The trickiest part of choosing a LinkedIn photo is that there is no one-size-fits-all. "Know your audience," says Anna Akbari, PhD, the founder of Sociology of Style and author of Startup Your Life: Hustle and Hack Your Way To Happiness. While you always want to look confident, pulled-together, and professional, a professional look for someone applying for corporate positions is different than that for someone who is applying for creative positions.
But regardless of what field you're in, there are a few rules that apply across the board. The most important: Avoid the stiff portrait. "Be human — many professional headshots are groan-inducing," Akbari says. "In general, a believable, appealing backdrop, paired with a comfortable smile and bright eyes goes a long way." Opt for comfortable and natural rather than forced and fake.
While you probably want to avoid a backdrop that is overly cluttered, both neutral and colorful settings can work, and the latter may make the photo more interesting, Akbari says. You can pick a shoulders-up or full-body shot, but full-body images run the risk of looking more like a senior portrait than a professional photo if you aren't careful.