If you change jobs or want to take your first steps on the job market, you cannot avoid a convincing application. Employers in Germany are no longer allowed to request application photos for reasons of equal rights (see General Equal Treatment Act (AAG) of 2006). In most personnel offices, however, it is still considered good manners for job applicants to present themselves with their own likeness in their application letter.
It is clear that you cannot simply use the last selfie for this. But you don’t have to go to a professional photographer or look for expensive digital cameras on Amazon to get flawless application photos. The cameras of modern smartphones have everything you need for a pretty and effective application photo. If you then follow a few simple rules, you can take application pictures yourself at any time – and with minimal effort. We explain how it works.
Make your own application photo: Here’s how
The letter of motivation is in place, the application folder has been put together and your CV has brought you up to speed. Great. Only one little thing is missing: the application photo. To keep this little thing from becoming a big (or expensive) thing, there are a few simple rules to follow.
Because even if the photographing is done with the push of a button, one should not underestimate the effect of application photos. For recruiters, even small photos sometimes speak big things: clothing, light, background, facial expressions: all of these leave an impression. And as long as no one knows you personally, only the documents you have submitted will determine what image a potential employer has of you.
Here you will find the best smartphones for photography.
Checklist: This is important if you take application photos yourself
The first rule for reasonable application photos is: No selfies! The front cameras of modern smartphones work with a lower resolution and almost always use filters that automatically optimize such images for use in social media services. So use the back camera of the cell phone and a tripod with a timer or with a shutter release. Many smartphone tripods come with such equipment. You can also ask a friend to press the button from a suitable distance. A second pair of eyes also helps in finding the right pose and placing light sources optimally.
Now let’s go into detail.
A good choice is half the battle: the right background
The most beautiful smile cannot distract from a chaotic background on an application photo. Although one instinctively looks at the foreground of a picture, the focus then inevitably shifts to the ambience: Are objects or structures recognizable? How do foreground and background, colors and lighting conditions fit together? When taking photos, it is best to choose a monochrome, light background. Obtrusively patterned wallpapers are taboo. Neither on your clothes nor in the background you should cause unnecessary disturbance.
Tipp: If you don’t have suitable wallpaper at home, you can temporarily hang a plain bed sheet on the wall. Pay attention to subtle colors such as light blue, white or grey. Colors such as yellow, red or orange are usually not suitable and appear unprofessional.
Of course, it is also a crystal clear no-go to take pictures of other people. Even if your application photo was taken outdoors, for example in a park. There it makes sense to provide backgrounds with a clear blurriness either using the camera function or later in post-processing. You can also replace the background if you have the appropriate skills and software.
Hairstyle: Well-groomed, but matter-of-fact
When it comes to haircuts, you have some freedom. Only one thing should not be: Your face must not be covered by the hairstyle. If you only see half of your portrait because of all the strands of hair, the application photo doesn’t seem friendly or open – and that’s exactly what you want to aim for. Avoid brightly colored hair or complicated updos. Unless you’re applying to a hairstylist, keep it simple and friendly. When applying to a start-up, you can of course come across as a little more relaxed than at a conservative financial institution.
The same applies to the beard, by the way. It’s perfectly fine as such, but it should be neat and tidy.
Clothing, make-up, piercings: That’s what matters
Clothes not only make people, they also make applications successful – or unsuccessful. Today you don’t always have to look out of your application photos with a suit and tie or in a blazer. The right choice of clothes always depends on the job you want to grab with your application. If you are applying for a job where you will later show up to work in a suit, it is quite appropriate to wear the appropriate clothes on the application photo as well. In general, these rules apply:
- Try to express seriousness and competence with your clothing. Hoodies, deep décolletés or sports clothes are pure own goals. Choose simple colors for shirts, blouses or blazers, avoid bright colors.
- Avoid thickly applied make-up, eye-catching jewelry and, if necessary, remove piercings briefly. Anyone applying to be a street worker can safely leave the nose ring in. With many other jobs, however, you don’t have to risk scaring off critical HR staff with such facial jewelry.
- That goes without saying: your clothes must be clean and ironed.
- Feel free to take pictures with multiple outfits if you have the time. You can then select the best picture and have a few alternatives at hand for any applications elsewhere.
Posture and body language: facial expressions are crucial!
Posture, facial expressions and body language also say a lot about a person in a photo. First you should decide which side of your face to face the camera. Application photos work best when you twist your body a little. Then try to look relaxed but not overly casual. A straight posture goes without saying.
The smile is particularly important when it comes to facial expressions. Of course, you shouldn’t grin on application photos, as if you already have the job and your first salary in your pocket. A friendly, confident and understated smile is ideal. The higher your dream job is paid and the more conservative the employer you are writing to is, the more objective you can look at the photo – but a friendly facial expression is always important.
The right lighting conditions
Application photos can be created quickly with a smartphone, but you shouldn’t settle for just a snapshot. When it comes to light in particular, a few simple preparations can make a world of difference. Feel free to play photographer yourself: set up additional lamps as light sources, open blinds and curtains for the best illumination with natural light and avoid cold white light above 5000 Kelvin. Warm white light in the range of 2700 to 3300 Kelvin gives the skin a natural and friendly shimmer. Make sure that your lighting does not allow any shadows in the area of the face.
post processing and colour
If you are familiar with image processing, you can quickly remove annoying backgrounds in the application photo with free software and replace them with monochrome or tinted areas. Imperfections in the skin are also quickly stamped away, some apps have their own functions on board for this. But you shouldn’t overdo it: Anyone who interferes too much with the application photo will quickly make it appear artificial. You want to achieve exactly the opposite: namely to come across as authentic.
If you then print out the picture or have it exposed by a photo service, you still have to pay attention to the appropriate size. Your application photo should be 4 to 5 cm wide and 5 to 7 cm high. Portrait format is common (but by no means mandatory). You can also opt for an image in landscape format or choose a circular section, as known from WhatsApp and Co. However, such “modern” formats are more suitable for application photos for young companies such as start-ups.
Most of the time you can’t go wrong with your application with a color photo. However, black and white images can also achieve a special effect and – if they are successful – represent a unique selling point compared to other applicants. Such photos score with seriousness and are suitable for applications in creative industries. Tip: Always make application photos in color, the image can be converted to black and white at any time in post-processing – but not the other way around.
A selection of really good photo apps can be found here.