Headshots and First Impressions

In today’s digital age many of our first impressions are made by a photo we see online. Whether it’s on LinkedIn or a dating site we introduce ourselves with a profile image. Our perceived character and personality are judged and in less than a second our viewers use this image to determine whether we are approachable or competent. Since we only get one chance to make a first impression let’s look at some characteristics of a great profile photo.


Say Cheese

In a study done by Photofeeler, a site that allows you to test your profile images for effectiveness, smiles were the most important characteristic of a successful profile image. More specifically, certain smiles are more appealing than others. A smile with teeth visible is rated +1.35 for likability, +0.33 for competence, and +0.22 for influence. The same study showed that while a laughing smile will greatly increase your likeability it will also decrease you perceived competence and influence. Consider your objective and smile accordingly.



A squinch is simply squinting ever so slightly as you would in a natural smile. The ideas is that wide eyes denote fear and uncertainty while slightly squinted eyes portray comfort and confidence. The Photofeeler study showed that a squinch significantly increases the perception of likability, competence, and influence. You can practice your squinch in the mirror by narrowing the distance between your lower eyelid and pupil while ever so slightly bringing the top eyelid down. Pair this with a dazzling smile for a striking pose.


Wear Glasses?

While on the topic of eyes, make sure your eyes are not obscured. While sunglasses may look cool or mysterious, according to the study done by Photofeeler, they will also decrease your likeability by -0.36. However the opposite is true of eyeglasses. In a study done at the State University of New York eyeglass wearers were shown to appear more honest, trustworthy and sophisticated.


Use Aesthetic Backgrounds

Using a shallow depth of field is becoming increasingly popular in modern headshots. This is when the subject is in focus and the foreground, or in this case background, is blurred out. Using a shallow depth of field puts all the attention on the subject while bringing unique light and colors to the image. The overall effect is crisp and casual.


Determine Quality & Size

Last but certainly not least is just making sure your image is the highest resolution allowed on the site you are it posting to. Some websites will allow you to crop during the uploading process while others will provide the acceptable dimensions. If you are unable to crop during uploading take the time to edit the image before you post it. This ensures that you won’t have parts of your face cropped out by default.


If you would like to chat about headshots, photography, or how the Burnette Agency can grow your social media presence and brand awareness. Please e-mail info@theburnetteagency.com or call 404-850-2081.