Limited Time Offer: Save 30% on PRO with code WOOHOO »

Real-World Education for Modern Marketers

Join Over 600,000 Marketing Professionals

Start here!
Text:  A A

19 More Reasons Your LinkedIn Headshot May Be an Epic Fail

by Tobias Schremmer  |  
July 30, 2013

As a sales rep, I spend a ton of time on LinkedIn. As time goes by, I keep running into more examples of what not to do with your LinkedIn headshot. You may have noticed that LinkedIn has gotten much more aggressive with putting people (and their profile photos) in front of us, from email alerts to relentless connection suggestions to the never-ending nagging to endorse the skills and expertise of those in your network.

So your photo is not just sitting statically on your profile page---it is getting passed around LinkedIn like a platter of hummus in a bazaar.

Last July, a piece I wrote called 19 Reasons Your LinkedIn Headshot May Be An Epic Fail was published on this site and generated a tsunami of comments. It truly seemed to resonate widely, as just about everyone has a LinkedIn profile, and apparently we all care a LOT about the same question: Do I look good/smart in my headshot, or am I hopeless dork?

Therefore, I call again on all working warriors to look again at the image you present to the digital universe. Here are 19 MORE reasons your LinkedIn headshot may be an epic fail.

1. Manischewitz-ing It

Senior manager of email marketing by day… white wine sipping/sunglass-sporting/polo shirt-wearing dude by, um, day. Apparently, you code those HTML emails at night while you savor the California daylight for wine tasting. Can I really trust your CAN-SPAM acumen, Monsieur Chardonnay?

2. Cuz I Fear No Sharks

Thanks a bunch to my colleague Courtney Bosch for finding this absolute gem. I REALLY wish I could link to this photo to properly call out this guy, but propriety (and MarketingProfs’ editors) restrict my doing so. Scuba Duba Man, Art Director, I love your shot in full scuba gear---but not for the reasons you do, I’m sure. Seeing that large shark swimming right behind you while you remain so calm … you’re an aquatic stud! Now, it’s true that anyone with “Art Director” in their title has more leeway to be creative with their headshot (and many of you types do indeed take full poetic license), but in this case, all I keep thinking is: Go, shark, go.

Memo to anyone using a photo of himself in scuba gear as their business photo: Unless you are in the scuba business, just don’t do it. And even if you do provide such marine services, maybe hold off on showing your mug covered with a big mask.

3. Busy Sidewalker

For a young and put-together consultant at a major firm with international experience, I’m questioning the choice of a close-up headshot on that busy urban sidewalk, especially with that stranger/gentleman walking right past you. I’m dizzy just looking at the hectic nature of that streetscape.

4. Thoughtful Sideways Glancer

This is a variation of my item #3 last year (“Sears Portrait”). As a “Lecturer” at a major public university, sitting down looking uncomfortable in that suit and tie, why are you staring off to your right? Have you been told that the left side of your face is your good side? I’m going to bet real money that it in fact resembles the right side of your face very closely. Try playing it straight next time.

(List continues below the slideshow.)

5. Nerd Badger

Standing stiffly in front of what looks to be a hotel lobby window, wearing your "nerd badge" (affectionate term used for any generic conference-attendee badge hanging off of a dull lanyard) is, I can safely assert, not your best look. Remember, LinkedIn gives us a small box within which to work. So do 1.) not waste 67% of the space on a potted plant and car parked in street visible through the window behind you and, more importantly, 2.) NOT wear a nerd badge! Let’s see YOU, close-up, sans badge.

6. Where Everybody Knew Your Name

I should give you a break, “recent College Grad with a year of work experience.” (Memo to Self: Write next about what not to say in your profile headline), but you graduated in 2010. That was three years ago. It’s time to lose that photo of yourself in jeans sitting crotch-forward astride a chair in a poorly lit and otherwise unremarkable bar. The lovely girl sitting behind you like you are riding a Harley together isn’t helping either.

7. My Bunny Haz Cute

I love bunnies, especially those sporting a tiny knitted cap over their adorable ears. Sigh! And especially if that knitted cap is of a rooster with a big red comb. OMG! You must work for some kind of rural veterinarian who knits by night. Wait, no … I see you’re a “writer.” What a letdown. I hope you at least author cute children’s books.

