Showing Trust and Competence (what Not to do)

We've all heard the expression "Don't judge a book by it's cover." The reality of online interaction however is that potential clients assess who they want to work with very quickly.

Recent studies by Princeton psychologists Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov, among others, show that people make a decision as to our trustworthiness and attractiveness within 1/10 of a second.

This means that in one tenth of a second people already know if 1) they are drawn to you and 2) whether or not they trust you.

It's clear then that the right headshot is key to first attracting an audience and then connecting more deeply with that audience.

I will now demonstrate a definite but subtle don't for your headshot in the image below:

Don't use this expression!

There's two big parts of this expression that you should really avoid:

1) My eyes are starting to look wide - this makes me look like I have NO IDEA what I'm doing. It's deer in the headlights. Not what we want to communicate competence. 

2) One side of my mouth is moving upwards in a lop-sided smile. This lop-sided smile at BEST looks insincere, but at WORST it has been shown to be a sign of contempt across cultures. This means that whatever country in the world you show this expression you're sending the message "I think you're an idiot!" loud and clear. Definitely not good if you want to establish trust and connection!

So, what helps to establish trust and connection with your audience? I've included an example below:

An example of a great expression to help you connect

I coached the client above to this subtle but engaging expression. This is a key part of my offering as a portrait photographer informed by my background in Psychology. Expression is key, and I help my clients get there.

His eyes are clear and focused, which you get from slightly working the muscles that orbit the eye. It took some practice and feedback, but we got there in the end! This give the expression confidence. 

If the client was only working the eyes though he would likely look mean. We introduced a soft smile and the whole pictured opened up. This helps us connect with him. He's a very open person, and I wanted to communicate that in the portrait.

Both together? Boom!

Trust and Competence, the ideal person I want to work with.

I hope this helps you improve your own brand representation, and if you know someone who could benefit from this, please let them know, it would mean a lot to me.