Graham Jones

Profile pictures online should be baby-faced

Profile pictures depend on your eyes

What is the first thing you look at when you land on someone’s social network profile page? When you look at an “About Us” web page, where do your eyes go? If you are like the bulk of Internet users you will focus your attention on the eyes of the person pictured. And, according to research you will make a decision whether or not you like that person within 100ms. In one-tenth of a second, a mere blink, you will have assessed the profile pictures of the people you are looking at and decided whether to trust them. Either we are pretty shallow, or we have highly sophisticated mechanisms within our brains to help us make such judgements.

So, the kind of image you have on your website or on your social networking profiles will influence whether people wish to connect with you. Have the right profile pictures on Facebook or Twitter, for instance, and you’ll get more friends and followers. Similarly, if your company’s “About Us” page has an appropriate image of you, the business could well do better. But what is the right kind of picture? There is much debate online as to whether your profile picture should be head-and-shoulders, or a full body shot of you in some setting you enjoy, such as that picture of you beside your Ferrari, or windsurfing in the Mediterranean. Such images give a glimpse of your personality, true, but they don’t allow your website visitors to see what they really want. They want to look into your eyes.

Hence a close-up, head-and-shoulders, shot does allow your profile visitors to start making those judgements about you. But what if they don’t like what they see in your eyes? They can see what they want to make that snap judgement, but if they assess your character to be less than trustworthy within just 100ms, you could have lost them for ever.

Thankfully, new research from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem shows us what we need to choose as our profile pictures. You need the most baby-faced picture you can get of yourself. The study used photo-editing software to manipulate the images of politicians so that the area around the eyes was softened. Then, the before and after shots were tested to see how far these politicians were trusted. And, you guessed it, the baby-faced pictures with the wrinkles ironed-out were the ones which got the positive votes. Even the political enemies of these people trusted them more when they were baby-faced than when they were natural.

Now, this does not mean you should rush out and start airbrushing all your profile pictures. But it does imply that if you choose a picture which enhances your youthful looks you will do better online. And how do you get such profile pictures without faking them? Simple. You need to get your profile pictures shot professionally by a photographer. Simple snaps done by your mate or your children will not be lit properly to make you look your best. But if you ask a professional photographer to help hide your wrinkles, they’ll know exactly what to do so that you get a truthful image which shows your baby-face.

Graham Jones
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+
Graham Jones

@grahamjones

Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist, professional speaker and author of 32 books who helps businesses understand the online behaviour of their customers
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Graham Jones

2 thoughts on “Profile pictures online should be baby-faced

  1. Brilliant article Graham and fortunately more and more people are seeing the value in investing in a set of professional profile photos to use across all their profiles and online platforms.

    The most important thing i’d say is for your photo to be engaging, it has to attract someone and encourage them to want to find out more about you. This is where the difference between a good and bad photo can make the difference – and potentially the start of a new relationship or business deal…

    John Cassidy

  2. I recently changed my avatar picture on Twitter after a couple of years with the same one. The old one was a slightly sideways head and shoulders shot of me smiling. The new one is a full face head an shoulders- still smiling. I had a massively positive response when I changed the pic! So many people saying it was ‘fresh’ and summery etc. I was surprised at how many people even cared what picture was up there.
    It’s definitely worth having a quality photo, apart from anything else, it’s hard to connect with a logo, and even harder when you meet them offline, as they have no idea what you look like! And meeting offline is another reason to have a recent photo that resembles you, not something from twenty years ago when you were considerably different. Overly glamerous photo’s can have a negative impact if you look radically different in real life, it creates mistrust.

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