Are Professional Headshots Important? [Video Report]

by | Aug 15, 2019

When you were growing up, you probably remember your mom or dad reminding you, before a big job interview or first day at school, of the importance of first impressions.

Dress nice.

Smile when meeting people.

Make eye contact.

But, these days, most first impressions actually start online. Whether you’re applying for a new job, pushing for a promotion, or trying to crush a sales goal – the evidence overwhelmingly supports that hiring and buying decisions start on the web.

For instance:

87% of recruiters use LinkedIn to source and evaluate candidates (via Jobvite)

54% of employers have disqualified a candidate because of something they’ve seen online (via Inc)

75% of business-to-business buyers use social-media to source and evaluate vendors (IDC via Business Wire)

Do Professionals Headshots Make a Difference?

The list goes on-and-on, but none of this data proves that headshots are actually an important part of getting hired, promoted, or trusted with a big purchase, etc.

So HeadShots Inc commissioned a research study to finally answer the question: Does your professional headshot really make a difference? And, if so, how much?

How We Built The Study

In the four-month study involving 243 participants, we used the independent photo review platform to ask 240 randomly-selected photo reviewers to rate six headshots based on their first impression of the person in each photo.

The photo reviewers were asked to rate each photo on a scale from 1-to-10 based on their perception of that person’s: 

1) Competence: How successful or effective the person appears

2) Likeability: How pleasant or likeable the person appears

3) Influence: How influential that person appears to be on other people

The raters only had access to the participant’s headshot and job title, exactly mirroring the information you’d typically read on LinkedIn profiles, “Our Team” powerpoint slides, or company “About Us” pages, etc. 

The Results

Modern professional business headshots had a dramatic positive impact on how participants perceived the people in the headshot.

Do you, or someone you love, have a horrific nausea-inducing LinkedIn profile photo? To find out, check out The 8 Types of Hilariously Bad LinkedIn Headshots We All Have.

But, don’t just take our word for it—you can see the results for yourself. Here are the individual scores, along with before-and-after photos:

Subject 1: Old Headshot (left) and New Headshot (right)

Subject 2: Old Headshot (left) and New Headshot (right)

Subject 3: Old Headshot (left) and New Headshot (right)

And here’s all the data in one table, with some additional statistical analysis to help show the scope of the difference:

How Business Headshots Help

Impact on Competence (Average Impact: +75.93%)

The biggest shift from old headshot to new headshot was in perceived Competence. With an average +75.93% swing, a new photo dramatically changed the viewer’s perception of the subject’s ability to effectively do a job.

Interestingly, Subject 1 actually already had a high-resolution graduation portrait, which likely reflected youth and inexperience. So, the quality of images only partly impacts viewers’ evaluation of our profile photos. 

Context, proper clothing, and the feeling that “this photo was intentionally created for a professional portrait” are just as critical as camera quality. 

So unfortunately, you can’t just get your buddy with a DSLR to take a photo of you in your backyard.

Need a new business headshot that make you look credible and competent? Head on over to our Individual Session page to book your session today.

Impact on Likeability (Average Impact: +9.7%)

Interestingly, a new headshot didn’t necessarily correlate with a big spike in Likeability. While 9.7% is noticeable, it’s certainly not game-changing.

In fact, Subject 2’s Likeability score actually went down by 2.6%. 

The small positive impact on Likeability likely explains why most people don’t prioritize professional business headshots. They see a photo of themselves where they look “likeable,” and assume that photo is appropriate for their LinkedIn and other professional presence. 

After all, that’s how we evaluate photos of ourselves in 99% of other places on social media and online in general—we want people to like us, so we want to appear likable.

But, we’re delusional if we think that employers, potential customers, investors, or other professional contacts aren’t evaluating us on different criteria.

Impact on Influence (Average Impact: +62.03%)

The data from this experiment shows that professional business headshots can also have a dramatic effect for professionals who care about appearing influential.

While it’s probably not important to have a customer service rep who is perceived as “Influential”, authors, consultants, realtors, salespeople, entrepreneurs, and marketers need to be influential in order to effectively do their jobs.

Looking to build a business case for employer-sponsored headshots? Check out: The Business Case for Employer Sponsored Headshots

What Does this Mean For You?

The data is clear. Your mama was right about first impressions: They really do make a difference in how people perceive you. 

While a great headshot doesn’t guarantee you’ll get that big promotion or boost your sales numbers by x% just by getting a professional headshot, we can say with 100% certainty that your headshot has a major impact on how other professionals perceive you, online and off.

If you’re launching a new venture, trying to crush a sales goal, or striving to get that promotion/gig, it’s never a bad idea to invest in new headshots every couple of years.

Ready to upgrade your professional headshot? Head on over to to schedule your session. For outdoor, group, or conference sessions, email

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