Make your professional headshot your competitive advantage

Credentials and experience are all that matters to legal clients, right?

Not really. More than anything, people seeking legal representation want someone that they like and trust. And prior to meeting, the best way for a person to tell whether they like and trust you (versus any other attorney in their area that they could call) is by your picture online.

The importance of using the right picture

If you fail to have a professional headshot available online, you are creating automatic distrust and turning clients away. But just using any old picture can also work against you in a big way.

Research says that it takes 100 milliseconds for someone to draw conclusions about who you are from a photo, and that opinions drawn from a photo are weighed more heavily than words on a page. In other words, it’s vital to the health of your legal practice that you choose your picture very carefully.

Where this gets difficult is even photos with just small, natural changes in facial expression can result in massively different first impressions — as different, on average, as if they were different people. Take the study results shown below, wherein guesses about the photo subject’s level of extroversion and trustworthiness changed drastically depending on subtle changes photo-to-photo. [Credit: http://pss.sagepub.com/content/early/2014/05/27/0956797614532474.abstract]

extraversion-and-trustworthiness-example

As another part of this same study, participants were shown similar photos of one person and asked to choose which photo would be best for: a mayoral campaign poster, a resume, a dating website, Facebook, and an actor’s headshot for the role of a villain. Shown below, the first photo was consistently identified as that of a mayor, and the second as that of a villain. [Credit: http://pss.sagepub.com/content/early/2014/05/27/0956797614532474.abstract]

slight-changes-facial-expression-very-different-impressions

If these photos could create impressions this widespread, it’s not crazy to speculate that switching your LinkedIn photo may result in a huge upwards or downwards swing in clients. The question here becomes: how do you *really* know which one is hitting all the right notes?

Why objective feedback is key

Sadly, you and I are not entirely equipped to spot slight differences of facial expression and body language in our own photos. That’s because we actually use different parts of our brain when we look at pictures of ourselves vs. pictures of other people. So we’re literally not seeing the same thing that other people are seeing!

Rather, when we look at a picture of ourselves, we’re looking through a lens of our own extensive experience — what we know to be true of ourselves, what we were feeling when the picture was taken, what facial expression we were aiming for, etc. This makes objective feedback from other people, such as photo feedback on Photofeeler.com, a vital component of choosing the right professional picture.

So to summarize, it’s true that you are being judged harshly by your professional headshot online. Having the right (or wrong) picture online can influence your practice immensely. But understand that this doesn’t need to come as bad news. Instead, consider that choosing the right photo to represent you online can actually become a major market advantage. Like a slick, modern website or blog articles that demonstrate your legal expertise, a well-thought-out headshot is just another way to take control of your business and show potential clients that you’re the right one for the job.