You know I’m all about the words – I’m surprised to find myself passing on advice about pictures of any sort. But I found this advice about your profile picture fascinating and I think you will too.

Should you smile or not? Take off your glasses or leave them on? And what should you do with your hair when you’re staring at that camera?

It’s important because our faces are plastered all over the internet: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, not to mention your own website. And maybe, like me, you send an email with your face in the header. (I’m re-evaluating that face, by the way.)

People are making decisions about you based on that photo. Should they connect with you on LinkedIn? Subscribe to your e-zine? Answer the phone when you call?

Here’s the scoop from the website PhotoFeeler, where they study this sort of thing. PhotoFeeler tabulated the ratings on 800 profile pictures, looking for assessments of competence (intelligence and capability), likability (friendliness and kindness), and influence (industry leadership).

Naturally, we’d all like for people who might do business with us … and everybody else, for that matter … to think we’re competent, likable and influential. How do we make that happen?

It’s okay to leave those glasses on. PhotoFeeler’s research found people wearing glasses got higher scores for competence and likability.

But not if they’re sunglasses. Those hipsters who wear shades in a profile photo? Their likability plummets.

As when you’re speaking, you’re better off to have your hair out of your face for a photo. Eyes obstructed by hair cost people points for both competence and likability.

Squinching the eyes a little bit, the way you do when you smile naturally, makes a person look more compent, more likable and more influential. The explanation: eyes wide open look fearful or nervous; the slight squint suggests you’re relaxed and confident.

I may be in trouble – people are forever telling me to SMILE! when they’re taking my picture. And I have a hard time with it. This is bad news because a serious face reduces the impression of competence. And likability. And influence. YIKES!

smilingIt matters how you smile too. PhotoFeeler’s study found curved but closed lips give you a boost in likability and a tiny increase in the other dimensions. But a big smile with teeth showing raises ratings for all three … and the difference in likability is especially significant.

A shot of you laughing? Likability skyrockets.

I’m thinking about growing a beard. They say a defined jawline makes you seem more competent, more likable and more influential. Fortunately, that can be accomplished without facial hair if you add a little shading through the miracle of Photoshop.

Whatever your face looks like in your profile picture, we want to see more of you. But not too much more. Close-ups that only show the face got lower ratings. And so did full-body shots. The photos with the highest numbers for competence, likability and influence were head-and-shoulder shots (known as busts) or waist-up shots (torsos.)

Formal dress doesn’t have much impact on likability … but people who dress up for a photo get higher marks for competence and leadership.

Interestingly, it doesn’t much matter where your picture is taken. In a studio, at your office, outside … you might have a preference, but the setting had no impact on the ratings in PhotoFeeler’s research.

One thing I’d add from my own experience. I still get LinkedIn requests from people who have no profile picture at all. And of course I wonder what they’re hiding and why. Social media experts agree with me: it’s foolish to put together a profile and then not add a photo to it.

So knowing all this, are you ready to ring up your photographer and get a new headshot? Or are you thinking your profile picture is just fine as is?