Will You Look Powerful If You Don’t Smile?

April 16, 2020

Will you look powerful if you don’t smile in your headshot? Personally, I think that you should try and smile if you can. However, there are some interesting theories to the contrary.

Talking specifically about corporate headshots I think that you should smile in your headshot because it creates a sense trust. You’ve got so little time to make a first impression that my argument is to build trust first.

It takes less than a second for people to make an opinion about your online picture and then a few seconds more to make a decision about you. So with so little room why wouldn’t you smile? When you walk into a room, you smile. When you’re introduced to somebody face to face, you smile. When somebody encounters you online, surely you should be smiling for them.


Speaking to somebody about this recently they shared their research and explained why it might be better not to smile. In a nutshell, the suggestion is that it creates power and their are certain industries where this is important. Apparently, by not smiling you present an image of authority, knowledge and experience.

The problem with this is that although it’s a fine line between looking powerful and miserable, so be careful.

Another reason to avoid a smile is if it looks forced and a little awkward – nobody wants to do business with a goofball.

So What Should You Do?

I know it can seem very confusing and that’s because you can over think these things. The minute you start trying too hard to think through the phycology of a headshot you begin to over think everything. “Should I smile, should I cross my arms, what should I do?”.

You should stop overthinking and leave it to your photographer. Talk to himm or her about what you do, how you want to be percieved. explain what the picture will be used for. Tell your photographer about your intended audience, who they are and what they expect. Then let your photographer guide you into the perfect look.

i like it when people smile in their headshots (if they can). There’s a spectrum of a smile. For those industries that are a little bit more traditional or need to appear serious then drop the big toothy smile for something a little softer.

Having said that, if you do want to loose the smile altogether then avoid looking to sullen – you don’t want to put people of their caramel latte as they scroll through LinkedIn.

This gallery below shows some nice ways to use a smile subtly and how to avoid smiling without a grimace.

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