How To Get a Good Personal Photo for a Website

Selecting a good photo to use on websites, Linkedin, and elsewhere online

Photo shoot
Taking a good professional photo to use online is important.

A common fixture on the websites that I build for clients are pages focused on individual employees. In many cases, these pages are for that company’s leadership team and their C-level executives. These are typically professionals who are well established in their careers, which is why it never ceases to amaze me when I request a headshot photo to use for that website and am told that they “do not have one.”

In other cases, I do receive a photo, but it is wholly inappropriate for inclusion on their website and I have to reply back and ask for a better one instead. This is often when I am told that that inappropriate shot is the only photo of themselves that they have. Needless to say, this is a frustrating exercise for all involved.

Having a good quality photo to use on your company’s website, your Linkedin profile, or other places it may be needed online (like for an event site where you will be a featured speaker or an awards ceremony where you or your company are being recognized and honroed) is incredibly important. Yet, as my experience has shown, many professionals do not have these photos available, or the photos they do have are unprofessional at best. This happens because many people do not understand how to select a good photo for a website or where to get one if they do not already have quality photos to choose from.


What Not to Do – The Cropped Group Shot

The overwhelming majority of the inappropriate photos I receive from clients are group shots where I am asked to “crop out” the other people in the picture so it only focuses on one person. This is never a good idea, yet you see photos like this all over Linkedin, on many website bio pages, and other places across the Web.

A candid photo may be a fit for you and your company (more on that later), but this cropped photo scenario never looks professional. The quality of the photos themselves in terms of lighting, composition, and background are typically very poor and even with careful cropping, you can almost always see part of someone else that was in the original shot. It looks awkward and cheap when your bio photo has the remnants of someone’s shoulder or part of their hair creeping into the frame!

Bottom line – if the only photos you have of yourself are group shots alongside other people that would require some artful cropping, you have to take a new photo to use for your online needs.Here are some of the ways that you can do so:

Hiring a Professional

The best way to get a quality photo to use online (and elsewhere) is to hire a professional photographer. If you are redesigning a company website and have a number of employees who all need photos for that site, it may be a good idea to contract with a photographer who can come to your place of business and conduct a photo shoot (the duration and cost of that shoot will depend on the number of employees that need to be photographed, as well as that individual photographer's rates).

The benefit in this approach is that, since all the photos are being shot at once, they will all have consistent quality in terms of lighting, backgrounds, etc. This consistency can make for a very nice, professional presentation on your website and also give all of these employees shots that they can use elsewhere - like on Linkedin. It also gives your marketing team a bank of photos to draw from if they need them for press releases or other times requests are made for photos of specific people in your company.

If you need a photo for just yourself or maybe one or two others, doing an on-site shoot may end up being cost prohibitive. In these cases, ask about visiting that photographer’s studio for the shots. That is likely to reduce the cost from what it would take to do an on-location shoot at your office.

If your budget is very slim and you do not have the means to hire a professional photographer, you can still get quality shots by going to a store that has a portrait studio, like JC Penny or Sears. These studios offer digital versions of the photos in formats that you can use online. Ultimately, you will get a lower cost solution for photos that, while not as nice as what you would get from a professional photographer, are still much better than that aforementioned cropped group shot photo.

Do It Yourself

If you do not want to work with a photographer for your online photos, you can take some yourself. The challenge with the DIY route is that since you are not an expert at lighting and composing the environment for the photo, your shots with a camera phone or even a decent DSLR camera will not be of the same quality as a professionally shot image. Still, this is better than the cropped group shot, so if this is the best you can do, go for it!

When shooting your own images, be mindful of the background and try to select a neutral area where you will stage the photos. If you are taking multiple photos of different company employees, choose a spot in or near the office that you can use again and again if new people come on board. That way your images will be somewhat consistent, at least in terms of the background of the photos, even if they were shot at different times.

Regarding lighting, you should try to take a few shots at different times of the day or different spots to see which ones work best.

Then, once you’ve found the best combination of time and location, you can shoot the rest of the team’s photos.

Going Candid

So far, all the tips I’ve presented have been geared towards a posed, headshot style photo for your website. These shots are the most commonly ones used online, but in some cases, a candid or action shot may actually be a better fit for your needs and your company’s culture. For instance, when my company decided to create a page for our individual employees, we gave them the option to use candid shots for their photos. This allowed us to show our team as real people and not just employees of the company.

While some employees did go with the traditional headshot style photo, others selected images of themselves biking or fishing or in some memorable location. These images communicate in a way that a posed headshot simply will not do and, for us and our company culture, they ended up being a great fit even if the photos themselves are of varying quality.

Now, these action shots may have worked well on our website, but they are not appropriate for a platform like Linkedin. That is the key to using candid shots – knowing when they will work and when you may need to use that standard headshot image instead. If you are using a candid photo from a recent hiking trip or vacation on your website, you should still have a posed headshot available for instances where that is the more appropriate choice (Linkedin, conference speaker photo, etc).

In Closing

Having a quality photo to use online is essential for business professionals today - and getting those photos is easy enough that there should really be no excuse as to why you are settling for a low-quality shot.

Use the tips presented in this article to take or select the right personal photo for your needs, but whatever you do, please do not send group shots that need to be cropped. You want your online profile to look great, and that starts with the photo that you put out there for the world to see.