LinkedIn Profile Pictures – Colour or Black and White?
I was working with a recruiter last month who was interested in having a new photograph for their LinkedIn profile. I was happy to oblige, it’s something I’ve done for other clients, so I took some pictures for the consultant to choose from.
Now the company policy is that all photographs on LinkedIn need to be in black and white so the consultant, Louise Axon, picked the above right image as her new LinkedIn profile picture.
(Louise is a head-hunter who operates within the furniture and medical devices sectors)
We were all quite happy with the outcome and none of us thought anything of it. Until about a week later when I was at another client’s office who said that they knew that black and white pictures got you more views on LinkedIn.
Now I am aware, because LinkedIn have told me, that having a photograph increases your numbers of hits by up to 40% but I am not aware of any statistics which show black and white being superior to colour in this respect.
So I thought I’d do some market research … and I posted both images as a status update and invited my network to cast a vote and share their thoughts. The response was amazing!
There ended up being over 400 comments on the update and some very interesting observations made which I thought I’d share below:
“You should consider a tighter crop as with profile images it’s all about the eyes and facial engagement”
Olivia Brabbs, Photographer
Several people echoed Olivia with the suggestion that the pictures, either one, could do with a sharper crop. Something that on reflection I would agree with. I think this shows the value of having an editor or at least sharing your image with someone else before you upload it.
Black and white is so last century
“There is a reason we all got rid of our old B&W TV’s. Think about that.”
Wade Rohloff, Safety Consultant and Illustrator
“Black and white makes her look like the photo was taking in 1930 or there about”
Chileshe Mulenga, Executive assistant
I’m a big fan of classic black and white movies – no one ever looked cooler than Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca but, and I concede the point, such movies are from a while back. (Although I would argue there is a difference between ‘old fashioned’ and ‘classic’!)
It has been mentioned to me, by several people, that they feel that black and white pictures can become ‘samey’ and the very rigid ‘corporate authorised’ images that some companies, particularly recruiters it seems, go for can make everyone look the same.
Playing devil’s advocate however perhaps the modern world is so used to vibrant colours and marketing that black and white is just a little ‘old school’ now? Clearly from the comments that we have had some people would argue that.
Personally I feel that the black and white images can look good, sharp and even modern but black and white images have to be done in the right way and with a little thought – more of that below.
People will judge what you wear
“Neither, the young lady’s top might be considered too revealing for a professional LinkedIn profile photo.”
Steve Elliott, VP, Chief Financial Officer
Steve was the most outspoken about things but both Louise and I got private messages from a couple of people who felt her picture was, to various degrees, inappropriate.
Now with the best will in the world I think that’s ridiculous. We are not living in the 1950’s anymore and in my opinion Louise is professionally attired and perfectly presentable. That said I asked for opinions so being more neutral I think it’s worth noting that not everyone will have the same level of acceptability as you so consider your market and what is acceptable in your professional industry.
I certainly see plenty of images on LinkedIn that I feel are not appropriate for a professional business image! I wrote about that here – Five LinkedIn Profile Picture Mistakes to Avoid
As a counter other people had, in my opinion, a more modern and realistic mindset;
“After some of the pictures I have seen on LinkedIn, this is one of the most professional”
Reg Russam, Recruiter
Reg also went on to say:
“Funnily enough, I was looking at a possible human resources candidate yesterday and her LinkedIn picture was her in a bikini, I’ll be honest, it sort of put me off contacting her – especially with employers scowering the internet for backgrounds etc.”
The point is this – people will judge so you have to be happy that you are appearing professional and appropriate for yourself and your market.
Get it done professionally
“If a portrait isn’t created correctly for B&W then it should be color. But I could show you portraits I’ve created just for B&W that would never look as good in color. The photo seen here should be in color.”
Russell Hansen, Master Photographer
Now many moons ago I went to art college and I was taught to use a camera – that doesn’t make me a photographer it makes me someone who has a very little knowledge of how to take a good picture … ultimately if you want a really good photograph then, like most things in life, go to a professional.
And if you can’t do that then go to someone like me who has something of an idea of what he is doing. Photography is one of those areas where a little knowledge goes a long way and an enthusiastic amateur can be a perfectly acceptable option.
People see the details
“The eyes of the lady, being dark, seem more intense in the color version.”
Martin Fernandez, Graphic Designer
So people are looking at the fine details! Additionally several people commented that the button on the sleeve was distracting and others commented on the lipstick being noticeable with some people liking that and some not.
So details get noticed – I had manipulated the colour image to boost the reds so the lipstick was a design choice but I had missed the button. Another prompt to have an editor or at least someone who checks over your image before you upload it.
It’s all about the PR and your personal brand
Your LinkedIn image represents your personal professional brand so consider your image with care. Several people commented that black and white gave a more professional but colder feel to the image whilst the colour one was warmer.
It was suggested that some markets would welcome colour or black and white more depending on their cultures. The emotional impact of your picture definitely needs to be considered and how that fits into the bigger personal brand that you are striving to create needs to be considered.
A couple of people, including Liesbeth Leysen, Director of Public Relations and Media congratulated me on creating PR and marketing for Louise (and myself) through this exercise – a charge I can neither deny nor confirm!
I would like to highlight that Louise did not share this update on her network as she didn’t want to be mistaken as an attention seeker. She is much more interested in establishing herself as the competent recruiter that she is!
And this was a decent picture
Consider the amount of discussion, debate and criticism that was provoked by this image and further consider that at the end of the day this is a fairly decent photograph of Louise. It doesn’t commit any of the usual profile picture sins e.g. no one else is in the picture, it’s a clear image, it’s been taken specifically for LinkedIn not just copied over from Facebook etc.
So it might be worth looking at your image and considering how well it measures up and how open it is to criticism!
And the verdict
I laboriously counted the votes and I can announce that the winner is as shown below!
So 39% more people preferred colour to black and white. Now that might just be a reflection on this particular image so I wonder if it reflects a wider preference these days?
What do you think – not just with regards to this image but with LinkedIn profile pictures in general – which do you prefer, black and white or colour?
Feel free to share your thoughts below .
Finally thank you to everyone who commented on Louise’s image and to Louise for acting as a research specimen! As a result of the exercise and the feedback this final image was produced for Louise to use:
To be clear to the hecklers that we have had message us during this exercise – this was not a vanity exercise. This was an attempt to research how people respond to different image types – it’s science … sort of!Until next time; be successful! Stephen Hart Development Specialist, Edenchanges.com