Pachter's Pointers:
Business Etiquette Tips & Career Suggestions


Look Good! Social Media Guidelines for Photographs

I couldn’t make out his face.
She looks completely different from her photo.
I couldn’t believe she had sunglasses on her head!

The above comments were made about photographs on LinkedIn. Unfortunately, many businesspeople have posted photographs of themselves on LinkedIn, and other sites, that detract from their professionalism.

Your image is conveyed through your photograph, and it’s part of the first impression you make on others. According to Krista Canfield, a LinkedIn senior manager, “Folks who have a photo are seven times more likely to have their profile viewed in general than folks who don’t have a photo.”

You want to post a photograph that is professionally appropriate. You want to look like a credible, approachable person, not like you just came from the beach.

I mentioned the need for posting appropriate photographs in my recent article on BlogHer: Social Networking Etiquette in the Facebook Age. Since in another life I was a professional photographer – the first woman photographer at what was then one of the largest ten newspapers in the country – I offer the following as my recommended photo guidelines:

1. Post a good headshot. This type of photograph highlights your head/face, but often shows your shoulders and part of your chest. Check your current or any future photos against these characteristics for an effective headshot. Make sure that:

--You have chosen a photo that flatters you. Sounds obvious, but people don’t always pay attention to their choice. I am not suggesting a glamour shot, but you should look like a competent professional in the photograph.

--You are in front of a clear, uncluttered background that is well lit. There shouldn't be any dark shadows obscuring your face. People must be able to see you clearly.

--Your face is in focus. The background can be slightly out of focus, but your features need to be sharp, not blurred.

--You have worn appropriate professional or business-casual attire. Appear as you usually would in a business situation. This may also mean that you are freshly shaven, or wearing make-up and jewelry.

--You are looking at the camera and your head is straight. Women have a tendency to tilt their heads. Why? I don’t know. But I do believe they look less self-assured when they do.

--You have a pleasant facial expression. If you are frowning or scowling, why would I want to hire or work with you?

--You look like your photograph. If your photo is more than 8-10 years old, people may be very surprised when they meet you. If you had long hair in your photo and now have short hair, people may not recognize you.

2. Use an environmental portrait, when appropriate. This type of photo places you in a setting that relates to your profession. This is generally a wider shot and your face is a smaller part of the photograph. These pictures are often used as additional photos on a website, and are not recommended for headshot postings. My good friend and garden writer Denise Cowie has a great portrait in a garden on her Facebook page.

3. Hire a professional photographer. If all of this seems overwhelming, hire someone who takes photos for a living. It’s worth the investment.

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