Should you smile in your corporate headshot?

Why a smile in your corporate headshot might not be the best idea. 

We are all told as children to smile whenever a camera is pointed at us. I remember endless family photos where my parents would not take the photo until they were sure all the children were wearing a huge grin. Smiling is natural to certain people and others it can be a forced facial expression. In most photos, some smile, some do not, and as an adult, it is down to personal choice.

Most headshots on social media sites feature people with happy smiling faces, but when you come to corporate headshots, it can be a negative if you look at where your corporate headshot will be seen. Company website page or LinkedIn profile is the most common, and here you are putting yourself forward as a professional wanting clients and employers to pay for your business skills and entrusting you with their companies reputations. So think what they want to see from your corporate headshot. Someone who looks serious about their business or someone who looks happy? 

We found a website called This allows you to upload your corporate headshot, and then anyone who is on the site can rank the headshot on three criteria—likeability, influence and competence. Lieven Buyse, a communication trainer, uploaded a headshot in which he is not smiling, and it ranked 88% competent, 88% influential, and 47% likeable. He then uploaded a headshot where he was smiling as he wanted to improve the likeable score. This ranked 60% likeable, but the competent score dropped to 76%, and the influential score dropped to 70%. He decided to use his non-smiling corporate headshot as he decided being competent and influential was more important in business than being likeable.

So we suggest the next time you have professional corporate headshots taken, ask the photographer to allow some smiling and plenty of headshots where you look more serious. We are not suggesting looking stern or unhappy but a more natural and relaxed face avoiding the large grins associated with school photos.

Should you smile in your corporate headshot? Looking like a business professional in your corporate headshot.
Looking like a business professional in your corporate headshot.