Photo on Your CV: A Guide to the Dos and Don’ts
Written by Mike Potter, Author • Last updated on 13 May 2024

Photo on Your CV: A Guide to the Dos and Don’ts

Including a photo on your CV can add a personal touch and make an otherwise text-heavy document look more attractive. But CV photos are also the subject of some controversy. Guidance on whether to include one differs from country to country, and between industries and job titles. In this article, we unpick the issue of whether to include a photo on your CV, and provide guidance on how to add a photo for maximum impact.

Should you include a photo on your CV?

The main factor in whether it’s acceptable to include a photo on your CV or not, is the country you’re applying to work in. If you’re applying for jobs in the UK, adding a photo to your CV is widely discouraged. The same applies for job applications in the USA and Canada. However, in many other countries around the world, employers may expect you to include one.

In the UK, extensive anti-discrimination laws exist to ensure fair treatment of all people. The Equality Act 2010 identified several ‘protected characteristics’. It’s illegal to discriminate against anyone based on these personal traits. These include race, sex, age, religion, sexual orientation, disability, gender reassignment, marriage/civil partnership and pregnancy/maternity.

The Equality Act impacts upon recruitment practices across the UK. Employers are forbidden from allowing any of the characteristics outlined above to influence their hiring decisions. As such, most employers prefer applicants to include as little personal information as possible on their CV. This means it’s not common to include your age, gender, nationality, or religion. It’s also not common to include a personal photo. 

Advantages of a photo on your CV

While it’s usually not advisable to include a photo on your CV for UK job applications, there are some reasons for doing so, and some situations where it might be advantageous. Take a look at these advantages of adding a photo to your CV:

  • It makes your CV more visually appealing: adding a photo to your CV can make the document appear more interesting and engaging. In a document that’s dominated by text, some imagery can make it more visually attractive.
  • It shows confidence: if you’re applying for a sales role, including a photo can indicate a level of self-confidence, as well as portraying a professional self-image to employers.
  • It can be advantageous for some industries and jobs: jobs in the entertainment or fashion industries may expect candidates to include a photo in their CV. For acting or modelling jobs, appearance is a key factor in hiring decisions, while employers may also want to understand your personal style.
  • Some countries expect you to include a photo: if you’re applying for jobs outside the UK, check whether it’s customary to include a photo. Including a photo in your CV is more common in many countries in mainland Europe.

Disadvantages of a photo on CV

Although there are some possible advantages to including a photo on your CV, these are typically outweighed by the disadvantages. Here are some common disadvantages of adding a photo to your CV:

  • It can lead to discriminatory hiring decisions: adding a photo to your CV could risk employers breaking anti-discrimination laws with their hiring decisions.
  • It can distract the reader: although a photo can brighten up your CV, it can also distract the reader from the written content. With most recruiters and hiring managers taking just a few seconds to review each CV, even a second or two spent reviewing a photo could be better used reading the written content.
  • Your photo may be available elsewhere: many employers will check your social media profiles before making a hiring decision, and you might even add a link in your CV to a LinkedIn profile or personal website. If employers want to see a photo of you, they can probably see it there.
  • It takes up space: CVs tend to be short, concise documents, and adding a photo can take up space that could be used for a little extra written content.
  • It may reflect poorly on you: if you include a photo in your CV when the local customs discourage it, this could reflect poorly on your understanding of the job market.

Expert tip:

While it’s not common practice in the UK to include a photo on your CV, there are some jobs and industries where a photo might be suitable. Review the job advert and job description for an indication of whether employers expect you to include one. Some job adverts may explicitly state whether or not to include a photo.

Tips for your photo

If you decide to include a photo in your CV, there are a few things you can do to ensure it makes the best possible impact. Take a look at these tips for the perfect CV photo:

Pay for a professional headshot

If you want to make the best impression with your CV photo, it’s worth considering paying a professional photographer to take one for you. A professional headshot should ensure you have a high-quality, well-lit, flattering photo to include in your CV.

Take a photo especially for your CV

You might be tempted to use a photo of yourself from a social engagement or a holiday, where you feel you look your best. However, it’s always better to take a photo especially for your CV.

Wear plain, professional clothes

Although most CV photos are likely to only feature your head and shoulders, what you wear for the photo can still make an impact. Consider wearing something with a collar, or something that suggests a certain level of professionalism. If you’re applying for jobs in industries with informal dress codes, you can reflect this in your headshot. However, it’s still best to wear plain, unintrusive clothing.

Pay attention to your grooming

Take care of your hair and other personal grooming before setting up the shot. You’ll want to strike a balance between appearing natural, while also projecting a professional image.

Consider the lighting

Perhaps the most important, and often overlooked, factor in taking a high-quality CV photo is the lighting. Make sure your shot is well lit from all angles, and try to avoid shadow on your face, or on your background. Natural light is always best, so consider finding a suitable place outside.

Consider the setting/background

As above, the setting you select for your photo is critical. Outdoor settings can ensure high-quality light. This can be particularly useful if your home doesn’t have great natural light. You may prefer a plain background, but some background artefacts can add to the overall effect, such as an office setting, or some garden foliage.

Pay attention to the framing

Your final photo should be around the size, and the orientation, of a passport photo, so take care with your framing. Aim for a shot that’s mostly composed of your head and shoulders.


Your photo should look as natural as possible, while making you appear professional, confident and approachable. If you’re smiling in your photo, chances are you’ll make a more positive impression on the reader. Take a few photos and choose the one where you look most natural.

Use a beautiful CV template

Online CV builders can help you to place your photo within a well-designed template that reflects positively on you as a candidate. CVwizard offers a range of professional CV templates that showcase clean, beautiful design features, to make your CV photo stand out.

“Most employers prefer applicants to include as little personal information as possible on their CV. This means it’s not common to include your age, gender, nationality, or religion. It’s also not common to include a personal photo.” 

Conclusion: photo on your CV or not?

In the UK, most people would say it’s not necessary to include a photo on your CV. In some cases, including one can even harm your chances of getting the job. Anti-discrimination laws mean you should treat any personal information on your CV with caution. However, there are some situations where a personal photo on your CV can be appropriate, and advantageous. Consider the role you’re applying for, and whether it’s suitable to add a photo.

Use CVwizard’s CV templates to create a CV that catches the eye of the reader. Sign up today and follow the simple steps to get started. You can also access a whole library of useful CV articles, tips and resources.

Share via:
Mike Potter
Mike Potter
Mike Potter is an experienced copywriter specialising in careers and professional development. He uses extensive knowledge of workplace culture to create insightful and actionable articles on CV writing and career pathways.

Make an impression with your CV

Create and download a professional CV quickly and easily.

Create CV