Kevin Sholder is a highly regarded consultant currently working at Midmark Corporation—a medical, dental, vet equipment manufacturer and supplier.  In addition to this, he has a passion for photography that has spanned more than 35 years.  Before entering the IT field, Kevin was a professional portrait and wedding photographer for 12 years.  During this time, he was also in charge of the Portrait Program at the Ohio Institute of Photography.  In 1992, he became one of a very select group of photographers in the country to have earned the Master of Photography Degree from the Professional Photographers of America.

This interview with Kevin focuses on the importance of LinkedIn profile images.  These images have an impact on the way hiring managers and fellow employees view people.  The interview provides tips and guidance on what to avoid and what to do to get a great image, pulling from his abundance of experience with portrait photography.

This interview is part of a series that gives a glimpse into our culture and employees at fidence. The diversity of gifts is astounding within this organization. The goal of this series is to provide a glimpse into our employee’s interests and talents beyond the workplace.

Q & A

Q1: Describe the key aspects of a LinkedIn profile image. What makes an image at risk?

Your LinkedIn image is often the first impression someone has of you.  Why would you not put your best foot forward in your profile image, just as you would in an interview?  Remember that LinkedIn is a professional environment. I would suggest avoiding snapshots and vacation pictures.

The key aspects of your LinkedIn profile image are the eyes, the background, and the clothing selection.  People want to see you, who you are, your eyes. You might like the way you look in sunglasses. I would suggest that they be avoided completely. Eyes are important because they show your personality. Are you cheerful? Are you serious? They also help the viewer feel more of a connection to you.

The background is another key aspect of the profile image.  Avoid flashy, bright, or complex backgrounds.  The focus of your picture should be you, not the location.  Simple backgrounds work the best.  The main point here is to make sure you are the clear focus of the image.

Lastly, clothing selection is a key aspect of your profile image as well.  Patterns and bright or dominant colors such as red take the viewer’s attention away from you—the subject.  Bright or light colors might work well if the whole picture is generally a high key shot.  For darker and neutral-toned clothing, low or medium key is generally a better choice.

Why not lighter clothing?  If you take a picture and flip it upside down, what is the first thing that you see?  Typically, you see the area of greatest contrast first, lighter areas second, and so on.  You do not want your clothing selection to take precedence over your face.  This means it is to your advantage to resist flashy and light-colored clothing that distracts from you.

Q2: Why is the profile image important?

Hiring managers often look to social media to see if you fit with the culture of their company.  First impressions and what they see about you on the web can have a lasting impact.  Your image is critical because it can be a differentiator.  If two people have similar qualifications, but one of them has an unprofessional image and the other has a very professional image, it can be the deciding factor.

Q3: What does your profile image tell viewers?

Your expression tells them a lot about you as a person.  Are you happy-go-lucky?  Are you somber and focused?  The profile image gives a stronger sense of who you are.  Allowing your personality to come through in your picture can give you an advantage.  Even the way you dress speaks to who you are.  I always go by the old adage, “dress for the position you want, not the job you have.”  Perception is valuable when you are looking to make an impression.

Q4: What is the key to taking a good profile image?

If you’re going to shoot pictures outside, don’t do it in the middle of the day.  You will often get “raccoon eyes” in your picture if it is shot in the middle of the day without some type of additional light source. If you have to do it then make sure that a fill flash or reflector is used.  An auxiliary light source is crucial.  On-camera flashes are not the best option but are better than not having any additional light.  

As I’ve talked about a little bit, the background is also a key element.  Move around until you find an interesting but unobtrusive backdrop. There are two easy ways to do this:

  1. Use the zoom on your camera to get closer to the subject thereby making the background less noticeable.

  2. Use a larger f/stop (lower number) if your lens/camera combination is adjustable. This also will blur the background, making it less noticeable.

If you are using a phone or other smaller camera, be careful not to get too close to the subject, as this could create distortion of the face / subject since most of these lenses are typically a wider-angle lens.

Q5: Any final thoughts that will help readers improve their profile images?

Take your time in selecting who will shoot your profile image.  The photographer makes a world of difference.  You would spend hundreds of dollars on a new suit, right?  So think of your profile image the same way.  It is worth spending a little bit more to ensure you get the picture that you and your experience deserve.  If you do not want to update that profile picture all the time, a better image will last you longer than a poor image will.  I would still recommend that your profile image receive an update every couple of years. You want it to be fresh and current just like your resume.

Visit Kevin’s Site for More

To learn more about Kevin, his passion for photography, and his artistic vision, feel free to explore his website.

Is Your Image at Risk

Banner Image: Thunderstorms in July by Kevin L. Sholder © 2013