A professional profile photo is a must on your LinkedIn profile today. Your profile picture is the first impression that people have of you, it shows up in searches and in Google, and it enables you to connect with others and visually convey your personal brand.

Supporting the idea that a LinkedIn photo is a key part of your profile, according to LinkedIn’s official blog, “Members who include a profile photo receive 21x more profile views and up to 36x more messages.”

A study of 800 profile pictures found that people view you as more likable, competent and influential if you smile in your profile photo. The study also found that people with open mouth smiles were considered twice as likable as closed mouth smiles, so smile big and be proud of your pearly whites.

You’d be surprised just how many casual (and unfriendly/unapproachable) headshots there are on LinkedIn, and those can be detrimental to your brand. Photos in which you are smiling and dressed professionally are key as well as updating your photo if it is more than a few years old (hey it’s okay if you’re bald!).

Ensure that your LinkedIn profile photo is a high-resolution, professional headshot that is correctly sized (ideally 400 by 400 pixels) in which you look personable. Aim to have your face filling about 60 percent of the space. Crop the picture from the top of your shoulders to just above your head so that your face fills the frame. There’s no need for a full-body view of you – your photo should focus on your face.

Almost as bad as having a low-resolution, unprofessional LinkedIn photo is not having any photo at all. Excluding a headshot makes it harder for someone to recognize you after you’ve met them. If you don’t upload a photo, a shadowy gray stick figure appears in the photo area, and trust me, no one wants to hire a shadowy stick figure to represent them. Not having a headshot also can signal that you lack mastery of the platform (maybe you don’t know how to upload a photo or that you just don’t care enough about your profile and what others think of you to post a photo).

It goes without saying that your headshot should look like you. Meaning you today, not you from 10 years ago. Listen, none of us like aging, but with it comes experience and gravitas. I see so many people post profile photos from many years ago and it’s a huge mistake. If you don’t look like your headshot, your clients might wonder why you don’t, as well as whether you know how to use LinkedIn. I recommend getting a new headshot every two years and taking several photos in different outfits (with tie, without tie, women in a jacket and without one) to give you and your social media team variety when they post photos of you online.

If your company doesn’t offer headshots to its employees, it’s still easy to get a new headshot. Many local photographers will take individual professional portraits of you at a low cost (use Google and word of mouth to help you find someone), as will some department stores, such as JCPenney, which now has a business headshot offering. You can also find a photography student who has a side business as a corporate headshot photographer, and I’ve seen many events offer headshots to its attendees for free. Also, we’ve all seen those photos on LinkedIn that were taken decades back and then seen them in person only to find out they look completely different – don’t be that person. You’re allowed to age – it shows you are experienced.

Of course, your picture should be professional, but professional doesn’t mean serious. Try to look genuine, not intense. Remember that profiles with photos where an individual is smiling make others like you more. This is contrary to the strategy of a few litigation firms that have their lawyers not smile and look foreboding in their headshots to convey they are bulldogs and forces to be reckoned with (and that may be a good thing in the courtroom, but you do want to have a bulldog and scary looking lawyer on your side? I guess it’s a personal preference.

Here are a few LinkedIn profile photo don’ts:

  • Don’t include a pet or child in your photo
  • Don’t use an image of you on vacation or on a beach, golf course or mountain
  • Under no circumstances should you use a selfie
  • Don’t post a photo of you taken in a car or outside
  • Don’t wear too much makeup or no makeup at all – look as natural and polished as possible
  • Don’t wear casual clothing or too much jewelry
  • Don’t use a group photo (If you use a group photo as your profile photo, they may be unsure which person is you)
  • Don’t use the photo you use on Instagram or Facebook. Think buttoned up and professional
  • Don’t use a low-resolution or blurry photo
  • Don’t use a photo of you that is more than five years old – remember, it’s okay if you are losing your hair or getting gray – your clients want to see the real you, the person with whom they interact each day. Your photo should reflect how you look on a daily basis (glasses, hair or no hair, etc.)
  • Don’t wear sunglasses or hold a drink (this goes for all photos on LinkedIn period)
  • Don’t post anything in the profile photo area other than a photo of you – not the logo of your company or charity, not a sunset – just you.
  • Don’t use a full body photo. Your profile photo should only showcase your face.

A great LinkedIn headshot is attainable (and cheap) and essential for the platform. Try out these tips for a photo that gives a polished, professional impression and showcases your best qualities. Now say “cheese!”