Is your profile picture portraying you in the best light? Here's what you need to know.

According to recent research conducted by Psychological Science, it takes only 40 milliseconds (a literal blink of an eye) to draw a conclusion about someone based on his or her photo. No pressure, right?

While cliché, the truth is that you never get a second chance to make a first impression, and research has shown that including a profile picture on a social or business network really does influence how you're viewed by your audience.

Tips for taking the best profile picture

PhotoFeeler offers some great tips on creating a profile picture that presents you as likeable, competent, and influential. The free-to-join site allows you to upload and get feedback from among the 60,000 other users who vote on your picture and provide helpful suggestions and techniques.

Recent data from the site supports the tips from the list above and offers a few more suggestions. Here's an expanded explanation.

Be a little formal  - Formal business wear had the greatest positive effect on competency and influence when taking all other factors into consideration.

Don't block your eyes – Hair, glare, shadows, and sunglasses drop scores in competence, influence, and likeability, so leave the Ray Bans off.

Smile with your teeth – PhotoFeeler says the best smile includes teeth. Closed mouth smiles increase likability only slightly, and laughing smiles lose points in competence and influence.

Define that jawline – Jaws outlined in shadow all the way around increased scores in likeability, competence, and influence.

Focus on your head & shoulders – Full body shots and close-ups that featured only heads dropped scores across all categories.

Pick a perfect color – Choose a color that complements your complexion and doesn't clash with the background. And avoid crazy prints, which get a little distracting and also dropped scores in many categories.

Squint (or squinch) a little – Multiple studies have determined that wide eyes convey fear, uncertainty, or vulnerability whereas slightly squinted eyes embody confidence and comfortableness. Picture Harrison Ford's irresistible squint, for example. People who uploaded pictures to PhotoFeeler got higher scores in competence, likeability, and influence when their pictures featured small squints.

For more on the science behind the best profile pictures, visit: Buffer's The Research & Science Behind Finding Your Best Profile Picture and the Association for Psychological Science's How Many Seconds to a First Impression?

Additional suggestions

  • Use the rule of thirds for your profile picture. In other words, place yourself just slightly off dead center, which is much more interesting and natural.

  • Make sure your light source is in front of you – and if you have options for backgrounds, brighter is better.

  • Don't include family, friends, logos, pet hamsters, or props. This time, it's all about you – so keep the focus on those pearly whites!

  • Use the magic size of 600 pixels width because these images look great regardless of where they're viewed (on mobile technology, pcs, or laptops).

  • If you've changed your look – a new hairstyle or hair color, glasses instead of contacts (or vice versa) – time to take a new picture, too!

Consider taking a variety of shots and poses, then run them by trusted friends, family members, or colleagues (or anyone who won't point and giggle) and see which appeals to them. Try out PhotoFeeler for yourself – and browse through LinkedIn or another networking site to see which pictures most appeal to you. Then, trust your instinct and have fun.

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