Choose a slight or partial smile for a confident headshot. For warmth, use a broad smile. A slight smile is recommended for selling, as it boosts sales compared to a broader smile.


From "no" smile to a "full" smile in a headshot photo?

Professional headshots can have smiles with teeth, or without teeth. Or, perhaps just a hint of a smile. Your headshot can have a smile, no smile, or the expression, that makes you feel comfortable.

That said, one thing is for sure, I won't be taking headshots with a forced, fake, or disingenuous expressions.

If there is going to be a smile in your professional headshot, it will be a real smile.


Example of a professional headshot WITHOUT a smile

professional headshot without a smile

 Example of a professional headshot WITH a "hint" of smile

hint of a smile peter istvan photography

Example of a professional headshot WITH a smile

example of a smile in a professional headshot

  Example of a professional headshot WITH a "full" smile

full smile peter istvan photography


What does Science say about smiles?

In the early 1990's, researchers studied smiles and published their two main findings in European Journal of Social Psychology:

  1. Smiling increases attractiveness compared to a non‐smiling neutral expression
  2. Smiling subjects are attributed greater degrees of sincerity, sociability, and competence.

In 2014, another research analysis was conducted to compare perceptions of "Duchenne" smiles. Guillaume Duchenne, is a French neurologist who identified two distinct types of smiles.  

  • Duchene smiles: smiles that include activation of the cheek muscles that creates crow's feet around the eyes
  • Non-Duchenne smiles: smiles without the activation of the cheek muscles and only the corners of the mouth are raised

Bottom line for the research:

"Duchenne smiles are rated more positively (i.e., authentic, genuine, real, attractive, trustworthy) than non-Duchenne smiles and people producing non-Duchenne smiles"


An article by Thomas McKinlay, suggests that smile less to appear confident and boost sales.

Four points from the article:

  1. When viewing photos of individuals marketing products or themselves, a broad smile is perceived as warmer but less competent, while a slight smile is seen as colder but more competent.
  2. People tend to offer low-value social support to those with a broad smile but are more inclined to make purchases from those with a slight smile.
  3. On, project creators with broad smiles received more Facebook shares, whereas those with slight smiles received significantly more funding and higher contributions per person.
  4. Context affects smile's impact: broad smile is warmer in low-risk situations but less desirable in high-risk scenarios.

If we are in a low-risk setting and looking to gain something we perceive the warmth of a broad smile as a willingness to help, and focus less on the possible drawbacks of lower competency. When we’re afraid of losing something we perceive a broad smile as a lack of skill.


Should you smile on your LinkedIn profile photo?

Is a LinkedIn profile photo really that important for an Executive Recruiter? Well, I asked one.

I chatted with, Dan, a senior partner at an international professional executive recruitment firm, and asked about the importance of a LinkedIn profile photo. Dan has over 25 years of experience in the recruitment field and has sifted through thousands of profiles and resumes, trying to find the perfect candidate. Read our discussion.


10 things that people don't like about their smiles

Here are some of the most common reasons that I hear from people that are concerned about smiling in their photos:


  1. Self-consciousness: Individuals may feel self-conscious about their smile in photos.
  2. Insecurity about teeth: Concerns about their teeth, such as discoloration or misalignment.
  3. Wrinkles or facial lines: "Crows feet", some people are conscious of facial lines or wrinkles may from smiling.
  4. Industry standards: Some industries or professions may prefer more serious or stoic headshots.
  5. Cultural influences: Different cultures have different perceptions of people smiling, or not smiling. 
  6. Nervousness or discomfort: Having their photo taken can make feel nervous, which can make them worried about a "dumb" expression.
  7. Personal style or brand image: Some individuals may need a serious look to be consistent with with their personal style or brand image.
  8. Avoiding perceived insincerity: Some people worry that a forced or a big enthusiastic smile may come across as insincere or fake.
  9. Gums: Insecurity about the color of their lips or gums when they smile.
  10. The Past: Some individuals were teased, or received negative comments about their smile the past.


How do I address these concerns?

It starts by having a conversation with you and understanding the purpose of your headshots. In a nutshell, we capture a number of expressions and positions, and during the selection process, you select the image, or images you like. We keep shooting and selecting, until the your are completely satisfied with your images.  Some of things like whitening of the teeth, are easily adjusted during the retouching process. 


What about AI (Artificial Intelligence) generated headshots?

In 2023, the growth and evolution of AI-generated headshots have reached remarkable heights, shaking up the photography industry.

AI algorithms have become more sophisticated, producing headshots that seamlessly blend realism and creativity. From adjusting lighting and enhancing facial features to capturing diverse expressions, AI-generated headshots offer a level of detail and diversity that previously, was unattainable. 

Consider these three points, summarized from the following article, AI-Generated LinkedIn Headshots: Are They Costing You Job Opportunities? – Interview with New Jersey Photographer & Videographer, Alex Perelmuter

  • Professional photographers excel over AI-edited images for LinkedIn profile pictures due to their unique blend of creativity, expertise, and personalized touch. While AI enhances technical aspects, photographers offer personalized branding, emotional connection, and artistic composition for a compelling and authentic portrayal.
  • AI-generated LinkedIn headshots may still cost job opportunities due to concerns about authenticity, cultural fit, uniqueness, over-reliance on technology, and the absence of a human touch. Job seekers should balance the benefits of technology with the need for authenticity and connection in the professional sphere.
  • AI struggles to replicate genuine human moments in photography due to its limitations in understanding emotional context, empathy, cultural and personal context, adapting to dynamic environments, and conveying storytelling and artistic vision. Despite advancements, AI lacks the nuanced understanding and adaptability required for capturing truly authentic moments.

 Other articles for reference:

photo of lauren graizzato sound financial wealth parry sound


If you are considering a professional headshot for yourself, the next step is to find the right photographer for you.

How to choose a headshot photographer

Consider factors such as:

  1. How long have they been a photographer?
  2. Do they have a studio?
  3. Do they primarily focus on headshots?
  4. Does their previous work appeal to you? 
  5. Reading reviews from previous clients (e.g. Google Reviews)

The right photographer will make your professional headshot experience comfortable, relaxed, and fun, resulting in awesome and genuine images that you love.


Best ways to use a professional headshot

A frequent question: How many headshots do I need? 

Well, there are many different ways to use your professional headshot and it depends on the purpose and/or what message you are trying convey with your image.


 behind the scenes with Peter Istvan Photography


Feel free to call/text phone call so that I can explain the process and answer any of your questions. It will be quick and efficient. 705 774 8560. You can schedule a session in my studio, where I specialize in professional headshots.

Read some other general questions about headshots.


FREE | Download a PDF of tips on how you can prepare for your next headshot, no matter where you go!

Peter Istvan Photography

Peter is a professional headshot photographer. Available in studio, or on location. Serving Parry SoundMuskokaSudburyNorth Bay, Barrie, Toronto, and surrounding areas. View pricing and scheduling.

Peter Istvan

Peter Istvan Photography

Peter is a professional headshot photographer. Available in studio, or on location. Serving Parry SoundMuskokaSudburyNorth Bay, Barrie, Toronto, and surrounding areas. 

Would be happy to hear from you!