By now you probably know that here at Levo, we offer the best career profile on the Internet. #SorryNotSorry everyone else—this is a simple fact. Your Levo profile can be an authentic, beautiful, multi-dimensional representation of your amazing accomplishments *and* your unique personality. And that representation begins with your profile picture.
On Facebook, your photo can be a silly, nostalgic picture of you and your college roommates. On Twitter, it’s something eye-catching that will stand out in a fast-moving feed. On LinkedIn, it’s probably a “professional” (read: stodgy) headshot. On Levo, we want your professional profile pictures to encapsulate all of the above—the professional, the fun, and the unique aspects of you.
Our editors picked a few of their favorite Levo profile pictures, and I asked image consultant Kailei Carr and photographer Sarah Sloboda what makes them work. (And yes, my own photo is one of the three chosen, because it wasn’t my decision and also I am very vain.)
True life, Shelby Christie may have the chicest profile picture on our site. I’m torn between wanting to be her best friend and wanting to straight up *be* her. “Shelby’s stark white background and unusual pose turn the picture into an icon, perfect for an editor,” Sloboda says. A fashion icon, no doubt. “What Shelby’s profile photo communicates to me is vibrant, stylish, and creative, which seems to be consistent with her career,” Carr says. “The solid background puts the emphasis on her and is not distracting. I get the sense that her style is ‘effortlessly chic’—the hat and red lip paired with a t-shirt and jeans conveys that well. Her overall look is approachable and intriguing, which would make other Levo members want to learn more about her.” Keep crushing it, girl!
Mike’s photo—especially next to his description and color choices—makes me think he is a smart, affable guy who’s cool under pressure, and the experts agree. “When I look at Mike’s photo I get the sense that he is friendly, approachable, and professional without being stuffy,” Carr says. “He definitely has a design sensibility about him.” Both cited the direction of his gaze as a winning feature. “It creates the feel of someone thoughtful and insightful,” Sloboda says. “Then the word ‘peacemaker’ pops out at you in his profile description, so the tone is right on track.” And even though it was probably taken in a studio, Mike’s photo nails it on lighting. “The natural light softens the photo and makes it look more appealing,” Carr says.
This photo is the result of goofing around during a fun photography session with my best friend, and so I do happen to love it. “Two big reasons this works in this format is that it is cropped so tightly and there is nice, even lighting on her face,” Sloboda says. “That’s what allows the movement to stand out, and yet still work as a portrait.“ It’s definitely on the “fun” end of what profile pictures are expected to be, but Carr gives me her stamp of approval. “Kelsey’s photo says that she is a fun-loving free spirit, but still has some polish to her,” Carr says. “This is a hard one to pull off and she does so very well. You can tell she is showing her authenticity in her photo. Plus, I love that it’s an outdoor shot—I recommend outdoor shots or natural light for my clients.” Best of all, Sloboda gets a “woman power” vibe from the photo, which I am ALL ABOUT. “I think it most closely relates to the word ‘feminism’ in her profile—she is dressed professionally and with style, and yet she wants to be set free of expectations,” she says. Yes.
So how can you pull this off? Experts share their best tips:
1. Think of your profile picture as your “thesis.”
Levo user and C-Suite Coach founder Angelina Darrisaw gave me this ingenious perspective: “Do a quick brainstorm to determine two or three traits you want to be evident on your profile,” she says. “Fill out the entire profile first and then let the profile photo serve as ‘the thesis’ of the whole piece. Seek a photo that quickly and cleanly helps viewers identify the elements of your personal brand that you want to be noticed.” Envision your photo this way, and you’ll be off to a great start.
2. Grab a friend.
Image consultant Shauna Mackenzie suggests bringing a good friend to any photo shoot. “Make sure the photographer takes many shots and you have a friend beside you, creating conversation to catch these authentic moments on camera.” And if the photographer and friend are one and the same, even better! That’s how I got mine, after all. “Find someone you really resonate with,” says photographer Sarah Sloboda. “You want to let loose a little, and it’s hard to do that if you’re feeling nervous. Everyone feels nervous in front of the camera, so find someone who can coax you into being your best, boldest self for a split second.”
3. Make it candid.
Alex Vu, creative director at ilos videos, recently won second place at the iPhone Photography Awards in the portrait category, so the guy knows what he’s talking about in this arena. He reminds me that the perfect photo does not necessarily mean the best lighting or the most technically sound—it’s the photo that best conveys the story you’re trying to tell. Your Levo profile photo needs to represent you, your passions, and your interests. For most of us, that is not going to be a stuffy studio portrait. If you’re teaming up with a friend, Vu advises having each other do purposefully awkward fake laughs. “Usually what ends up happening is the person gets so awkward it actually creates a genuine laugh,” Vu says. “As a photographer, even when it’s candid, you should direct the subject—be confident! You are behind the lens and have the vision.”
4. Experiment with confidence.
Even if you have a friend on your side, we all know that taking pictures of yourself can be awkward. Seriously, every time I need to do a shoot for an article I spend most of it with an uncomfortable cringe on my face. Luxmyphoto founder Jim De Yonker says to push through the awkwardness, be bold, and go in managing your expectations—every photo is not going to be perfect. “You’ll have to experiment to find the right angle or facial expression where you look best,” De Yonker says. “Take pictures of yourself laughing, making a funny face, screaming—whatever it takes to raise or change up your energy! In between those shots, take some relaxed photos. You’ll be surprised how much less rigid or forced you’ll look. Remember, the best pictures come from catching a moment—that elusive twinkle of the eye—so experiment. You can always erase the bad ones!”
5. Mind your lighting.
According to De Yonker, proper lighting is *the most important* element of a great profile photo. “In order to have sufficient lighting that illuminates yourself, you may have to physically move locations such as closer to a light source,” he says. “You can also enhance the light by using a flash, or utilizing a light-colored surface (a white towel, white paper, light-colored curtain, etc.) to help naturally bounce light onto yourself.” All the experts say that soft, even lighting is essential, especially for a closely cropped image like this.
6. Keep the background simple.
De Yonker also says to choose a background that enhances, rather than distracts. “For instance, forgo taking a picture with a messy, cluttered space in the background,” he says, “unless you want others on Levo to think you’re a disorganized person!” But you can make subtle shifts to change the tone according to the “thesis” you’re going for. “For example, glass and steel in the background convey a sleek, sophisticated look,” Mackenzie says. “Nature or outdoor shots have an approachable, fun, natural feel. Pure white is modern, simplistic, focused, and no-fuss.”
Photo: NKS_Imagery / Getty Images