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The Anatomy of Perfect Profile Pictures [backed by research]

Profile pictures (a.k.a. headshot), are the single most important personal marketing tool you have on social media. It is usually the first thing people see when they check out your ‘About Me’ blog author bio or social media profile, and it quickly differentiates you as someone to be trusted and taken seriously.

Do Your Profile Pictures Need a Reality Check?

→Mine does, read more.

In the real world, you wouldn’t go to a job interview in your bikini or head to a client meeting looking like you just walked home from Burning Man. When meeting new people, we (hopefully most of us) make an effort to look our best. We…

It all goes to show who you are, your personality, and your ability to look and feel “presentable”.

Not so surprisingly, this translates right into the virtual world, and it all starts with your profile pictures on various social networks.

Your profile picture says, “This is me!”

After joining most social networks, one of the first things you need to do is upload a profile picture.

Anatomy of the Perfect Profile Pictures

Profile pictures are so essential to modern communication that a good one has become a basic necessity. And that couldn’t be truer than for those of us whose professional lives are tied to social media profiles.

Before you go uploading any old photo, it’s important that you put some thought into the selection process.

The experts at PhotoFeeler, a free profile photo testing tool, asked themselves the following question:

If we set aside characteristics like gender, age, and physical traits, to focus only on what we can easily control— what elements reliably produce a better professional headshot photo (for use on your ‘About Me’ blog bio, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter profiles, etc.)?

They studied over 60,000 ratings for 800 profile photos in the PhotoFeeler database for the perceived characteristics of:

PhotoFeeler shared the following interesting data in an infographic on The Anatomy of the Perfect Profile Photo For Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn & More to support what works (and what doesn’t) when it comes to profile photos.

Take a look at the image below of a Tech Startup Founder. How would you judge this person based on PhotoFeeler’s characteristics scale?

From the data, here are the eight characteristics of a perfect profile image:


1 – Don’t block your eyes. Sunglasses significantly drop your likeability score.

2 – Try a squinchSlightly squinted eyes come across as comfortable and confident.

The gist of the concept is this: Wide open eyes commonly denote fear, whereas slightly squinted eyes portray comfort and confidence. Therefore, to look more confident, it’s a good idea to squint ever-so-gently in photos (as you’d do naturally in a genuine, relaxed smile).

Eye Obstruction: Thinking about “playing it cool” in your profile picture? Think again. Apparently eye blockage, as from sunglasses, can significantly harm your impression.

→Uh Oh…my profile picture is a problem:


3 – Accentuate your jawline. A shadow line that outlines the jaw all the way around helps with likability, competence, and influence.

4 – Smile. A smile with teeth is by far the most dynamic characteristic. You want to seem welcoming and open to conversation, so smile naturally.


5 – Formal dress is best. Nothing tested paid greater gains in perceived Competence and Influence than formal dress

The clothes don’t make the man, but the eye has difficulty distinguishing the difference.

6 – Show a bust (head and shoulders) or torso (head to waist) shot: Face-only close-ups pull Likability scores down. Full body photos negatively affected both Competence and Influence.

Other things to note:

7 – Setting: Solid background, studio, nature, urban or home? Your choice! There was no statistically significant event. Have your portrait taken in whatever environment suits you best.

8 – Photo Editing: When it comes to pie and photo editing, moderation is key. Your best move is to avoid any extreme – too dark, too much saturation, etc.

Now for the unveiling. From my LinkedIn profile public image, here’s what I came up with by following these eight steps:

 The Quality of Profile Pictures Does Matter!

And, whether you like or not, people’s first impressions can be significantly affected by the quality of your photo.

If you’re a DIYer, read more from Darren Rouse on How to Take a Great Social Media Profile Picture in 4 Easy Steps.


Have you any advice on the perfect profile image?

Is your ‘Profile Picture’ awesome?

We’d love to hear from you.

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