How to Pick a Background Photo to Make Your LinkedIn Profile Stand-Out

The use of LinkedIn has increased significantly since the pandemic began. For example, the number of conversations between connections on LinkedIn increased 55% in 2020. And, 40% of LinkedIn users change their job, company, or industry every 4 years.

So, all professionals need a strong LinkedIn profile to effectively keep track of and engage with their network. Building a LinkedIn profile that best reflects your professional brand requires a clear message and visuals to illustrate what you do and who you are professionally. The first visual that everyone will see on your profile is the background photo. The following explains how to select and add a background photo that makes your LinkedIn profile stand out.

The Banner Photo Basics for LinkedIn

The background photo (or cover photo) on your LinkedIn profile is that little box above your profile photo. This is often a flat, green box. Most people miss the opportunity to add a photo here and they are missing a huge opportunity to immediately connect with their audience.

The best photos are clear, high-resolution images. A poor resolution or bad pick can hurt your profile by sending the wrong message. For most people, it is better to pick an image that is not branded or that contains a logo.

The basic stats for this photo are key to picking the right image. The recommended LinkedIn background photo dimensions are 1584 x 396 pixels. Try to maintain a 4:1 aspect ratio for a bigger or smaller image than the recommended dimensions. The supported file formats for a background photo are JPG, GIF, and PNG.

Remember, the photo will follow you across the LinkedIn platform. This image will automatically adjust to different devices and formats. This is why it is better to pick photos or images without a lot of text in them. Cleaner, more modern images will display better across all the ways that people can see your profile.  

What Not to Do

Picking the wrong image is worse than picking no image at all for your LinkedIn profile background photo. The point of including an image is to select something that helps to illustrate your message as a professional. Here are the common mistakes to avoid when selecting your LinkedIn background photo:

  • Get Political (or religious). You may be really passionate about an issue or have a strong tie to your faith. However, not everyone shares that same perspective. Avoid picking any images that convey a political or religious affiliation unless such ties are central to your professional message.
  • Pick a Default Option. LinkedIn recently added a few default options for users to select from. However, these are default options and anyone can pick them. So, other people will have the same images on their profile and they do not convey a unique message about you as a professional. Thus, you are best avoiding the defaults to ensure that you use the banner photo field to convey something unique.
  • Use Something that You Don't Have the Rights to Use. Don't find yourself in trouble by using an image that requires approvals or is subject to licensing fees. Instead, make sure that you are picking an image that you have the right to use. This could be something that you created, that you had made, or that comes from one of the many free stock photo sites out there.
  • Be too Casual. LinkedIn is for professional networking, so keep the background photo professional. And, remember, anyone can see your LinkedIn profile on the platform so avoid any NSFW images.
  • Poor Fitting or Low-Resolution Images. A nice image that doesn't fit the dimensions for the LinkedIn background photo will send the wrong image to your professional network. Take the time to find an image that is high resolution and that fits cleanly in the defined dimensions.

Ways to Pick the Right Image for You

The fact that many people still don't pick an image for their LinkedIn banner will work to your advantage if you pick the right one. You will have an instant, visual cue to the person scrolling your profile that should engage them to continue reading or to reach out to you.

Personal brands are tricky and finding the right visual for that brand can take some time. Everyone is unique and we all have different messages to convey. Here are some ideas for effective types of images to illustrate your personal brand through your LinkedIn background photo.

  • Location. The pandemic may have made remote work more common, but companies and clients are still drawn to people in their area. So, showing that you are local with a city skyline or other image to show your local is an easy way to communicate that. These images are also frequently well suited for the preferred dimensions of the LinkedIn background.
  • Industry. Picking an image that includes a reference to your industry or something unique to your profession will also help people to quickly connect with what you do. Don't be overly literal in picking this image (i.e. for a doctor selecting a picture of people in white coats with stethoscopes). But, pick an image that is a reflection of your unique corner of the image (i.e. a doctor that works in community health, a social worker that combats homelessness, etc.).
  • Leadership. People that are leaders or executives in their organization should pick an image that shows how they lead or what they lead. This could be an image of you personally leading a meeting or a well-selected stock photo. Whatever you choose, make sure that the image is consistent with your leadership message and that it doesn't require a lot of interpretation to understand your intended meaning.
  • Brands. Some people can and should pick images that are associated with the brands that they manage or lead. This includes executives, sales professionals, marketing leaders, freelancers, and anyone else where such connection is relevant to what you do and who you serve.
  • Client Interests/Values. People that serve a particular client type, industry, or area of the country could pick an image that illustrates that focus. This shows people that you really care about who you serve and that they are a core part of your professional image.
  • Cause or Mission. Consider picking an image that illustrates a cause or a mission if that is relevant to who you are as a professional. For example, someone that works in renewable energy could pick an image with solar panels or wind. Or, someone working in This makes it clear not only is the person interested in combatting climate change, but that they probably have experience in the industry as well.
  • Tools that You Use. Images of a particular technology, system, equipment, or setting can also be really impactful to illustrate your professional brand. You could opt to pick a unique tool that reflects your specialties or create a collage of things that demonstrate your depth.
  • Visuals from Your Work or Service. People that create content, images, clothes, food, or other things for clients should showcase those items in their banner. For example, a photographer would pick an image that they took to best reflect their POV. Or, a baker could have a collage created to showcase the variety of sweets they make.
  • Speaking to an Audience. You don't have to be a keynote speaker to regularly be up in front of crowds. A high-resolution image that captures you in front of groups presenting is a strong visual to show people what you do. Make sure that you pick an image that captures you in front of the crowd and that it is a high-resolution view of you.
  • Visuals of Awards or Recognitions. Receive a big award or recently nominated for a prestigious designation or industry recognition? Include that in your LinkedIn profile background photo. This will put that big recognition right at the top and help people on your profile to quickly see how great you are at what you do.

How to Add the Background Photo to Your LinkedIn Profile

Make sure to add your selected image to your LinkedIn profile. To do this, make sure the file is in the right dimensions before you start. Now, to add your background photo to your LinkedIn profile you simply need to:

  1. Click on the Me icon at the top of your LinkedIn homepage.
  2. Select "View Profile."
  3. Click the camera icon on the upper right corner of your introduction section.
  4. Select "Upload Photo" to receive the prompt to select an image from your computer or mobile device.
  5. Click "Open"
  6. Click "Apply" to save. The photo should automatically upload.

You will then be given the option to reposition the image and to make other spacing adjustments in LinkedIn. Make your selections and hit save. Now, you have a great background photo on your LinkedIn profile that will help you to stand out to anyone that visits.

Want to make the most of your LinkedIn profile? Get help from an expert to build a LinkedIn profile that maximizes your visibility so it can start working for you. Learn More.