To choose the right photo for any platform, you must first answer this question:
“What are you trying to accomplish?”
On LinkedIn you are trying to look professional.
On Facebook you are trying to look fun and social.
On dating sites you are trying to look attractive.
So how do we do figure out which photos are best without doing extensive A/B split testing?
The best way I’ve found so far is PhotoFeeler. You upload a picture you want and other people rate it. These photo tests are free if you rate other people’s photos, but I’m lazy AF and bought $100 in credits to bypass that.
There are 3 tests you can do for each photo:
- Social Test: Ranks your photo for Confident, Authentic, Fun.
- Business Test: Ranks your photo for Competent, Likable, Influential.
- Dating Test: Ranks your photo for Smart, Trustworthy, Attractive.
I ran 17 photos through each of these 3 tests, for a total of 51 tests. Before we start making any profile picture changes, let’s go through the test results:
Here’s the tests we ran on PhotoFeeler:
Neville with Neutral Expression:
I thought this would be the highest performing photo of myself. Data shows it’s average at best. The same photo with me smiling a lot did FAR better.
Neville Smiling Really Big:
I actually hated this photo when I saw it because my face is squished together and you can see lines/wrinkles and my eyes are 90% closed. However this was by FAR the highest performing picture I tested across the board. It did’t make me look like a “businessman” but in the social realm this did best:
Neville with Neutral Disdain:
This picture was my Facebook profile picture for a long time, and literally EVERYONE told me they hated it and that I looked scary. It wasn’t until I saw the abysmal results of these tests that I acknowledge that maybe this photo isn’t a great profile pic. On the plus side for “dating” it did well!
Neville Smiling And Crossing Arms:
This photo could have come across as more “Influential” if I wasn’t wearing sunglasses and dressed very casually. But across the board this one did fairly well.
Neville Doing A Handstand:
I’m pretty sure I’m just an idiot, but I thought this picture was really cool. HOWEVER, it’s cool only in conjunction with other pictures where you can see my face. The fact you cannot clearly see my face here shoots down all business and dating prospects with this photo. It DOES however appear to rank off the charts in the “Fun” category :-)
Neville Staring Vaguely In The Distance:
This was my Twitter profile, LinkedIN profile, AND Facebook Profile for several years. It ranks quite poorly across the boars. I’m guessing the expression is too lifeless. Oh yeah, the GOLD TIPS on my hair probably don’t help either :-P
Neville Smiling Slightly:
I thought this picture was pretty decent. What I realized puts a picture over the top is smiling with teeth showing, which this doesn’t have.
Neville Smiling On Website:
This is the picture from the homepage of KopywritingKourse. My eyes look directly at the signup form when viewed in desktop mode:
Neville Casually Sitting:
Casually sitting down, dressed casual, with a casual glass of wine, with casual shoes:
Neville On Laptop WITH Homer:
This is a nice photo of me working outside, with a Home Simpson sticker on my laptop. In the comments of this photo, people said the Homer Simpson photo made it looks less professional:
Neville On Laptop WITHOUT Homer:
I photoshopped out the Homer Simpson on my laptop. I think a version of this where my tie was on tighter would’ve ranked this even higher.
Neville Dressed Indian:
This one did phenomenally well in the social category, and average in the business category:
Noah Kagan Crazy Hair and Crazy Beard:
As a control test I used this photo of my buddy Noah to see if these tests were real or fake. OBVIOUSLY I expected this photo to perform poorly across the board (also I’ll take any opportunity I can to publicly ridicule Noah) ;-)
Noah Kagan With Smile and “Power Arms”:
We’ll let Noah redeem himself with a proper photo! This is on the homepage of OkDork and converts very highly:
Ramit Staring You Down:
This is a photo from IWillTeachYouToBeRich. The photo scores quite high in the business category:
Derek Halpern With Suit And Power Pose:
This is from the Social Triggers homepage. It’s a great photo that looks like Derek is a “Business Superhero” or something. I thought this would rank higher in the “business” category, but instead was sky-high in the “dating” category.
Derek Halpern With Neutral Disdain:
This is a photo from the Social Triggers website. I think the photo itself is good, but it makes Derek look kinda douchey. On the plus side, it got a 94% on the attractiveness scale!
Here’s the top pictures from each category:
These are the top 8 pictures of me ranked in descending order by their total scores, separated by category (Social, Dating, Business):
Changing Profile Pictures Based On Results:
The useful result of these tests is I can easily see which pictures would work best.
It turns out I have the WORST POSSIBLE PICTURES of me on pretty much every platform!
I immediately went through and started changing them all:
Changed my Instagram picture:
The Instagram change was subtle. Of the two head shots I thought the non-smiling one looked better, but the data shows otherwise, so it got changed:
Changed my Facebook picture:
More than 10 people have told me they absolutely hate my Facebook profile picture. I don’t know why I never listened, but soon as I saw the crowd-sourced results I changed it:
Changed my LinkedIN picture:
I’ve had the same LinkedIN profile picture since the day I got LinkedIN…and the picture DOES NOT look professional at all. Time for a much needed re-fresh of the picture which ranked highest in the business category!
Changed my Twitter picture:
I was rocking the gold tips photo for a while on Twitter which performed horribly in the tests, so I changed it up to something more smiley:
Changed my About Page pictures:
Social media pics aren’t the only thing you can change based on these. On the KopywritingKourse About Page I had a set of three pictures showing who I am.
Those pictures were sub-optimal pictures according to these ratings. I switched them out for some higher ranking ones:
You’re able to “Split Test” photos with little effort:
Not everyone has the software, traffic, know-how, or time to split test photos for effectiveness. So running a photo through some of these tests is a very simple way to figure out which is the best photo for the job.
If you’re a designer this gives you SOME “evidence” of how a photo performs. For example, here is the front page of my own website KopywritingKourse, with my face on it:
I ran a few quick tests (it took about 10 minutes to get the results), and based on these tests I can instantly see this photo is acceptable to use:
Neville “If I Smile I Get Rated Higher” Medhora
P.S. Checkout PhotoFeeler to rate your own photos (I have no affiliation with PhotoFeeler, I just thought their service and ease-of-use was pretty great).
P.P.S. I might just go through and test people’s photos randomly, so make sure to link a social account or two ;)