The Science Behind Using Your Headshot In Online Profiles

October 26th, 2015

LarryI look at a lot of websites and I’m always so pleased when I look at a site where there’s a head shot on the about page or the contact page. The online world can be very impersonal and nothing makes a site more personal than a headshot of the owner of the site.

I recently ran across an blog post on marketing that goes into the science on why it’s important to show your face on your website and the positive effect it has. In short the post says:

It is advisable to use a photo of yourself as your profile picture wherever you go, no matter how unsatisfied you are and how uncomfortable. There are many reasons from making it easier to connect with people offline after talking online, to giving people a better way to connect with you, but a personal side has become expected on social networks and blogs, making a profile picture culturally mandatory…

…If that isn’t enough to convince you to use a profile picture, a recent study shows that a website’s conversion rate can be skyrocketed by using human faces. According to, using human faces “get your prospects to focus more and this causes them to draw towards a common point of interest. It doesn’t get more real than that.

I’ve always felt that it is essential for real estate photographers to put their headshot on their portfolio/real estate sites so I was pleased to find some science that backed up my feelings.

When I started to write this post about a month ago, I realized that even though I had my photo on my website and I have an page that I link to on e-mails, I was doing what I had made fun of other real estate agents for doing – using a twenty or 30 year old portrait. The face I’ve been using for years was one that my son had taken of me 20 years ago. So I’ve now updated my photo that I use on my page and my website. I also added a link to my page on the blog under the green “Contact Larry” button on the right side-bar. So I’m eating my own dog food! But I still like photo from 20 years ago better.

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11 Responses to “The Science Behind Using Your Headshot In Online Profiles”

  • Yep, thoroughly agree! I’ve always used a pic of myself on my site (on my bio page) and have always wondered why more often than not, people don’t.
    But I do need to update it…

  • You look great Larry! I agree, showing the face is very important, and, I would add, showing a cordial face expression is crucial. That’s what you got with your headshot. Good job.

  • This is a good post Larry,

    I too have always felt a head shot makes a personal connection between you and your client, which is why I have one on my “about” page. When you show up on a shoot, the agent feels like they already know you, especially if the photo was taken within a few years. When I shoot for an agent the first time, I go to their webpage to see what they look like. I have many agents that use photos so old, it looks like it was from their High school Prom or graduation. Since I offer head shots for agents and clients, I try to suggest (diplomatically) to an agent that they need to upgrade their photos. Many of them are quite vain and want to keep using the same old photo.

    How do you guys tell your agents (if you offer head shot services) that they should update their portraits?

  • Excellent point Larry. Another thing to consider is that people expect that pictures of photographers be PROFESSIONAL photographs. Its amazing to me the number of great photographers (from all disciplines) that have lousy headshots. Bad crops, bad lighting, white balance off. If it looks like an afterthought, folks may wonder why they should bother with you.

    If you aren’t comfortable taking your own headshot — or don’t have the time — meet a local headshot photographer and pay them to shoot you. I have done this, and I found it to be a great experience. I learned a lot by going through the process, and got a photo I can be proud of in the bargain.

  • Extremely timely advice, Larry. In about an hour I’m going to a photographer to have my headshot redone. But, I still like my old one from 15 years ago, which was scanned in from a point-and-shoot photo of me in a Chicago hotel, then cropped around to reveal just me. Guess we’ll have to see how this new one turns out. [BTW – Another vote for your updated one.]

  • One small refinement regarding use of head shots on web pages or marketing material. Head shots should always LOOK IN to the page, and not OFF the page. Most head shots have you looking a little left or right. You need one that looks each way (easy to do in Photoshop). Then you choose the one that LOOKS IN to whatever web page or marketing piece (business card, flyer, etc.) that will have your head shot.

  • I too agree with you. Photography is certainly one of those fields where so much of the working relationship is personal. After all, we are not involved in mass production of identical widgets, we use our craft and skill set to try to give a client what they want; each commission is more like a proto-type than a production line product. So I think the personification of who you are based on what you look like is very important for those who find you on line instead of at a face to face meeting. And despite the shop worn expression “you can’t tell a book by its cover” we do in fact do just that. And I would also agree that the photo must be a good one. First impressions are hard to change later and our business is all about making the best first impression.

  • What if you have a facelike a horse’s keister? ??

  • @Martin…There is this thing called Photoshop. And some companies have plug-ins for portrait.

    Larry, great post. Typically, I have photos on the “About Me” and the one I use on the linked website is the same I used for business cards. It is old and as a ‘selfie’ illustrates different perspective of RE and portrait photography. I showed the business card to a portrait photographer giving a talk at a photo club and she immediately pointed out that I had the lakeshore treeline going through my head. While this site is my zenfolio delivery site, currently using it as a re-direct while I rework my primary dedicated RE site. While a single phot is branding, I have an additional one (not on this site) I like to use for the “Contact Me” page. It is me with a iPad posed like am waiting to be contacted.

  • @Martin….I had an agent, (one of the sweetest ladies you’d want to know), who had some very intense wrinkles, and wanted a head shot for her website and business cards. I shot her with very soft lighting, and used “Portrait Pro” editing software, (a plug-in) which was not very expensive (about $69), and was able to give her a nice, soft more attractive look. The new Perfect suite 9.5 includes portrait editing software, which also works well. It truly helps being a “people person” and making your clients feel comfortable, as some people hate having their portraits taken, and it will show in the images.

  • Busted.

    I use both casual and business-formal headshots for all my profiles. For sometime I’ve been meaning to put a profile pic on my site. Time to get it done. I also believe it’s important to emphasize having a reasonably currently photo in use.

    A few years ago, I arranged to have a Washington Post journalist as key speaker for an event I was hosting. Her picture was a early-30s blond haired woman. Seemed she was about 5’6″. 5 minutes before the event, I’m wondering where my speaker is, when a shorter, much older (no longer blond) woman walks up to me.

    I was slow responding initially because she looked nothing like her profile pictures. What she looked like didn’t matter to me. She was there because of who/what she was. But it sure could’ve made our initial offline meeting smoother.

    Strikes me that men are generally just not worried about their pic, and don’t bother to update it. All too often, I find women though will deliberately misrepresent themselves by using much-younger images of themselves. While I understand why, it’s also a form of honesty.

    Time to go hang a pic.

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