How to Prepare Your Photo for LinkedIn
So you have a photo of yourself that you like. It looks professional and projects the desired image. You’ve checked that it doesn’t appear on the five don’ts of LinkedIn list. What now?
If you have photographs provided by us, you don’t need to worry about any of this; all packages include images processed for LinkedIn so you can upload directly. If, however, you’re using your own photos read on…
The first stage is to crop the image. Social media profiles usually have a square image. If you upload a rectangular image, it will ask you to choose a square for the thumbnail.
There are usually two temptations here; the first is to include the whole head and shoulders, like a passport photo, the second is to position the face right in the centre of the image.
A more ‘balanced’ approach can come from using the rule of thirds. This is a classic compositional tool used in all graphic work.
Draw an imaginary ‘noughts and crosses’ board on your image, and compose using those lines. If you have horizontal or vertical lines in your composition, place them on the lines you have drawn. If you have more ‘point-like’ objects, they look balanced if they are placed on one of the four points where the lines intersect.
In this case, we’re going to place the line of the eyes along the top of the horizontal lines.
It’s a matter of taste whether you are happy with the top of the head being ‘chopped off’. But when you consider how small the LinkedIn photo will be, it’s worth getting in close.
1b. Further Notes on Cropping
As you look through the images in LinkedIn you may see some very creative composition and cropping. There’s nothing wrong with that… but it’s well worth knowing the ‘rules’ before you start breaking them!
Creativity is often about breaking the established rules in a purposeful manner.You must know why you’re breaking a rule, and what the implications are. Ignorance of the rules mustn’t be mistaken for breaking them with purpose!
2. Resizing and Sharpening
The cropped image is still probably pretty large. There’s no point uploading an image that’s 1800 pixels wide when it’s going to be placed into a tiny window. More importantly, if you don’t resize the image LinkedIn will do it for you, losing detail. It’s better to keep the process under your control.
The maximum size that LinkedIn will display is 500×500 pixels, but in most cases where the photo is shown, it will appear smaller. Since you only get to upload one image for a number of sizes, go for something in the region of 400×400 pixels as a happy medium.
Once your resize is done, it’s time to sharpen. Using the ‘unsharp mask’ tool gives the best results it it’s available. Be careful, though; oversharpening looks worse than not doing it at all.
You want the details to shine out of the image without the edges becoming too pronounced. Note, particularly, the shine in the eyes on the centre image. On the overdone image, the hair and ear are starting to look pretty strange.
3. Image Quality
Now you’ve made the effort to prepare your image to look its best, please don’t mess it up at the last stage; saving your image.
Most graphic software will allow you to set an image quality on saving. The reason for this is that computer images (in jpg format, to be accurate) use what’s called ‘lossy compression’. This makes the image files take up less room on your hard drive than they would if they were in full detail; but the downside is that they do lose that detail.
With a small image like a profile picture, there is no real reason to use a low quality setting. The image files don’t take up a lot of space in any case. But your image software may have a default setting that is too low.
Notice that as the quality value drops, the image becomes more ‘blocky’. Detail is lost into what we call ‘artefacts’. These low quality pictures are hugely common on LinkedIn and other profiles. Look out for small blocks of miscoloured or mis-shapen image.
Note that some software will have a ‘compression’ option. This is just the opposite; make sure the compression is low enough that the quality is suitable.
And We’re Done!
Good work! Now you know how to take an image and make it look its best on LinkedIn. When you spot other people with non-ideal crops; or blocky, low-quality images you can now point them in this direction.
Huge thanks to Darrel Brookes of UCR Consultants for permission to use his headshot in these examples. And thanks to you, our readers, also! Please share your questions, comments and other thoughts below… let’s talk…