Picture Perfect: Ten Ridiculous Things People Do When Asked to Submit A Professional Looking Recent Photo

I also have an upcoming stint as a speaker for a conference. I’m going to talk about investments to a group of doctors. They asked me to submit a picture for the marketing materials and the conference program handbook.

There’s a problem. I don’t have respectable and professional looking photos of myself. Well I do, but they are framed graduation pictures from decades past, so they are no longer appropriate.

Can I use this picture? Errrr, a  lot of people seem to use them in their profile pics.

facebook default no profile pic
If I use this pic, people may recognize me from Facebook – “Hey, aren’t you the default avatar guy?” Facebook default no profile pic. Image from Facebook.com


When asked to submit a professional looking photo, these are the ridiculous things people do:  – I’m guilty of many of these by the way.


1. Pick graduation photos. – Graduation pics seem to be ok, since these are usually professionally taken in a studio, most likely with proper hair styling, makeup and formal attire. Unfortunately, unless you graduated just months ago, a grad pic will not be recent. Also, do you want to convey the image of a fresh grad? Graduation picture photographers also have tendencies to make their subjects pose in a ridiculous manner. Holding a diploma in your hand? – That’s not even your real diploma. Hand over the other shoulder? – Too dramatic.

2. Submit photos of themselves attending an event in formal wear – If you were a guest or part of an entourage in a wedding, you probably were in formal wear and had good hair and makeup. The same thing applies to your prom. That doesn’t mean those photos are appropriate for professional purposes (in some cases they can be). First, formal attire makes one overdressed (tux or ballgown, anyone?). Wedding or prom photos may be too dramatic on one end and too candid on the other. Photos in these events will most probably be group photos., so you’ll have to crop out yourself. Cropping yourself out is a bad idea.

3. Cropping yourself out of a group picture or a scenic background – You finally have a good picture. Unfortunately, you have your arm around your friend or there’s a waterfall behind you. The bad thing about cropping yourself out of photos is that it actually looks cropped out. Taking a new photo is so easy to do nowadays that cropping — or actual physical cutting out of yourself from an old photo is unnecessary.

4. Submit passport/ visa photos/ ID photos – Plain background? Check. Business attire? Check. Good enough for a professional looking photo? Probably. However, unless you’re incredibly photogenic, these photos may not show your best “look”. The reverse seems true, passport photos and driver’s license photos usually depict you at your homeliest moments.  A professional looking photo doesn’t mean lack of personality, and passport/ visa photos usually have these stoic look, as required by authorities.

5. Take selfies – You can always take a professional looking photo with your phone or tablet. However, you may need a friend to take a photo for you. Of course, selfies are ok as long as it doesn’t look like a selfie. There are tripods and bluetooth controls that will help you take a not-selfie looking selfie. Just ditch the duckface and lookup poses — and never use pics taken while lying in bed.

6. Go overboard with Photoshop – Not everyone is blessed with flawless complexion, so a little photoshopping is acceptable. However, you should look like what you actually look in person. The difference between retouched photo and misrepresentation is not a thin line so there’s no excuse to come up with a misleading pic. I attended a conference recently and the program handbook showed some gorgeous speakers. When some of these speakers were introduced – side by side with their program pic on a big projector – they don’t look alike. That may not be a big deal for some, but for me, it takes away from their presentation somehow. I think it would have been ok with the audience if the pics don’t look too good, just as long as they resemble the speaker.

7. Glam it up with vanity photos – Some people have posed for “modelling shots” for some reason. However, unless your actual field is modelling, or you’re trying to impress Tyra Banks, those photos may not be appropriate. Depending on how daring those are, they may even send the wrong signal.

8. Stage “action” photos – A picture in your professional attire maybe all that is needed. Some people take it too far by taking pics “in action”, That’s like me taking a photo of myself in a doctor’s coat, with a stethoscope doing CPR… or to show that I dabble in finance – I’ll take a photo of myself with gold bars and stacks of money. No. Just no.

9. Act too cool and laid back – Some may submit a photo while on  vacation or with pets. The message may be “I’m too cool for these professional looking photos”. There are fields where these may work, but most pics will be more appropriate for a personal Facebook site status update.

10. Boast with achievement photos – If you ever win some prestigious award, it will probably be on top of your resume. No need to make your professional profile pic of you actually receiving the medal.


I’m guilty of most of the violations above. One of my online profiles actually has a picture of my pet (without me). The said pet has been dead for almost a year.


Linkedin – the site where professionals are supposed to meet for professional reasons, gave out an advice on how to come up with a professional looking pic. I took the site’s advise in coming up with my professional looking picture

Get a professional headshot – Check! Got my picture taken at Beloved at SM Megamall Ortigas in Mandaluyong Philippines. For a very reasonable price, they did a very good job. They give you an option to get softcopies (via CD) so you can upload your pics wherever. See Beloved FB page here.

Have a photo that looks like you – Well, Beloved did some “post-processing” work but there’s no mistaking that I’m the guy in the pic.

Fill the frame with face – My picture will probably appear in small sizes in some marketing materials. It makes sense that my face fills that small space, not the background.

Choose the right mood and expression for your audience – Linkedin advises the smile with your eyes thing so I attempted to do that. I wasn’t good at smizing. Tyra won’t be proud.

Dress appropriately for your industry – I didn’t go the full suit and tie look. I went with the sport coat and polo shirt ensemble. If I wanted the former, Beloved can attach a suit or shirt and tie digitally in a variety of color combos.  I didn’t know that digital clothing change is being done for quite some time already.

Suit and tie templates for ID passport photos
Nice, but I prefer wearing an actual suit to a shoot. Suit and tie templates for ID passport photos. Image from download.4-designer.com


Make sure background is not distracting – I stuck with white.


I like my picture so much that I made it my Linkedin profile pic. That picture is going to get a lot of mileage these next few weeks.


– Finance M.D., thefinancemd.com






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Finance, M.D.

Finance, M.D. is a practicing physician who dabbles in finance and investment. He has passed all three levels of the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) exams, all in his first attempts. thefinancemd.com

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