What Does Your LinkedIn Profile Picture Say About You?

What Does Your LinkedIn Profile Picture Say About You?

When you were growing up you were probably told by your parents “Don’t judge on first impressions” and “Never judge a book by its cover”.  Well whether your parents were right or not isn’t important; what’s important is that you’ve been ignoring that advice ever since!

I mean be honest now – when you meet someone for the first time you make assumptions and draw conclusions. You might be open-minded enough to park those first impressions until you get to know the person better but the point is you made initial judgments.

So let’s turn our attention to LinkedIn and the sometimes dreaded profile picture. The first thing to accept is that people are going to look at it. Not only are they going to look at it but  they are going to click on it in an effort to make the picture bigger and see you better.

You can upload a smaller picture if you like but I know for myself, and I suspect you will agree with me,  that when you click on a profile picture and it doesn’t expand it’s a little disappointing.

And I strongly suspect that when you created your LinkedIn profile ‘disappointment’ wasn’t the emotional reaction you were aiming  to create  in your audience!

So people are going to click on your picture, enlarge it and then draw conclusions. Totally mistaken, inaccurate or biased those impressions might be but at that time, without knowing you personally, those impressions will form the basis for the viewers opinions of you.

So with that thought in mind what type of picture should you use? Well first up let’s consider the rules. In the User Agreement that you accepted when you joined LinkedIn you will find the official rules for profile pictures; namely:

Don’t undertake the following:

Upload a profile image that is not your likeness or a head-shot photo;

Clause 10.B.6 LinkedIn User Agreement Amended 16 June 2011

So that immediately rules out logos, group or couple shots and in fact even full body shots of yourself!

Now you might be tempted to say ‘So what?’ well LinkedIn are within their rights, and I have known them do it, to freeze a person’s account until such time as they upload a more suitable photograph. You have been warned!

My observation is that whilst the rules are very clear i.e. ‘head-shot’ only, LinkedIn only tend to take action when either the picture includes other people or it contains a company logo.

The good news is that even with a head shot you can convey quite a range of impressions and, if I’m really honest, this isn’t 1984 and an Orwellian state so you should be okay to have an upper body shot which gives you even more scope for creating the impression you want. (Please note that if you go this route and LinkedIn take exception to it I accept no liability – break the rules at your own risk!)

Before we go any further it might be good for you to quickly have a look at your profile picture and consider how closely it follows the rules above.


Consider what your current picture says about you

So what type of impression do you want to create? First up it should be the ‘real you’ and by that I mean the real work you. Consider what you are actually like in business. Are you a formal, by the rules individual, a serious business professional who is always keen to promote the right image or a dynamic individual who is full of energy?

The following three pictures accurately portraying each of those character types. Notice how the background, lighting and pose have been chosen to create a specific impression.

Gerald’s full profile                        Paul’s full profile                          Richard’s full profile

(As an aside Paul’s company GrassGreener, based in Leeds, West Yorkshire, England is recruiting (as at 8 March 2012) for graduate headhunters –

Click here for details


Some people are just fun to be with, naturally full of life and bubbly – even at work! That’s the rare type of person who can pull off a casual photo on LinkedIn

Patrycja’s full profile

I believe the above is a holiday snap yet it perfectly capturing this Patrycja’s friendly and open personality.

And whilst it doesn’t say ‘formal corporate’ it really doesn’t want to be as the audience she is looking to attract are not ‘formal corporate’. As a recruiter in a specialist field she is seeking to attract candidates who might be put off by an image that was too formal. A very popular and successful consultant; this picture works well for her.


I like black and white photographs and I think if you are looking to add a touch of class and difference you can easily do it by taking the colour out!

Chris’ full profile 

Also with this picture the angle creates an original image. Many years ago when I was at art college my photography tutor gave us all a hard time for taking portrait pictures that were head on to the subject. He made the point quite forcibly that

“a photo booth in Boots will take your photo for your passport like that – surely you can be more creative than a machine!”

Only do it if it fits your personality though – Chris likes to think outside of the box when he recruits so it fits him.


Ahem…well here we go quite far away from the rules so I repeat that I’m not necessarily recommending taking a photo like this but it is worth considering the impressions they make. Each of them creates an impact and reflects the personality of the individuals to a degree.

Dan’s full profile 

Kathryn’s full profile

Jason’s full profile

If you chose to use a picture like the above then be aware that people are going to talk to you about the picture – very often as the first thing that they say! If you don’t want to have that conversation then don’t use that type of picture!

As an aside I’ve taken screen shots of the photos above to give you a feel for the true impression these pictures make when first clicked on. Click on them to see them at the full size they appeared on my screen.

ACTION POINT take some time to consider the impression you would like to create with your profile picture and then take some time to create that perfect photo!

SECOND ACTION POINT I’m always happy to accept LinkedIn invitations so if you’d like to connect then click the picture below (I do wonder what impression it gives you!) and send me an invitation (and if you need an email address then use stephen.hart@edenchanges.com)

THIRD ACTION POINT (This one is optional) Email Edenchanges and ask for details of our personalised LinkedIn and social media training and consulting – we’d love to work with you! Email at enquiries@edenchanges.com 

Until next time;

Stephen Hart

5 comments on “What Does Your LinkedIn Profile Picture Say About You?

  1. Quora says:

    LinkedIn pictures: clean and professional or flavorful and creative?…

    A GOOD suit and tie picture will make you stand out – just think Humphrey Bogart or, if you want a more modern example, Daniel Craig! You need to consider what you audience will react well to so look at your business and your industry and consider what…

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