Early this year, MarketingProfs ran a great article by William Arruda on personal branding trends for 2012. The first trend he listed was about the value of having a quality headshot.
Unfortunately, not enough people are acting on Arruda's fine suggestions. As evidenced by the massive and ever-growing LinkedIn network, the personal branding story is far from reaching consensus with us in the working masses. So, I must speak up!
What is that you say? You HATE how you look in photos? Welcome to the club. But fear not! Anyone can look great, especially in the micro-real estate that is the LinkedIn photo. You just need a little help. (I'll talk more about that at the end of this post.)
After carefully combing through several hundred LinkedIn photos (offered via the page that says “People I May Know”), I have come up with these 19 personal epic fail photo categories.
Names are not listed to protect the guilty---but you may know who you are from the descriptions.
- Just straight-up blurry. (Hello, I’m Digital Photography 101. How have we not met before?)
- Terrible lighting. (Are you the Dark Knight rising? I can barely make you out from all those shadows.)
- The “Sears portrait” background. (Your 1981 yearbook called… )
- Random or odd background images. (My man, NICE shot of the waiter behind you carrying a wine bottle under his arm. You are such, like, a restaurateur.)
- Classic Facebook-style shot #1. "I’m just way too happy right now!" (Party on, Wayne, but this is LinkedIn! As awesome as you look in a lei, you are succeeding in creating visual cacophony on what we all know is a business network.)
- Classic Facebook-style shot #2. “Look at my irresistible baby (or pet)!” (How dang adorable your offspring is! Oh, but wait, wasn’t I on your page to learn about your work accomplishments?”)
- Classic Facebook-style shot #3. “Check me out in my low-rent apartment, as evidenced by the microwave oven, IKEA kitchen cabinets, and unclean plates on the counter in the background.” (Even for a “talent management professional,” you should probably tighten it up---unless the talent you manage are pizza deliverymen.)
- Classic Facebook-style shot #4. “How cute am I with my significant other in a tight embrace!” (Because, you know, the first thing I want to know about a "marketing project coordinator" is that she is heterosexual and attached.)
- The boozy smile. (Really? Of all the possible looks you can show us, you want your future boss to have this first impression of you?)
- The “Shepard Fairey was here.” Ah, the Obama 2008-style stencil portrait. (Does this even need a snarky comment?)
- Full-body action pic. (Jon Krakauer gets to do this, but you, my friend, are a “recruitment solutions specialist.” So that 80x80 pixel image size of your posing on a big rock while on a break from hiking in the evergreens isn’t inspiring confidence in your risk-taking judgment.)
- “But I LOVE this photo of me..." You love it, even though my head is right next to someone else’s, the ear and left of eye of which you can still see because I can crop a photo about as well as I can consult for your marketing needs.”
- The white-polo-and-oversized gut combo. “I’m standing in my white polo shirt holding my somewhat oversized gut with my left hand.” (I’m gonna go out on this limb and suggest that you, a “digital media sales professional,” opt instead for a friendly CLOSE-UP of your face, if just to spare us all the spare-tire imagery.)
- "Side shot of me working the phone, baby!” And a corded phone no less, because you’re old-school landline-ing it, son, with your pen in hand filling out that big contract you just got a verbal on. (Wow, no way! You use a phone and a pen in your cubicle? So do I!)
- Mediocre black and white. (Black and white can really work---if done correctly. However, if your B&W was taken by your 1-megapixel camera circa 2006, then you’re not achieving the desired effect.)
- “I’m all business and think that smiling is a sign of weakness.” (Lighten up, Dwight Schrute. Even “CRM integration executives” at Fortune 500 companies can show humanity.)
- The "I'm important" shot. “Check me out! I’m a CEO who speaks at conferences, as you can see from the ad:tech event sign behind me and the microphone and podium in front of me.” (When I just see that, I think one thing: “What a tool.”)
- The group photo. “Here I am, Account Director, along with three other people all scrunched up into this tiny photo! Oh, and to make it even more awesome, see how the outdoor sunlight is BEHIND us rendering all attempts at identifying any facial features impossible?” (This combination of photo faux pas immediately triggers in me a strong reaction: gladness. I’m glad I can’t tell which one of these faceless folks happens to be you. Next.)
- My favorite fail. The photo that shouts, “Seriously, world, look at just how strikingly beautiful am I in this over-the top-glamour shot!” (Congratulations, my dear, you’ve just turned every male viewer of your pic into Joey Tribbiani, and every female viewer into, well, I won’t go there.)
Like you (probably), I’d sooner sit still for a photo session than I would lay down in front of a herd of stampeding hippopotami. However, I'm fortunate to have a close friend who is an amazing photographer for The Studio Deux.
The scales fell off my eyes on this subject after I saw what he was able to do. He didn't just take a “competent” photograph that avoided all of the pitfalls listed above, but he went beyond "good enough" and achieved that Annie Leibowitz thing and capture the essence of my personality. I’ve gone from “Ugh! I have to pick a photo for this webinar/blog post/business network!” feeling to“Hmm, which one of these awesome photos should I use this time?”
As Arruda noted in the MarketingProfs article, personal branding is no longer just for CEOs and entrepreneurs. All of us should look our best online---especially on LinkedIn.
So, if your online photos need a refresh (and at least 9 out of 10 of you reading this fall into this category), get some help. Call my guy David or find someone like him who can bring out your best in a photo.
If you don’t want to do it for yourself and your career, then at least do it for the rest of us who are subjected to your picture far more often than you think!
(Photos courtesy of Bigstock: On the Phone, Spare Tire, and Office Party)