


Once you have your final picture, you'll want to upload it all over the Internet. Consistency is a crucial driver of your brand.

Here's a long list of places to add it to, including some you might not think of right away:

  • LinkedIn

  • Email (ie Gmail)

  • Twitter 

  • Personal website 

  • iPhone contact photo

  • account

  • AngelList

  • Github

  • Future employer's Slack account :)

Professional Photo Power

Elise Gelwicks
Elise is a communications and emotional intelligence training consultant for companies and law firms

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