If you’re familiar with LinkedIn, then you know you need a profile photo. And if you’re on LinkedIn, you’ve done enough investigating to see which pictures work… and which don’t.

If you’re working on a tight budget, paying for a professional photographer may seem a little contradicting. You could spend the money and possibly catch the attention of a recruiter or you could save and work with what you have until you can land something that pays a little better before investing.

As any recruiter may who scans through thousands of LinkedIn profile photos can tell you, it is possible to take these professional photos at home – And for free! Just avoid making these six basic mistakes that at-home DIY photographers may find themselves suffering from.

1. Poor Quality Cameras

In the past, a high-resolution headshot image meant that the person must have been a big deal. Now, high-resolution images are expected and easily deliverable. If you have a low-resolution image, it tends to give the impression that you’re a little behind the times.

Steer clear of those webcams, and go for that smartphone. It’s a great solution if you don’t have a nice camera on hand.

2. Unflattering Lighting

Taking photos in a dark room or cropping a photo down to emphasize your face creates a graininess and decreases your quality. Lighting can make the most drastic difference between an unprofessional photo and a professional one. An amateur versus a pro.

DO NOT USE FLASH. Flash can be extremely unflattering when used for up-close portrait style photos. With that said, also avoid fluorescent lighting. It has an eerie feeling that haunts your professional headshot.

A simple way of obtaining that natural-looking lighting, without having a professional photographer set up, is to use natural sunlight. Avoid direct sunlight which creates dark shadows that contrasts harshly on your face and forces you to squint. Use diffused sunlight, like light coming through your window or use morning sunlight, which tends to be somewhat softer. Another opportunity would be the “golden hour” or the last hour of sunlight in the day.

3. Distracting Backgrounds

Professional photographers adventure out and get creative with what they use as a background for their headshots, but unless you have experience, it would be best to stick to a simple, plain, solid color.

A good technique is to place yourself a few feet away from a solid-colored wall. Do not stand too close as you can cause distracting shadows. Plain walls work well in mimicking a professional studio backdrop. A plain wall also prevents home furniture and photos from becoming distractions in your headshot background.

If you find it near impossible to find a plain wall, you can attempt to take a photo in your daily work environment. At your desk or out with a customer, just be very aware of any personal belongings or possibly distracting background pieces.

4. Unprofessional Clothing

Getting all dressed up to take a quick photo in your own home does seem a bit uncomfortable. That doesn’t mean you should take it in your jammies or lounge clothes. First impressions are extremely important and you need to remember that when searching for a career online, your profile picture is your first impression.

A good rule of thumb is if you wouldn’t wear it on your first day of work, it shouldn’t be the outfit you choose to wear in your headshot photos. The only exception is if you’re attempting to get an artistic job that requires creativity. Dress to impress your target audience.

5. The Selfie

Selfie hate is a very real thing and employers are prone to hold it against you if they believe that you took your own photo. If you’re gonna attempt a selfie, avoiding those major giveaways.

A twisted shoulders or an extended arm.

Any type of facial distortion.

You don’t have to ask someone to take your headshot, you can invest in a small tripod and stand a few feet away from your camera or phone. Your phone also has a built in timer that can help you capture that perfect photo.

6. Not Enough Feedback

It’s important to reach out to others and get their opinions on your photo before you post it. Mistakes happen and even if you followed all the instructions to a tee, you can accidentally send the wrong message.

We can’t see our own expressions and body language without being objective, frequently causing us to be in the dark when looking at the final product.

A great headshot is not as unattainable as you may have originally thought, just use the tips provided to create a professional style photo that will leave a lasting impression on any recruiter or employer that may be taking a look at your profile.

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