What's Your Profile Picture?

I was sitting with my creative manager and friend Amanda in our office talking about work and happened to mention an idea for my next blog. She said that I should consider writing instead about something that catches the eye of our potential clientele than, well, nobody. She does make sense once in a while. Ok, maybe more than that, maybe twice in a while. Oh, and she also suggested that since I am a professional photographer I throw in more images in my blogs. No. Whatever. Maybe. Sigh. True. 

 A professional picture on Linkedin - does it make a difference?

A professional picture on Linkedin - does it make a difference?

So I started thinking, how can I suggest to people that investing in professional photography will have favorable returns? I need to show some evidence. And I started searching for that evidence online. Now, since I am a headshot photographer, I looked for data mainly related to the impact professional headshots would have for corporate or business professionals, as well as actors and models. I also found some information that can be applicable for product photography.

Below is part of what I found in terms of numerical data.

- More than 70% of recruiters will check your online profiles after receiving your applications.

- 46% of employers will reject your candidacy simply based on the content of the images you post online.

- A picture is worth a thousand (1000) words. Ha! 

I rejected other information I found because six years of engineering school has taught me that’s how you get data to work in your favor. Jokes aside, statistics can sometimes confuse you more than make sense. The first two data points don’t seem to mean much by themselves. So what if they check your profile? How can anyone reject an application just because of a few pictures? The last one resonates with everyone and is almost accepted as universal truth. But, I don’t remember seeing anyone’s headshot on Linkedin, and reading that the person has a PhD in urban planning, much less a thousand words. I still do have to check the person’s profile to get that information. The universal truth is not really true then, is it? Then I found a few articles. 

 
More than 70% of recruiters will check your online profiles after receiving your applications.
— The Internet (so must be true)
 Because a picture tells a thousand-word long story - what does yours tell?

Because a picture tells a thousand-word long story - what does yours tell?

Article 1 - Case Study: Why your Linkedin picture plays the biggest role in you landing a job’ by Amy Morin. This article describes a study that supports the theory ‘your first impression is your lasting impression’. Notice I used lasting instead of last. Below is a brief outline of the study. 

Participants were shown images of a four women with different expressions and were asked about their likeability. Additionally, they were asked to judge their personalities, whether they were friendly, stable, shy, reserved etc. Some weeks later, the participants interacted with the actual women for a few minutes during a trivia game and were then asked what they felt about the women. Remarkably, the participant's perception about the women remained consistent with their impressions upon seeing the images, suggesting a 'halo effect' or the desire to have a 'self-fulfilling prophecy'.

 

Article 2 - Heat Maps: In the online world heat maps help understand what part of a web page is viewed more often and/or longer. I found heat maps for Linkedin profile pages, and for Amazon product pages. 

 Heat Map for Amazon.  Click on the image to read the article. 

Heat Map for Amazon.  Click on the image to read the article. 

 Heat map of a Linkedin profile. Click on the image to read the actual article. 

Heat map of a Linkedin profile. Click on the image to read the actual article. 

Linkedin: The article about this heat map suggests that recruiters spend about 19% of the total time spent on your profile looking at your profile picture. Now, the article also discusses the possibility of bias generated by having a profile picture, which is a separate topic in itself. But there is enough evidence to suggest that you would rather have a profile picture than not. And if you decide to have one, I imagine it would be better if it is a professional and well composed one, rather than one where you cut yourself out of a group photo someone took in a club. 

Amazon: This heat map is for a book sold on the ecommerce website. But it would be applicable to any products as well. Once again, the visuals take precedence over most other information on the page. 

Now I shall attempt to put all that headache inducing information in perspective: 

- 7 out of 10 job applications you submit will be screened by recruiters/interviewers who will visit your online profiles. They will create an impression about you based on the information at hand – and your profile picture will be a significant contributor, as the study suggests. And their impression of you will last several weeks or even months. 

- Almost 5 out of 10 recruiters will reject your application simply because they didn’t like your profile picture.

- Similar is the case for products, as evidenced by the heat map. As an example, let's say you sell a couple similar (but not identical) products on your ecommerce website. One has a poorly made image, and the other one is a great image made by a professional product photographer. I imagine that unless there's a big (and apparent) difference between the two products, chances are that the one with a better looking image sells better. 

 Your profile or cover image should sell your personal brand. Is Amanda selling herself well here? 

Your profile or cover image should sell your personal brand. Is Amanda selling herself well here? 

  Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder. So go ahead, grab a cold one!

Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder. So go ahead, grab a cold one!

And here is where a professional photographer comes into the picture, pun intended. A professional understands how to make you appear friendly or authoritative or even intimidating (who knows, you might be applying to be an MMA fighter). And no, it’s not just the pose that creates the appearance. It’s a combination of your pose, the lighting, the background and your expression. That is where you find those thousand unspoken words – words like confidence, poise, demeanor (and nine hundred ninety-seven others). Same is the case with product photography; if you are looking at an image of a glass of beer, you should feel that you want to grab a cold one right now! 

Let's make this discussion interactive. My question to you, the reader, is this; what benefits have you seen or wish to see, through the use of quality visuals in your profession or business or even your personal life? Leave your thoughts in the comments section.

PS. – Those of you wondering what I meant by the last five words in the first paragraph, read about the stages of grief.

PS. - The articles mentioned in the blog are written by their respective authors, not me. I give full credit to the authors. 

 

Do you think quality visuals make a difference? Leave your thoughts in the comments section.

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Mayur is a headshot photographer in Nashville. Late nights at the studio, he becomes a product photographer too.