Can You Smile in a Headshot? Creating a Good Impression

27 March 2024

Discover if you can smile in a headshot – and what kind of impression you’ll leave if you do. Does smiling make you seem less professional? Will your lack of a smile look less relatable – and does that even matter? All questions I’ve pondered in the past too. It’s a non-negotiable to make your first impression count, but now I’ve heard the science, I’m pretty convinced I have the answer to this one. Read on to find out if smiling in your professional headshot is a good idea and how to make sure your headshot stays true-to-you.

Why your headshot needs to impress

First impressions count – there’s evidence behind this that I talk about a lot. You have less than a millisecond to make a first impression – that’s when people judge you in person, on a zoom call or by your headshot. So it makes sense to make this impression count.  

smiling professional headshot of female entrepreneur in London springtime

The secret ingredients to creating a good impression

To smile or not to smile should not be your only consideration here. Crafting a good impression with your online persona is a combination of the following ingredients:

  1. A professional, well lit headshot taken by the best photographer you can afford
  2. Knowing how to dress for your headshot 
  3. Building your online brand presence beyond the headshot

Anyone with a personal brand (maybe you’re a political personality, a creative or female entrepreneur) needs to show up online and be visible and relatable.  Lifestyle or personal brand photography will make building up your presence easy. Taking that first step is hard, but it’s something I’ve specialised in helping you to do.

The science behind a smile

Memorable Impressions

Dr Sabina Brennan, neuroscientist and host of the Super Brain podcast tells us something fascinating. Smiling activates the reward receptors in our brain, which in turn enhances our memory processing. Simply put, it means that we’re not just happier when we see a smiling face; we’re actually more likely to remember it. That’s a win-win: smiling makes potential clients and employers remember you. 

Happy Hormones

Smiling isn’t just a universally recognised sign of happiness; it’s a mood booster too! 🌟 Every time we smile or laugh, our body releases a therapeutic cocktail of happy hormones like dopamine and serotonin. These are our natural stress-relievers, creating a cascade of positive feelings. Imagine infusing your professional headshot with that kind of good energy!

smiling wellness coach headshot London

A Positive First Impression

If your smile has rewarded the viewer, then you’ve not only created that all important first impression, but you’ve also created the trust that you need for your followers to connect with you.

Creating a Genuine Smile in your Professional Headshot 

Why it’s important to keep it real

Now, as we talk about smiles, it’s important to note that authenticity is key. Your smile should be a reflection of your genuine self. If you’re not a natural laugh-out loud extrovert, it would be disingenuous to do so in your headshot. Remember it’s all about trust – you don’t want to dash that connection with a look that isn’t you. Personal branding is not about showcasing perfection or following trends – it’s about conveying real emotion. A gentle smile can be just as trusting as a wide open one – as long as it’s honest.

How to smile naturally 

For years, I was the last person to recommend a photography studio as the site of happiness or confidence. The prospect of a photoshoot – personal or business – can send shivers down your spine. So how do you smile naturally when you’re contending with a lens pointing at you?

how to relax and pose for your headshot

Tips for a genuine smile in your professional headshot.

I truly believe it’s all in the personality and connection with your photographer. Add in the safety of private space and approach of the photographer and it’s all the more relaxing. But as quick tips go, here are two to start you off:

  1. Try physically relaxing your body beforehand
  2. Go to a quiet space in your mind – close and open your eyes if it helps – and think of something or someone who makes you smile.

If your smile comes through genuinely, you’ll leave the impression of someone who’s not just successful but also relatable.

Headshots London, woman standing outdoors near shopping centre

So, Can you smile in your headshot?

So next time you’re getting your headshot taken, remember to smile! Not only will it help you feel more relaxed, but it will also make you more memorable and create a great first impression.

Feeling inspired to renew your headshots? Book a slot with me right now!