It's time to stop treating your face as a placeholder.

How much more successful could you be if you understood the value of your digital first impression and stopped treating your face as a placeholder? In today's world, a picture isn't just worth a thousand words, it can now be worth thousands of dollars. 


We've all been there, setting up a new account on any social media network, and it asks you to upload a profile picture. You panic for a moment, scramble through your files and come up with a picture that you think you look reasonably good in. 


It might be a professional picture, or it might be your head cropped out of a family picture from your cousins wedding. Maybe the professional shot has an awkward fake smile, or your wedding cropped shot has Uncle Steve's shoulder in it, but meh, its just a profile picture right? 


The bigger problem here isn't necessarily with the quality of the picture, as much as it is the lack of purpose. This is treating your digital first impression as an after-thought and thinking of your face as a placeholder.


What if we changed our mindset? What if we looked upon our headshot as a first impression machine that could improve the quality of our interactions and ultimately our opportunities?


What if instead of buying that new suit for a job interview you bought a new headshot that got you twice as many interviews? What if you're in sales and your online profile picture looks like someone I want to work with, how much more successful could you be? Like it or not, humans are visual creatures and the first image they see of you is going to shape your future in that relationship. That's assuming it even has a future after they look you up. 


Here's a Cornell Research study that talks specifically about the lasting impression of online profile pictures. 


Just to prove the point a little further, here are a few tests I performed on clients with their previous LinkedIn profile picture on the left and one or two options I photographed on the right. I used Photofeeler to gain real data on how people were perceiving these individuals based on their profile pictures. 

In the above example, Dave had a professional photograph before - what I'd call the traditional boring say-cheese headshot that most professionals have these-days. It's boring and lacks genuine expression or energy. Look how his scores increased after we created a headshot that combined components of confidence and approachability in his expression. He looks considerably more interesting and someone I'm much more likely to want to get to know more about. The middle shot is what I recommended for him, the darker shot on the right was me playing with the idea that he looked a little like a deep sea fisherman from a reality tv show. 

The above example may be a little unfair but unfortunately the before picture is an all too common sight on LinkedIn. An unprofessional picture on a professional network and the scores speak for themselves. In this example we tested two different styles of shots after his headshot session, both of which are considerably more impactful in different ways. This is where purpose comes in. When deciding on how to present your first impression you have to think about the style of shot and expression that best represents you and your role. In this case Andy has two very different options to work with and regardless of which he uses, he is much more likely to receive my money if I needed a trusted advisor for my business. 

In our last example, Kristy was working with the ever-popular selfie profile picture. While it carried some whimsical likability, it wasn't doing her any favors in looking competent or influential. Her new headshot drove her scores through the roof as a competent, likable and influential individual. 


These are just a few examples that demonstrate no matter your starting point, being more purposeful about the digital first impression you put forth can have a significant impact on your future opportunities. So next time you dismiss investing in a quality headshot, ask yourself how much it might be costing you to do so.