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If you’re based in Greater Manchester you’ve either been to an event that Martin Hambleton has photographed or you’re connected on social media with someone who has had their professional photos taken by Martin. He’s one of the go-to commercial photographers in the Northwest

Ahead of his LinkedIn Profile Perfection workshop on June 12th we caught up with Martin to talk LinkedIn, what makes a poor LinkedIn Profile photo, what makes a great LinkedIn Profile photo and the ROI of a great LinkedIn Profile photo

Q: I’ve known you for at least 6 or 7 years now and I know you do so many different styles of photos from events to product shots to occasional weddings, but it seems to be the profile shot that you are most excited about. What is it about the profile shot that excites you so much?

It looks like a profile picture is a straightforward thing, but actually it’s very difficult to get right. A great expression, captured in good light, with no distractions. Sounds simple doesn’t it? But making sure that each of those elements is perfect is quite tricky. Only photographers think about light, but everybody can see the effect of bad light – panda eyes, yellow skin …… do I need to go on? So good light is crucial. And people just think no distractions means “stand against a white wall”, but again you need to be a bit more thoughtful. A bit of shadow, or texture, can be good. Too white and it looks like you’re floating in an empty space. Colour can work really well in some cases; but not in others. It needs to be appropriate to the person or business. But the key thing is the expression – and that’s where the real skill comes in. Portrait photography is really about people, not kit and technique. It’s about making the person feel comfortable, and then getting the best expression. Also, using my knowledge and experience to help people stand in the most flattering way. That’s something not a lot of people can do. And so I get excited because you’re bringing these three elements together … and you’re trying to do it in a way that people don’t really notice them! You just want them to say “what a great picture”.

Q: Some people don’t have a LinkedIn photo or a logo or clipart image. Is that really acceptable in 2019?

In a word, no. The business world is all about getting to know the individual these days. So you want to help people to get to know you. A first step is showing them what you look like. You wouldn’t turn up to a meeting or an event with a mask over your face would you? So why do that to your online profile?

Q: LinkedIn and websites are the places you naturally thing of when you think of the profile shot. If you could pick just one thing – what is an absolute no no for a LinkedIn portrait shot?

Don’t use a personal photo for business. So, no shots from nights out, weddings or holidays.

Q: So on the flipside – what makes a great LinkedIn Profile shot?

When you look at a portrait and you get a sense of what that person is like, you know it’s a great shot. As I said earlier, there’s nowhere to hide with a profile shot. There are no distractions. It’s all in the expression. Which means, it’s all in the eyes. That’s what you look at first when looking at a person, or a photo of them. So whatever’s going on in the eyes is what makes a shot great.

Q: Can you ever get away with a smartphone photo for your LinkedIn profile shot?

Camera phones (well, some of them) are capable of creating decent images. However, it’s really not about the equipment. It’s about the photographer. Provided you can control the other elements – the lighting and background – and know how to tease a great expression out of somebody, then yes, you could use a smartphone to take a profile shot. In reality though, you wouldn’t be using a smartphone if you were going to that level of trouble to get a great shot.

Q: One of the big things I see on working with people on LinkedIn profiles is so many are out of date. Realistically how often should you update your LinkedIn Profile shot?

I’d say every year or so; certainly every couple of years. Or if you change your appearance in a major way – you grow a beard, or go cleanshaven, or go for a very different hairstyle, for instance – then update it. The profile photo has to look like you. Ask yourself if you walked into a room whether a stranger would be able to recognise you having only seen your photo. If not, then it’s time to update it.

Q: Authenticity is a big tick on LinkedIn – how often do you get asked to Photoshop a few lbs off or a few grey hairs off a LinkedIn profile photo?

Oh, that’s a secret between me and my clients!! Part of the point of coming to a specialist like me is that we make people look great. A lot of that is down to pose and expression. Let me assure everybody, that a professional photographer wants to show you at your best.

Profile Photos
Q: A few common questions rolled into one – Do you have to smile in a photo? Do you have to wear a shirt and tie? What prep is needed for a LinkedIn profile shot?

If you smile naturally, then smile. But don’t feel obliged to if that’s not how you want to come across to business contacts. If you do smile, it has to be authentic. If it’s fake, everybody can tell. It’s up to the individual how they want the world to regard them. Smiling might or might not be appropriate to your line of work.

It’s the same with what to wear. If your business demands collar and tie, then wear that to the shoot. If your sector is full of people in t-shirts, then wear that. Just remember to make sure that’s it’s clean and pressed.

Before a profile shoot, it’s important to think about how you want to come across. It’s worth having a word or phrase in mind. Most professionals for instance want to be regarded as ‘warm and approachable’, so that’s what we’d be aiming to capture in your expression. But it could be something entirely different – authoritative; giggly; serious ….. it really is up to you. Just remember that your profile picture is representing you and your brand 24/7, so you want it to be sending out the right message.

Q: We’re talking about profile shots mainly – but there’s also the LinkedIn cover photo. What would you recommend – a photo or a design template in that space?

I think that depends on the individual, but personally I like photos (obviously). Whatever you go for, the important thing is that it looks as professional as possible. It’s a B2B platform for professionals; so many people seem to forget that.

Q: You mentioned recently that a bad LinkedIn photo is online equivalent of networking where “The stranger who avoids your gaze and whose handshake is like grasping the proverbial dead fish” – would you like to elaborate on that?

Our brains take in most information visually. So, when somebody looks at your Linkedin profile, the first thing they’ll notice is your picture. If that’s ‘on message’ – i.e. it’s sending out the message you want it to, then you’ve made a good first impression. It’s exactly like meeting somebody in the flesh – that strong first impression matters. If people like what they see, they are more likely to connect or interact with you. Conversely, a bad first impression is very hard to overcome. If the first photo that I see of you is you in swim shorts holding a cocktail – and that’s representing you on a professional forum – what am I supposed to think about your approach to work?

Q: And to finish up – the million dollar question – what is the ROI of a great LinkedIn profile shot?

If somebody really wants to do business with you, then a poor photo isn’t going to stop them. But if I want to buy a product or service, and you and your competitor’s offerings are similar, then who will I contact first? The one who’s made the effort to come over as professional, or the one who’s gone with the ‘it’ll do’ approach? Small details matter; and a bad choice of headshot probably means you’ve not paid much attention to detail over other things in your profile too. Whereas somebody who goes to the trouble of getting all the details right has demonstrated the kind of mindset that I will prefer. They’re the one I’d be picking up the phone to book.

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Alex McCann

Author Alex McCann

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