What Your Profile Picture Says About You

28 January, 2015

Profile picture

Have you ever wondered what your online profile photos actually say about you? Does the half-smile make you look mysterious, or miserable? Is the toothy grin likeable or cheesy? And does the deadpan expression say scary, or seriously-in-charge?

Last week I stumbled on Photofeeler.com, a website that tells you what other people think of your online profile photo.

I tested it out with three photographs of myself, each of them professionally taken by the same photographer. Now while there are only slight differences in facial expression, the results were interestingly different.

The first photo I tested is the one I currently use on Gravatar.com, so it shows up as my generic online image all over the internet. I also use it on LinkedIn. I chose this one for these platforms because to me I look friendly, but not gushy.

Robyn Young_Aw crop

Test Photo #1

The next photo I tested is the one I use ‘for a change’. I love consistency and all, but sometimes I think it’s good to shake things up a bit. This photo appears on my personal bio and some of my client agreements. I chose it because it looks like I’m having fun.

Test Photo #2

Test Photo #2

The third photo is just a screen grab off the home page on my website. It’s not as styled (the wind was whipping) and I genuinely was drinking tea. I thought I’d test it to see if the less groomed look made any difference to the judges.

Test Photo #3

Test Photo #3

I put each photo in turn through the Photofeeler evaluation process, did a little evaluating myself to get some credits, and giggled nervously while I waited for the real-time, real-people results (no fancy algorithms here).

In the business category, there are 3 traits that users rank you on: Competency (smart, capable), Likeability (friendly, kind) and Influence (leading, in charge). PhotoFeeler Ranks are a comparison between your photo’s score and all the rest that have been tested on their site. The Rank is given as a percentage. So, for instance, a score of 71% means that your photo did better than 71% of photos in that category.

Here’s how I scored:

Test Photo #1: In this photo*, the one with the slight smile, I look 61% more competent that anyone else ever haven taken this test; my Likeability is dead-average at 50% and my Influence is a little stronger at 60%. Overall, meh.

Screen Shot 2015-01-23 at 12.27.30 PM * 2 people commented that this was a great photo. I didn’t get comments for the others.

Test Photo #2: In the second photo I’m infinitely more Likeable (note the cheesy grin); Competence exactly the same, but Influence way down. [Read: if you’re likeable, you can’t be influential].

Relevant post: Success and Likeability: Mutually Exclusive?

Screen Shot 2015-01-23 at 12.52.45 PM

Test Photo #3: I’m not so Likeable with messy hair but I’m much more Competent and Influential. The opposite of Test Photo #2.

Screen Shot 2015-01-23 at 1.23.23 PM

I guess the decision about which photo to use is simple: do I want to come across as Competent, Likeable or Influential? Of course with only 10 respondents for each photo there is room for sample bias, and perhaps the statistically clever people will tell me that I need at least 100 opinions for accurate data. Be that as it may, my guess is that in the business world prospective clients have more confidence in you if you appear smart, capable and in charge. A broad smile may find you more mates, but will it put bread on the table?

What do you think? Take the test and tell me about your results in the comments.

Robyn Young - Personal Leadership Branding for Executives

About the Author

Robyn Young

As a personal leadership branding strategist, Robyn Young helps individuals identify and articulate their unique strengths, values and goals, empowering them to build an authentic personal brand that resonates with their stakeholders.

Robyn has a keen eye for aligning personal attributes with professional aspirations, helping her clients project a powerful and compelling image in their chosen field.