How to Take the Perfect Professional Photo

As the old saying goes “A picture is worth a thousand words.” As you start to prepare your photo to submit with your CV, this saying becomes even more important. Your photo has the power to gain opportunities and open doors for you as well as work against you. It is critical to get the process done right, so you have a professional photograph that helps build your brand. 

Why does a good professional photo matter?

First impressions still count and it takes only 40 milliseconds for someone to create an idea of you. People are naturally drawn to pictures, and including a photo on your professional profile means that you’re 14 times more likely to be viewed by other people and attract recruiters and industry experts’ attention.

Follow our tips below  to help yourself select the best photo for your CV, LinkedIn profile, and any other professional networks. (Using the same pictures for all your platforms will help build credibility and build consistency of your professional image.)

Stand in the right setting 

The best approach here os to always face the light. Do not stand in direct sunlight as this will create unflattering shadows.  The background of your image should always be neutral….you don’t want any distractions to steal your focus now do you?!?  Looking at these photos as an example, the background in the photo on the left is plain, neutral and the attention is focused on the subject. Her face is also facing the light which makes it more symmetrical with shadows.

set-the-mood.jpg#asset:2899

Always make sure you take a high-resolution photo. There is nothing worse than a blurry professional headshot. Anything larger than 600 pixels will look great where ever it is viewed online.  
Take the shot at eye level, framed from the waist up with your head and shoulders filling the frame. What you are trying to do here is to ensure viewers get a good look at you as well.

Smile at us!

A smile goes a long way in any situation. You want to come across as likable, competent, influential, trustworthy and approachable. Smiling is the critical factor to achieve that look. Quick tip: Squinting your eyes a little will help your smile come across as more genuine and warm. 

Again, looking at some sample photos, on the left the subject is smiling and looks friendly. Her head is at an angle which also helps create the impression of sincerity. In general, the subject gives a very good impression.
Taking the photo on the right however, you will see that the subject is not smiling and gives little expression to her eyes. She looks disinterested which could stop the viewer from creating a connection with her.

smile.jpg#asset:2900

Research has found that people who smile in their CV pictures come off as more trustworthy than people with a serious face. Looking happy will eliminate the chances of you “looking guilty” which makes you more likely to be approached by people. 

Dress for the job you want

An essential part of creating a good impression is dressing appropriately and professionally. 

For Men:

  • Wear a professional suit in dark colors and light-colored button downs
  • A tie is optional as it depends on what specific industry you are in, what job you want, and the level of formality you are trying to reflect. E.g., if you are in a corporate industry, always go for a dark suit, if you’re in the creative industry, then a collared shirt without a tie should suffice, and if you are a scientist, a lab coat will work.  

For Women: 

  • Wear a blouse with a blazer on top and skirt/ trousers. Try to keep the colors solid. 
  • Do not wear anything revealing and ensure your outfit is not too tight or too loose. 
  • To be safe, wear neutral colors. You do not want to distract it from your face. 
  • Choose to wear heels instead of flats and another kind of shoe.
  • Wear minimal accessories. 
  • Keep your make up simple and your hair as well and ensure it is away from your face.

clothing.jpg#asset:2898

The picture on the left is a good example of an outfit to wear for a professional photo. Her shoulders are covered with a blazer and she is wearing understated accessories, and minimal makeup. On the other hand, the right picture makes the subject look too informal. She is not covering her arms and wearing jeans makes her outfit look too laidback.

Note: Even though our subject is wearing a light-colored jacket and dark shirt in the above photo, swapping this around (dark jacket and light blouse) can create a more universal and professional look. 

Be aware of your body language 

Your body language plays a huge impact on the impression people get of you. Getting your body language right can help make you look even more approachable than just smiling or dressing appropriately.

Body language experts claim that crossing your arms and avoiding eye contact, just like how the subject is doing in the right photo, creates the impression of being guarded and defensive. This makes you look insecure or as having lack of confidence. This creates a mental barrier and could lead to an automatic disconnect between you and the person who is viewing your photo.  

body-language.jpg#asset:2897

Instead, keep your arms unfolded, chin and head up and keep a good posture by standing up straight. Make direct eye contact with the camera as well.  Eye contact is one of the best indicators of confidence.
If you are unsure of what to do with your hands, you can simply put them down by your side or hold your hands together, as seen in the below left-hand side sample. 

Taking a professional photo isn’t rocket science, but it does matter. You can choose to get one taken in a local studio or simply take one yourself using the tips we showed above. Keep updating your picture as you don’t want to use one that is too old and gives a false impression. 

Here’s a checklist for you to remember:
•    Be open with your body language 
•    Smile and show your teeth
•    Choose a flattering setting 
•    Wear appropriate clothing

Whether you are an active job seeker or not, follow these simple steps and boost your professional prospects.