Why an Up-To-Date Photo Is So Important with Your Online Profile

As I walked into the most recent Denver IIBA meeting, someone threw me an easy question.

“Can you please introduce me to Laura Brandenburg?”

“Sure, that’s me!”

Is it time to update your profile picture?

“Ooh…you look different? Maybe your hair is longer?”

Awkward silence.

As I was driving home, I reflected back to the last time someone commented that I was easily recognizable from my profile picture…I was really proud that the real me and the online me were in sync. Oh, right, that was nearly two years ago.

Are you making this same mistake? Keep reading to find out and, if so, consider these 3 simple steps for improving your online profile photo.

6 Signs Your Photo Could Be Improved

  1. Your photo is more than 3 years old.
  2. We can’t see your face clearly.
  3. Your photo looks more like a mug shot than a head shot.
  4. You cropped your photo out of a group photo.
  5. Your photo is, well, not a photo. You are a real person, right? A drawing, cartoon, or caricature might be cute but it’s not a photo.
  6. Um, what photo? The default gray box provided by your favorite social networking site is not a photo. Neither is one of the system-provided gravatars.

This is an online world and we are visual people. Updating your LinkedIn profile, commenting on blogs, and participating in online discussions are all great ways to cultivate an online identity. Because people remember faces better than names, it pays to make the most of your online investment and gain some visual recognition for your contributions.

You probably know all of this, but you think the solution is way too complex. Here are three simple steps to take.

Step 1 – Find Someone to Take a New Profile Picture (This Is Easier Than You Think)

The thing is, getting a decent quality photo can be relatively easy and it doesn’t have to break the bank. I’ll be updating my photo in a couple weeks when a good friend of ours takes some family photos.

  • Find a friend who is studying digital photography. Ask them to snap a few high quality shots of you in front of trees, a brick wall, or rocks. Really any neutral background will do. The siding of your house or your office building is probably good enough given the right lighting.
  • Even if you can’t find someone studying digital photography, ask the person you know who takes the best photos (you know the ones, they post pics on Facebook all the time and they look great).
  • Finally, you can hire a professional photographer to do a photo shoot, ballpark price would be about $100. (If they are charging much more than that, you’ll be getting much more than you need for a head shot to use online.)
[Start of Side Bar for Professional Chapter Leaders] While I’m thinking of it, this would be a great member benefit or revenue opportunity to consider.  Hire a photographer and host a photo shoot once every year or two before a Chapter meeting. [/End of Side Bar for Professional Chapter Leaders]

Step 2 – Look Your Best But Not Glamour-Shot Best

This photo you’ll have taken is going to identify you online. A decent photographer will use lighting to help you look your best – your real you best. We’re not talking glamour shots here. In fact, a glamour shot is not going to do you any good. I don’t want to see you with a boa or with a save-it-for-the-80s hair-do.

And the pictures from your wedding or your best friend’s wedding…how often do you look like that?

Instead, consider how you would prep yourself for an important meeting at work or a job interview and do something similar for this photo. Better yet, save yourself a little time and get the photo taken on the way to a job interview or important meeting.

And, unless you want to portray a distinctly casual image online (this works for very few people), don’t choose your Friday casual wear. Choose a professional outfit.  A dress shirt or blouse  is a good choice, so is a jacket if that’s something you’d wear at least once per week. Remember, prospective employers or other business analysts will be using this photo to get a feel for you. Dress the part.

Step 3 – Upload the photo everywhere

Using the same photo in each of your professional online hangouts, supports a continuous online identity. Also, create an account and upload this photo to the Gravatar system. Most blogs and many websites, including Bridging the Gap, use this system to automatically pull in your photo when you leave a comment or write an article.

Your Next Step

Don’t be the unrecognizable one at your next professional meeting. Do an honest gut check on your online photo. Does it represent the best you? Are you using it consistently to establish a professional presence?

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  1. Neville says

    Hi Laura,
    It’s easy for many of us to rely on some past photos. Especially if we think they are more flattering than the current reality. However integrity constrains us to present the truth.
    Good on you for taking and passing on the reality check.


  2. All great points and something that I did last week; this is such a coincidence. I realized that my profile pic was atleast 5 years old and got it updated. I have updated the linkedIn for now. I should heed to your advice and update it everywhere now (gravatar, FB, etc.).

    Like you do, I also recommend hiring a professional photographer (after all we spend 100s on clothes, movies, and electronics which our linkedIn network never sees :).

  3. These days, we are identified and judged more and more by how we appear to others on social networking sites.
    We need to think about it, along with our personal brand statement our photo(if we post one) is likely the first thing people will see in our online profile.
    To be very selective before publishing one and using it across all media, its important for ourself to photographed with professional with lots of varied shots to make sure our photograph strikes the right professional for our industry and niche.

    • Arati,
      I definitely agree. But if you don’t have a picture at all, perfection can be the enemy of good. Finding a good enough photographer for a trade or small financial investment is better than no profile picture at all.

      By the way, it looks like you need to create a gravatar profile as well or update your email address to be the one you use for comments.

  4. elianna james says


    Once again you are dead on right. I recently went on a business trip back east, met a lot of people I’d been working with virtually for the past year or two.
    One guy, on meeting me for the first time, blurted out, with a room full of witnesses, “you don’t look like your LinkedIn photo”. Aaarggh. I didn’t ask him to further explain.
    Must get a new one posted.
    Thanks for the gentle nudge.

    • Elianna,
      Sounds like we had a similar experience. It’s so easy to lose track of how we’ve changed! Sometimes we need blunt people in our lives to give us the real truth!
      Can’t wait to see your new profile picture (and be sure to upload it to gravatar when you have it too).

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