- The Essential Military-to-Civilian Transition Resource

Spouse Series: Smile for the Camera... and Your Career
by Janet Farley, Contributing Editor

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Article Sponsored by: National Guard

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“There are no bad pictures; that’s just how your face looks sometimes.” – Widely attributed to Abraham Lincoln

You may not find any comfort in these words whether honest Abe in fact said them or not, but one thing is certain: Pictures don’t lie. And professional networking sites, such as LinkedIn, are filled with profile photos gone horribly wrong. Don’t let that happen to you. Remember, the goal is to make a good and lasting impression, not just a lasting one.

Trish Alegre-Smith, professional photographer and owner of So Your Life Images, creates standout visual content for websites, social media and print at She is also a U.S. Air Force veteran and a military spouse. She offers these five tips for making the most of your online photo opportunity:

1. Take a professional photo and avoid avatars.
“If your intent is to be discovered by potential employers or clients, then it’s very important to have a photo,” Alegre-Smith says.

Having one accomplishes several things.

“Your photo allows you to connect with others that you have just met,” she says. “This is especially helpful for those who are better at remembering faces over names. It can also be useful to have one when you are trying to reconnect with former classmates or colleagues.”

“Your photo helps jog others’ memories and provides some assurance that your profile is really yours,” she says.

2. Use a headshot and avoid group shots or abstract representations of yourself or your work.
“This helps your image stand out when it’s viewed on a mobile device. You can use wider shots in your status updates or in a SlideShare that show you at work in your office, with a client or at a conference,” Alegre-Smith says.

“If you are an artist, you can include your self-portraits or examples of your work in a linked portfolio,” she says.

3. Please, don’t take a selfie.
“Selfies are never a good idea,” Alegre-Smith says. “It’s difficult for you to see what your picture really looks like as you’re taking it. Lighting and facial features are almost always skewed as you work to keep the camera at the right distance from your face while trying to press the shutter button. Always find someone else to take your photo.”

4. Live and post in the professional present.
You looked thinner and younger five years ago. You totally rock that to-die-for sexy outfit. You know how to party with the best of them. You love cartoon caricatures. You think of yourself as a rock star, complete with star-studded shades. You have a really cute dog that appears to love you. A lot.

Think like Queen Elsa from Frozen and just let it go. Keep your professional networking profile photos just that – professional and current.

“You’re trying to make professional connections over social ones,” Alegre-Smith says. “Always ask yourself if your photo is how you want other professionals to see you.”

5. Don’t be cheap. Hire a professional or persuade a highly skilled amateur.
“Professional photographers use lighting, posing and other techniques to help you look your best,” Alegre-Smith says. “For my clients, I also keep retouching to a minimum – I want them to look great but still match what they look like in real life.

And choose your photographer with care.

“Always look at the photographer’s portfolio to see if you like the photos and if that’s how you’d like to be portrayed,” she says. “A professional photographer has many advantages, but you can find good amateur photographers, too.”

According to Alegre-Smith, professionals should be licensed and insured. They should be able to clearly specify in writing ahead of time what you’ll receive, what you’re guaranteed and what the price will be for those rendered services.

She also suggests you clarify how the photographer may or may not use your photo for commercial reasons in his or her business.

“A written agreement is always a good idea, even from a friend and even if no payment is exchanged,” she says.

Janet Farley, a workplace and career strategies expert, is the author of Quick Military Transition Guide: Seven Steps to Landing a Civilian Job (Jist Works, 2013). Follow her @mil2civguide on Twitter.

Return to January/February 2015 Issue