On LinkedIn, your headshot is the first thing people judge you with, in about two seconds. In about 5 seconds, after glancing through the headline and top few lines of “About”, most people (subconsciously) make up their minds if they like you or not.

This is the cruel reality in the internet age: too little time, too much information. More and more people are now too tired and lazy to read, and they rely more and more on visuals which can lead to superficial decisions and premature judgement.

As a branding expert focusing on developing brand DNA with strategies, narratives and videos, I also serve professionals with LinkedIn profiles and portraits, as an award-winning professional photographer. My passion is to help individuals put their best foot forward in digitally marketing their brands’ personae – both verbally and visually.

The following are some tips for authentically winning the hearts of your target audience with your LinkedIn headshots combined with branding strategies. All the “after” versions of the following photos are taken by me, either in my Poem and Art Studio or outdoors.

Up close and personal (or not)

As a general rule of thumb, if your work involves dealing with people, it is better to have your headshot “up close and personal” but not “right in the face”.

This gentleman below is a commercial insurance broker. Notice the body language and facial expressions in the before and after versions. Colors in the “after” version match his company logo colors, as I also I helped him create his own brand identity.

Brand image, LinkedIn Headshot of a professional, photographed by Joanne Tan, www.10PlusBrand.com or www.PoemAndArt.com

This young lady is a family law attorney, who needs to win the trust from her prospective clients by allowing them to look at her in the eyes. The “before” version seems to make her prospects feel they are being examined by her from a distance.

Brand image, LinkedIn Headshot of a professional, photographed by Joanne Tan, who is also a branding expert and brand strategist. www.10PlusBrand.com or www.PoemAndArt.com

The photo below is for a residential realtor. Again, being warm, personal and professional in her own genuine way tells her target audience that she takes each prospect seriously.

Brand image, LinkedIn Headshot of a professional, photographed by Joanne Tan, who is also a branding expert and brand strategist. www.10PlusBrand.com or www.PoemAndArt.com

The lady below is demonstrating a totally different spirit in her “after” version. I used the background, specifically reflected natural lighting and the matching-colored clothes to entice and enhance that spirit. In her specific case, stepping back from “up close and personal” serves better in presenting the spirit using the geometrical design of her blouse, without losing the personal appeal.

Younger is not better

Surprisingly, many men and women on LinkedIn use headshots of themselves many years younger. This can do you a huge dis-service: When people interested in you meet you in person, their shock, disbelief and feelings of being misled and even betrayed will lead to distrust. They also may conclude you may not be confident about yourself the way you are.

I believe this gentleman looks better 30 years older.

Brand image, LinkedIn Headshot of a professional, photographed by Joanne Tan, who is also a branding expert and brand strategist. www.10PlusBrand.com or www.PoemAndArt.com

This lady shows mellow maturity and wisdom that comes with age.

Brand image, LinkedIn Headshot of a professional, photographed by Joanne Tan, who is also a branding expert and brand strategist. www.10PlusBrand.com or www.PoemAndArt.com

This IT company’s CEO shows a lot more trustworthiness, warmth and confidence at his current age than when he was younger.

Brand image, LinkedIn Headshot of a professional, photographed by Joanne Tan, who is also a branding expert and brand strategist. www.10PlusBrand.com or www.PoemAndArt.com

I totally believe in the innate beauty of every person, no matter at what age. Being older has its own charm and beauty unique to every age. I took a photo of a 100-year-old lady, her adult children loved and treasured that photo so much that they paid me more than what was contracted just to show their appreciation. (Her photo is at the end of this slide: https://poemandart.com/?fluxus_portfolio=portraits)

Eye contact (or not):

Most of the time, it is better to look at your target audience right in the eye, to show sincerity and willingness to be engaging and open, especially for those whose professions deal with people.

It is a really bad idea to wear sunglasses on your LinkedIn headshot, as shown above, which is worse than using casual and unprofessional selfie photos, since it makes people wonder: what do you have to hide?

Brand image, LinkedIn Headshot of a professional, photographed by Joanne Tan, who is also a branding expert and brand strategist. www.10PlusBrand.com or www.PoemAndArt.com

Smiling (or not):

Most of the time, a GENUINE smile shows friendliness, connectedness, positivity and warmth. But there are times a “cheap” smile is not as impressive. Again, it all depends on what your brand messages are for your specific target audience.

The gentleman below is an executive coach who coaches CEOs and business owners. Merely being warm and cozy is not enough to impress his target audience who are also looking for confidence, authority and leadership, in addition to being kind.

Brand image, LinkedIn Headshot of a professional, photographed by Joanne Tan, who is also a branding expert and brand strategist. www.10PlusBrand.com or www.PoemAndArt.com

What exact style of headshot best suits you depends on your profession, whom you are trying to impress, your unique facial characteristics to be revealed and enhanced by lighting, clothing and other technical aspects of photography.

It takes more than professional photography to have a BRAND image:

Many of the not-so-great “before” photos above were taken by other professional photographers. With all due respect, let truth be told that not all photographers are artists, and few professional photographers are also image consultants. Hardly any professional photographers are experienced branding experts.

Photography as an art by itself is painting with light.

LinkedIn headshot is the art of presenting your BRAND with both branding principles and artistry.

You are your own brand and your portrait is a powerful visual art version of your brand. Your LinkedIn portrait is not meant to impress your spouse, children, or even yourself, but to CONNECT with those YOU SERVE.

Brand strategies and persona, enhanced with artistry:

For a CFO below, I tried to present his eyes with sparkles and show his face with sculptural dimensionality (flat vs 3-D), to show that he is more than a numbers guy but a warm-blooded human. The photo brings his best out. Not by accident, the photo was taken after I branded his new business’ DNA and messaging, created his business name, tagline, logo, website. This all gave me the time and opportunity to get to know the person well.

Brand image, LinkedIn Headshot of a professional, photographed by Joanne Tan, who is also a branding expert and brand strategist. www.10PlusBrand.com or www.PoemAndArt.com

For another fellow photographer who is not using the “after” version on his LinkedIn per my request, I can play with the artistic part of photography to add a touch of mystery and his other personalities. We all are complex combinations of many different aspects of humanity, which provides me with endless source of creativity in portrait photography.

But for LinkedIn headshot, what ultimately rules is: What your target audience wants to see in your authentic you, at best.

Brand image, LinkedIn Headshot of a professional, photographed by Joanne Tan, who is also a branding expert and brand strategist. www.10PlusBrand.com or www.PoemAndArt.com

Contact me: If you would like to have your BRAND headshot for LinkedIn, please call (925) 878-1992 or email: info@10PlusBrand.com or visit my website for branding: www.10PlusBrand.com, or my website for photography: www.PoemAndArt.com

Thank you!

Written by Joanne Tan. Text edited by Glenn Perkins. “After” versions of photos by Joanne Tan. © Joanne Tan, 2020. All rights reserved.