8. How Confused Can I Make You?

A strange combination of Fails # 17 and 18 from last year’s list, with a twist. There you are (I think), standing alongside another gentleman. His arm is firmly but awkwardly on your arm or ribcage (or vice versa), all the while this long shot makes it impossible to see what you really look like. But you made sure to include that huge NASDAQ signage on the podium-thing in front of you both as well as the big-lettered company name on the sign above you. That company name that DOES NOT correlate to any company listed in your profile! You’re making me nuts with that omission! Why are you posing there?! Did this company (that you don’t talk about) go public? Why do I care if it did? And is that other guy holding a gun in that hand of his lodged in your midsection?

9. And He Signed My Chest, Too

Okay, let’s acknowledge a universal truth: Who doesn’t love Arnold Schwarzenegger? I have a photo of myself with him too (true story!). Well, actually my photo is with his Madame Tussauds wax copy, which showed that he is surprisingly not that tall, right? Plus, the wax copy I posed with has about as much acting talent as the real person---BOOM!

But I digress … the difference is that my photo with Arnold is buried in an old shoe box where it belongs; it would never serve as my headshot on a business network. Tell me, how does the fact that you once met the former Governator at a trade show (I see your nerd badge, dead giveaway!) make you someone I want to buy auto data from?

10. Schrute Lives

As Schrute-memes go, you picked a pretty good one, it says: “I am not human capital.” Profound indeed. I guess that means something to you ---perhaps you’re an HR specialist or recruiter? Alas, no. You’re in marketing. Hmm, maybe you ARE just human capital. I confess, I have a similar photo of Dwight Schrute with a funny caption (mine says “Fact: I Rule”---oh how it makes me chuckle). But I use that pic as the avatar for my fantasy football team and, repeat after me, “not as my professional headshot!”

Bonus points: LinkedIn’s scary-good algorithm on your profile, under “People Also Viewed,” listed another person with your same sensibility. Her profile photo is of Yoda captioned with: “Human Capital I Am Not.” Oh that Yoda, what a funny talker you are! But at least she is in HR, so while it’s still a bad idea, there is a connection. What’s your excuse, again?

11. Proud as a Network Brand

Dear Bus Dev VP, I cannot figure out what’s up with this twosome pic of yourself (I presume) and a pudgy tween huddled up close to you outside on a Manhattan city street. It gets weirder the more I look. First, there is an old-timey 1950s-style microphone like the kind Letterman has on his desk in front of you. Also, the photo shows a small-print caption that says “Mondays and Tuesdays on NBC.” So, you and your niece had a nice time at 30 Rock once, eh? You may know social media engagement metrics, but you’re an enigma to me.

12. Orange You Glad I Glow?

Have you ever seen someone posing in front of a VERY orange wall/background for their headshot? Well, I just did. And I’m reminded of that line from Anchorman: "I’m not mad, I’m impressed." That piercing citrus background makes your skin positively glow. Dude, you are GLOWING. Orange! Because you’re standing right next to a deep orange wall, so that will happen to you. Good thing you work for Sunkist ...Oh, but of course, you don’t. Why a Chief Revenue Officer at a “retail search exchange” made that call I won’t know but until I figure it out, bartender, please fix me a screwdriver. Make it a double.

13. But These Shoes Are Fierce

For a Managing Director, you chose a photo of yourself that epitomizes Fails 1 and 2 from the 2012 article: Terrible lighting and Blurry. Yet your unique wrinkle on those timeless errors is that you are wearing a white shirt, short blue shorts. and BRIGHT pink shoes (which are positively glowing in that very dim light). To cap it off, you’re posing in what looks like a deserted hotel mezzanine and one can barely see your face (what with the low light and blurriness).

Yet, let me say, even from that tiny sliver of visible face, I can tell that you actually are quite photogenic (that’s code for “cute”). So please, get a wardrobe consultant and Take Two.

14. Sepia Isn’t Just for Instagram

Photo filters are everywhere these days, and sepia is no doubt a standby. But unless you are trying to sell me on a ghost town tour, and as an HR Director it seems that you’re not, I highly recommend using that same very nice close-up picture but without the funky tinting.

