Everyone knows the basic rules of resume and social media photos. They should be head shots, you should dress appropriately, and it’s better to have one all-purpose photo than it is to present yourself as strictly business on one site and the chief of party central on another. Now there’s a new wrinkle in the rules. What can undo all your careful planning?
According a study reported in PLOS ONE, California Institute of Technology researchers decided to see if head shots of the same subject taken at different distances made a positive or a negative first impression on the viewer. Since the zone of personal space most people find comfortable is three to four feet, the researchers decided to take one picture inside the zone and the other outside the zone.
Eighteen people were photographed twice, once from two feet away and once from seven feet away. The pose, clothing and facial expression for each individual was the same in both pictures. Researchers adjusted the finished pictures to make both faces the same size. They also controlled for resolution and shadowing in the pictures. Then they asked people to view and judge the pictures.
In spite of the adjustments made to equalize the pictures, people responded far more positively to the pictures that were taken from farther away. This held true whether the pictures were viewed in person or on the Internet. When the close-up shots were evaluated, the individuals in the pictures received lower ratings for competence, trustworthiness and attractiveness than they received when judged by the distance shots.
The reason for the different responses seems to be that subtle warping occurs when pictures are taken close to the subject. The distortion is barely discernable, and the viewers were not consciously aware of it. Nevertheless, this small difference greatly influenced opinions of the people in the pictures. This one tip can help you make your intended first impression and land your next interview.