Want your profile photo to convey professionalism and intelligence? Then try to smile, dress up, avoid sunglasses, and "squinch," according to research from PhotoFeeler.

The report was based on data from more than 60,000 ratings of 800 profile photos. Each photo was tagged for certain characteristics (style of dress, setting, editing, etc.); PhotoFeeler users were then asked to rate the perceived competence (smarts, capability), likability (friendliness, kindness), and influence (industry leadership) of the person pictured.

The analysis isolated the impact of each condition so its effect could be measured independently.

Below, key findings from the analysis.


The presence of sunglasses in a profile photo dropped the subject's perceived likeability score by -0.36 on average (on a -5.0 to +5.0 scale). However, the presence regular eyeglasses in a photo boosted both competence (+0.26) and likeability (+0.17) scores.

Other eye obstructions, such as hair, brought down competence and influence scores by -0.29 and -0.31, respectively.

Photos in which the subject was "squniching"—slightly squinting their eyes—garnered an average increase of +0.33 for competence, +0.22 for likability, and +0.37 for influence.


The presence of a shadow that outlined the jaw all the way around boosted scores for competence (+0.24), likability (+0.18), and influence (+0.18).

A smile with teeth visible led to average gains of of +0.33 for competence, +1.35 for likability, and +0.22 for influence; a closed mouth smile had a smaller effect on likability and no statistically significant effect on competence or influence.

Body and Setting

Formal dress had the biggest impact of any factor on competence and influence scores, leading to an average increase of +0.94 and +1.29, respectively.

Images featuring the bust (head and shoulders) or torso (head to waist) performed best, with face-only and full-body shots scoring lower.

The setting of a photo (i.e., the background) had no statistically significant impact on scores.

Color, Light, and Editing

A very dark photo (one that looked like it had been taken at night a low-light room) dropped likeability scores by an average of -0.38.

Very high color saturation decreased competence scores by -0.31 on average, likability by -0.07, and influence by -0.35.

There was no statistically significant difference between ratings for color and black-and-white photos.

About the research: The report was based on data from more than 60,000 ratings of 800 profile photos.

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image of Ayaz Nanji

Ayaz Nanji is a digital strategist and a co-founder of ICW Media, a marketing agency specializing in content and social media services for tech firms. He is also a research writer for MarketingProfs. He has worked for Google/YouTube, the Travel Channel, AOL, and the New York Times.

LinkedIn: Ayaz Nanji

Twitter: @ayaznanji