15. West Siiiiide!

Let’s go out on a limb and suggest that Ocular Sales Reps don’t help their cause by doing the whole hand-jive thing like they are Snoop Dogg circa 1995. "Laid back, with my mind on my money …"

16. To Be My Lawfully Wedded Husband

Okay, darling, I will confess that you look absolutely gorgeous in your strapless white wedding gown and headpiece. Your lovely brown hair is curling so gently on your shoulders. And that bright outdoor light behind you---just angelic. My disconnect is that you’re a sales rep for big pharma. Now, to be fair, the reputation of pharma sales reps is well-established. Apparently, male doctors tend to buy more willingly from young female sales reps. Why that is the case is a total mystery. Okay, sure, I’m in Sales; I get it. You need every edge. But, um, might it hurt your chances to so publicly tell your prospects that you are happily married?

17. Logos Rule, Photos Drool

Apparently more than one of you out there in the high finance world believe that a logo of a silhouetted lion sitting inside of a circle is the way to show the world your profile photo. Again …that’s YOUR. PROFILE. PHOTO. Not… Your. Company. Logo.

The crop of that element of your company’s fierce logo tells me at least that you are all about the Benjamins. Or the Marlin Perkins.

18. Hello My Baby Hello My Darlin’

Ah, the straight close-up of a toddler/baby face. Now, is this you, or your child, or someone else, or..? I think it’s YOU (I have to say that because I already called out the “my cute pet/child” faux pas last time). But, as the owner of a design/photography studio, is this the best work you can summon? A black and white close-up of a toddler, that isn’t even cropped correctly making her look even smaller all scrunched up in the center of the profile box surrounded by lots of empty space?!

19. Tat-tacular

I had to search deep for this one but I fear it may be more common than I imagine. To the Community Manager with her profile entirely written in Portuguese, please may I suggest: Do not flaunt your tiny-script-font wrist tattoo at us. In addition to not being able to READ the wording, your arm is just at an awkward vertical angle. This drives me to alternately want to zoom in to try and read this profundity permanently inked under your watch, or sit back and cluck-cluck/tsk-tsk “at the kids today.” Mostly the latter.

As I concluded in this piece last year, if any of these 38 Photo Fails is you, I implore you to find a professional portrait photographer. You will be amazed. Like most people, I dreaded this concept but then when I saw what was accomplished I was a full convert. Remember, it’s not just on LinkedIn that we all need to look our business-best, think of the increasing number of places our digital presence requires us to shine.

iPhones and their competitors do take increasingly better photos with every upgrade, but for best results, save them for Facebook and hire a professional. It’ll be the best money you’ve spent all year, and as a bonus you can release your inner super-model for an hour or two during the photo shoot itself. Good times!

Sign up for free to read the full article.Read the Full Article

Membership is required to access the full version of this how-to marketing article ... don't worry though, it's FREE!


We will never sell or rent your email address to anyone. We value your privacy. (We hate spam as much as you do.) See our privacy policy.

Sign in with one of your preferred accounts below:


Tobias Schremmer is a senior sales executive at MarketingProfs.

LinkedIn: Tobias Schremmer

Twitter: @Schremkopf


Rate this  

Overall rating

  • Not rated yet.

Add a Comment


  • by Andre Mazerolle Tue Jul 30, 2013 via blog

    Just my two cents. I appreciate the wit in the article but how about an article about what a LinkedIn photo should be. I'm fine reading between your lines, but I prefer a more direct approach than a 2,223 word piece that takes me quite a bit of time to read. Now I know what not to do, what about tips on what makes a photo on LinkedIn engaging and professional. Just my two cents.

  • by Liz Tue Jul 30, 2013 via blog

    Seriously. I read both articles and now I am just more confused about whether mine is okay or not. Since I am not on the job hunt, I highly doubt I will be investing in a headshot anytime soon, but I still want my pic to be appropriate!

  • by Harkonnen Tue Jul 30, 2013 via blog

    Actually, I think #2 is pretty awesome.

  • by Tobias Schremmer Tue Jul 30, 2013 via blog

    Liz, thanks... and hey, no fair, you don't have a LinkedIn profile pic for me to judge! :)

    As for the investment, I know it seems like a 'luxury' spend. But that is increasingly not the case anymore as we become increasingly digital. Think of all the places that a good headshot could come into play beyond LinkedIn: Your company About Us page, your blog, on a webinar in which you're speaking or moderating, speaking at an onsite event, attending a virtual conference, your Skype, etc. And consider how many ways these can now be accessed with tablets & smartphones etc.

