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CV photo: Tips for creating a picture that will leave an impression

An ideal photo for your CV is not about perfection but about how an HR representative sees a job seeker. You’d be surprised to learn how much of a difference a picture can make. In the end, it can be a deal breaker for inviting you for an interview.

Not everyone agrees that CVs should have a picture, but in some countries, like Germany, adding an image to a CV is a very common practice and we thus recommend you to have one as well.

Tips for a great CV photo

The key for your CV photo is that it’s not about perfection but about how you represent yourself.

Quality photography on your CV will show that although you may be applying for a non-photography job, you have put in the time and effort to make your CV stand out among others, which speaks well of your commitment and dedication that any employer can appreciate.

Your CV photo should not be overdone or artificial, but it should be interesting, not boring, lively, and at the same time confident.

Look professional and make sure you are clearly visible

Going back to the first impression and bearing in mind how important it is, remember that you want to create a sense of professionalism. You do not necessarily have to be in a suit when you take the photo, but do not use an existing image that shows you with a drink in your hand and wearing very casual clothes.

The ideal CV photo is showing your face plus the top of your chest.

Simplicity is a virtue

A simple, neutral background and matching colors are best practice. Objects in the background can distract the viewer and can look unprofessional.

Facial expression: Smile!

Professionalism is essential, but you also want to show a little sincerity. A profile photo is mainly used for identification, but it is also an opportunity to create great first impressions. Try to look friendly and smile!

CV Photo

A CV Photo that is professional with a smile.

Creating a CV photo on a budget

You can, of course, hire a photographer and rent a studio and have professionals do the work for you. This will usually give you the best results. But if you’re on a budget, you can also try to take good shots yourself.

In case you want to try to do it yourself, here are some tips for you:


As for the background, it is worth remembering that objects in the photo significantly impact how the audience perceives the image. So it is always worth thinking about the room and the background against which the portrait will be taken.

A monochrome matt paper or poster, a piece of fabric such as canvas, or just a plain white or black wall will be perfect. Depending on your concept, you can choose more creative backgrounds for your CV image, such as wooden panels, but be careful not to overdo it.


Lighting also plays an important role in any genre of photography, including self-portraits. So always choose a light that is consistent and pleasing to the eye. You can catch natural light and sunlight by taking a photo in front of a window.

Rule of thirds

Finally, you cannot forget the rule of thirds. It is a handy compositional technique that allows you to take more interesting photos.

When taking a picture of yourself, imagine an imaginary grid and position yourself in the top third of it, with your face in the top corner of the image. This will give you a more balanced shot and a greater sense of space and movement.

Have a phone stand 

It is also a good idea to invest in a phone stand. This will make it much easier to take pictures, and they will come out much better because you will have more time to position yourself before you press the button that sends the signal to your phone to take the picture.

This technique works much better than using the timer option because you will not be rushing and gasping for breath between each take.

Edit images for incredible results

Image editing apps can be a great help for getting high-quality pictures. We recommend the image editing tool pfpmaker.com, which is not only simple and easy to use but also includes a wide range of photo editing options. But, of course, on the web, there are plenty of other options.

Often, a great picture needs very little editing. Just a bit of color saturation, a slight darkening, or, on the contrary, a little brightening.

Remember that the master does not fall from the sky. So do not give up if your first photos are not exactly like the cover of a magazine. Next time, try different camera settings, lighting, and post-processing tools.

Summary: Tips for creating a CV photo

As we have discussed, having a great CV photo can make you stand out from the crowd and is still considered a standard in Germany.

The most important thing is having a professional picture where you are also smiling. Ideally, you also have a neutral background with no objects visible that distract the viewer.

Paying for a professional photographer will usually give you the best results, and you might want to think about investing in one. However you can also create a good looking picture yourself.

We hope that these tips are helpful for you. If you want to learn more tips about your CV, check out our article on how to create a good CV for your applications in Germany.

Picture of Laura Villafuerte

Laura Villafuerte

HR expert & Career Coach

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