Should you smile during your headshot photo?


For business, your headshot photo is possibly the most viewed picture of yourself that you will display publicly. And usually, when considering having one taken, the first question most people ask is whether to smile or not. Even if it’s not for business, are there rules to follow when having your photo taken? The short answer is yes – but don’t forget that some rules are there to be broken. So – should you smile or not?

So before you make an appointment for a headshot photo session, then read on to find out whether there is a golden rule of smiling in headshot photography.

Headshot Photo Factors

When considering how to pose for a good headshot and whether to smile, the first question to ask is “What is the purpose of the photo?”

For business headshots, the answer will occasionally be a straightforward ’No’ to smiling. Check with your company, in case there is a policy on this already. If it is for the corporate website or brochure, they may have a standard for you to follow and that will include guidance on smiling.

If not, then the smiling question will depend on several factors. Consider the following:

  • Where the photo is going to be used.
  • The character you want to convey.
  • How comfortable you feel smiling.
  • The nature of your work/company (if used for this).

Professional Headshot Uses

Where your headshot is going to be used will play a major role in determining whether you should smile or not. A social media platform is different to a corporate website. And even in the corporate world, the business headshot photograph will be different for a brochure and, say, a Twitter account profile.

Take a look at these two photos:

Coming Soon
Which one do you think is more suitable for a lawyer’s website?
Which one do you think is more suitable for a lawyer’s website?
Which one do you think is more suitable for a lawyer’s website?
Coming Soon
Which one would work better for a LinkedIn headshot?
Which one would work better for a LinkedIn headshot?
Which one would work better for a LinkedIn headshot?

So, part of the smile / don’t smile decision is about where the photo will be used; but if it is for business use then the profession itself is clearly a factor.

A lawyer would do well to remain straight-faced (or at most, the slightest hint of a smile on the mouth, as above). A children’s entertainer, on the other hand, should be smiling as a minimum – if not displaying a full-on laugh.

Your Personality in your Headshot 

With knowing where the photo will be used, and have decided you may smile, it still doesn’t mean that you necessarily should smile.

We all know the saying ‘first impressions count’ and that is true even for photographs. Whatever the purpose of your headshot, for a lot of people it is going to be the first time they see you. The photo needs to present your personality as well as your physical look. People need to feel like they know you, just from this one shot. This is one reason why it is really important to get a professional headshot photographer on board to take the photos, as they have experience in showcasing your personality.

One of the keys to a great headshot is that you should look relaxed and viewers should be able to recognise you immediately from it. So if you are a natural big smiler – then go for it. However, if you usually carry a more serious demeanour, then it’s probably best to stick to that, as an unpractised attempt to smile can look false.

You probably already know whether you are comfortable in your smile, that is, whether on camera your smiles look natural or a bit forced. A genuine smile conveys warmth, confidence and most importantly, trust. As humans, we make judgements on the trustworthiness of someone within seconds – even from a photo (it’s that first impression reaction again) and smiling can play an important role in this.

But it is important that your smile is genuine, so practice before the booking. Read this headshot photography tutorial for some great advice on how to smile for your sitting.

Try out a few smiling shots during your actual photo session. If it just doesn’t look natural, then don’t smile. Better to be serious and genuine than to smile and look false. Your photographer will be able to give you guidance during the session, so listen to their advice.

The aim is to show your personality, but it won’t shine through if it is obscured by an unreal-looking expression.

Headshot Photography Tips for Smiling

Coming Soon
Which of the smiles above appeals to you the most?
Which of the smiles above appeals to you the most?
Which of the smiles above appeals to you the most?

Opinions will vary here, however, in a survey by the Coffee Meets Bagel dating app, they found that almost 80% of people preferred photos of men who smiled with their teeth showing. The same stat came in a little lower for women at 58% – but still a significant majority.

Another point to consider alongside the teeth discussion is the lighting. You can read more about that here but even if you are not super-confident about your teeth, talk to your photographer and try a few shots with/without showing them; depending on the lighting set up they use, you may be pleasantly surprised. 

In the end, whether you show your teeth or not when you smile will come down to personal confidence; your feelings should be the deciding factor on whether you do or not in your headshot photo.In the headshot world, confidence is king. If you feel confident – you will look confident. Smile or no smile, ultimately what you are after is connection with the viewer of the image. If you relax and be yourself, you have the greatest chance of achieving this.



What is your view on smiling in headshot photographs? Has your opinion changed at all after reading this article? Let us know in the comments!

As headshot photography prices can vary widely, you need to know that you are going to get the results you are looking for from your photo session. Booking a professional with experience and with a good headshot portfolio already established is essential. Splento have experienced professional headshot photographers for a fixed hourly rate – just £99 – and that includes retouching and editing.

Take a look now at Splento’s portfolio for some great examples of professional headshots ; you can find out how to make your own booking for a headshot photo session here .

Contact Splento if you are in need of:

Event Photography and Videography

Professional Headshots

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