I created a poll on Twitter and asked my followers: “Should you smile in your business headshots?”

27 people voted yes, and 0 people voted no. This tells me that my community feels that it’s important that a person should smile in their business headshots.

Your headshot is where the viewer will make a judgement on your personality and character. Give yourself a headstart!

If you fancy watching the video find it below, if not read on for the full transcript.

When we feel great a smile comes naturally. It’s an outward sign of joy, happiness, appreciation, amusement, excitement or contentment.

Here’s a little bit of history for you.

In the early years of photography, it could take up to 8 hours to create one portrait due to the long exposure times, which meant it was very unlikely that the subject could sit still and keep that smile going for that long!

Most studios outfitted chairs with headrests and support to ease their clients during these long exposures.

Another consideration is that oral health was pretty bad up until the 1940s so many people didn’t feel comfortable showing their teeth.

Smiling in your business headshot is awesome because:

  • You’re making a genuine connection with the viewer
  • You’re building trust, being approachable and warm
  • You don’t look threatening and come across easy to work with.

As a headshot photographer, I will never tell you to smile. My style is relaxed and conversational. During a shoot we’ll talk together, I know the exact moment to capture you smiling.

There are some downsides to smiling:

  • If you don’t feel confident about your teeth you might not want to smile. Don’t worry! I can whiten your teeth in photoshop!
  • It’s dangerous to fake a smile as people are good at spotting the fakes. It could make you appear untrustworthy
  • Your eyes might look squinty, so it’s my job to capture the complete cycle of you smiling whilst you focus your attention on the top part of my camera

Did you know there are different types of smiles?

There’s the small cheeky smile…

The beginning of a big smile…

The big beaming smile showing your teeth…

And when you smile with your eyes…

Personally, I favour the small cheeky smile and when my clients smile with their eyes.

What is most appropriate for your brand or the company you work for’s brand?

You need to be sure that your images represent your brand values and the company culture. Is your industry laid back? Are you in a company which commonly shows their staff enjoying themselves?

Then having images where your smiling or laughing will demonstrate you do not only understand the culture but you also fit in with the culture.

If the industry you’re in is more formal and takes itself seriously, smiling in your headshot may not be appropriate. Think about sectors like lawyers or who value professionalism as one of their top qualities.

For people in these professions, you need to prioritise looking approachable and professional. You can do this by the outfit and background you choose and make sure to get lots of different facial expressions.

I’d definitely recommend that you smile in your photos, but think about where this image is going – LinkedIn, company brochure, pitching for funding?

A headshot of a CEO laughing in a formal document won’t look professional, so it’s best not to be used there. Using it as part of a blog post or social media post would be more fitting.

My professional opinion is that you should smile in your business headshots, but be sure you know if it fits in with your culture and where exactly you’ll be using it.

One image isn’t going to cover all of your bases, so I’d recommend you invest in at least 3 -4 images which appeal to the type of people you’ll interact with and gives you variety on how you intend to use it.

So, tell me your opinion. Should you smile in your business headshot or not?

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