    I used to totally believe that the notion of paying a pro to produce a set of great pics was strictly for the well heeled C-level and their ilk. But there's a good argument to be made that it would be smart for "the rest of us" to go for it as well.

    Aruda put it well in the MProfs article that motivated me to write these editorial pieces. See his first point:

  • by Tobias Schremmer Tue Jul 30, 2013 via blog

    You have no idea how badly I wanted to directly link to that person's actual photo... it is epic.
    It falls into the "this is so crazy it's actually perfect" category.

  • by Tobias Schremmer Tue Jul 30, 2013 via blog

    Andre, simply avoid all 38 examples of Fails as noted here and in last year’s article (which apparently required 4,000+ words to describe in total) and you’ll be fine! ;)

    In seriousness, my main point is to put thought into the photo, don’t just whip up one you happen to like or do it quickly/poorly. And as noted in both articles, spend some money to get a *good* portrait photographer to help you. That person will have the best ideas on what looks best for you. And avoid that nice lady at Sears in the mall who has been shooting smiling families in the same way since the ’80’s. Find someone great, they are out there.

    My own headshot was taken by a great photographer David Lees ( in San Francisco. What he accomplished for me is light years better than anything I was able to do on my own. And please note, I’m not holding up my pic as some template; rather, a great photographer will be capture something intrinsic in you, while also avoiding the many errors common to amateur attempts.

  • by Mark Palmer Wed Jul 31, 2013 via blog

    Taken from a blog I wrote this list is pretty much the opposite to the above errors.

    My common sense guidelines;

    Above all else your image needs to be well lit, in focus and clear. With today’s digital cameras, phones etc this shouldn’t be too difficult.
    Your image needs to be recognisably you! However tempting it is to use a 10 year old photo don’t, also make sure you can be seen so avoid dark glasses, fancy dress etc. Remember as well if you change your appearance, e.g. start/stop wearing glasses, change your hair colour, grow a beard or just get older update your image.
    If you use different images for different networks make sure they are similar, don’t be blonde in one and brunette in another. Some people will advise using the same image for all networks, personally I think a bit of variety is good.
    A simple pose of body at a, small, angle to the camera, head looking into it, against a plain background works best. Try to avoid it looking like a police photo fit or a bad passport photo.

  • by GinnyinMinny Wed Jul 31, 2013 via blog

    This roundup of flops is just too funny. I'll be following you now, Tobias. Suggested add: People who post 20-year-old photos of themselves. Uh-oh, better not meet in person! Keep the humor coming, please!

  • by Pat Wed Jul 31, 2013 via blog

    A fine piece Toby. And highly relevant for most people.

    However, you are approaching this from the Salesperson’s perspective. Many of us are buyers, not sellers and we don't care what we look like. We have the money, we already have a great amount of biz street cred, and we don't care about what our photos say. The salespeople who will look us up love our wallets and want us to buy no matter what the photo looks like. And since I get called by recruiters on a nonstop basis for new job offerings I personally feel as if my experience puts me beyond the photo mattering.

    On that note I remind you that my LinkedIn photo is the "This was the first thing I found" photo representing the "I no longer really care to manage a personal brand and am comfortable with the real me being the universal me" attitude. Add a category for that one in the next article. I probably should change it to a photo of me doing what I love - sailing. In scuba gear. With a shark.

  • by Tobias Thu Jul 16, 2015 via web

    Pat, funny how things change in a couple of years - I see that your profile pic is now quite different than when you commented in 2013! I'm not sure when you updated it, but you moved away from the "first thing I found" option to a better close-up portrait shot. More businesslike, Less Facebook-ish.

    Might that be a result of your recent career change? No longer sitting in the buyer's seat "with the money and cred" but now you're full on entrepreneur who needs to sell himself and his product. Call me crazy and say one had nothing to do with the other but you know what I'm getting at! (Who luvs ya?)

MarketingProfs uses single
sign-on with Facebook, Twitter, Google and others to make subscribing and signing in easier for you. That's it, and nothing more! Rest assured that MarketingProfs: Your data is secure with MarketingProfs SocialSafe!