Most of us don’t have great intuition when it comes to judging photos of ourselves. However, with the rise of sites like LinkedIn and Twitter, choosing profile photos to represent us has become one of the most basic career requirements.
The trick to making your best impression online is in understanding how you perceive yourself versus how others perceive you so you can pick a photo that communicates the way you intend. Here are just a few of the ways these perspectives differ when it comes to your LinkedIn photo.
1. You have a distorted view of what you look like.
Interestingly, the fact that we view ourselves in mirrors every day plays a big part in why we can’t judge our appearance objectively.
In studies where people were shown images of themselves as they were and as their reflected mirror image, people overwhelmingly preferred the shots of their reflection over their actual appearance, whereas other people preferred the individual’s undoctored photo best. Hence, we have a bias towards photos that skew our features.
2. You weed out the gems due to your perceived flaws.
Another way we sabotage ourselves with our photo choices is by dwelling on our most hated flaws.
Everyone has a feature they don’t particularly like—their nose, their chin, their arms. Whatever it is, we tend to put way too much on emphasis on this disliked feature when we view images of ourselves.
Given the option of several photos, we will quickly eliminate any photo which shows our flaw—before assessing it for its other features. That means the image with the most amazing, genuine smile can end up straight in the trash.
3. You choose sub-par shots because they focus on your “best” features.
On the flip side, we all tend to have at least one feature we like to play up in photographs.
Our bias in this case can work against us as well. For instance, we may favor a photo that shows our arms when the photo without them was much better overall.
To take this idea even one step further, some people tend to favor photos of themselves that include their car, motorcycle, or some other prized possession—even if the shot is not ideal for their intended purpose.
4. Your judgment is primed by your memory.
Say you have two photos of yourself. When you look at one, you’re reminded of how wonderful you felt. Maybe you were on vacation, and there was the most amazing breeze in your hair as you sat on a white sand beach.
When you look at the other photo, instead of feeling all the joy of vacation, you remember it being an overall stale, awkward experience.
You’re likely to skew towards the first photo, even if the second is objectively more appropriate.
5. You’re afraid of “putting yourself out there.”
Many people feel vulnerable—even a bit goofy—when their mouth is open in a wide smile. Others feel too exposed by photos of themselves in general, opting for way over-edited images that come off looking more plastic than human.
Sadly, this fear can also block someone from judging whether or not a photo is truly their best.
That concludes five reasons for why you might be self-sabotaging when it comes to photos of yourself, and how you might better understand how you perceive yourself vs. how others perceive you in order to choose your professional photos wisely.
This post was originally published on an earlier date.
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About The Presenters
Stephanie and Ben Peterson are the founders of PhotoFeeler.com, a free profile photo testing tool. In addition to helping professionals choose their best photos to use online, PhotoFeeler is quick becoming a leader in scientific research around professional image. To make sure your LinkedIn photo is coming off as you intend, check out their site.