Does it Pay to Airbrush Your Profile Photo?

SmartMoney

Generation Facebook may never grow old. New apps are making age-defying photo airbrushing techniques once reserved for celebrity magazine covers available instantly and inexpensively to just about anyone.

Airbrushing computer software such as the $40 Portrait Professional and Magic Brush-Photo can create perfect, youthful complexions. Other Smartphone apps like Pimple Eraser — which has had two million downloads since its release last year — and The Airbrush App are less complex, but cost just 99 cents to download. “Everyone is able to use the same marketing techniques that the big ad agencies used for decades to sell products,” says Vicky Oliver, author of The Millionaire’s Handbook. “Only in this case they are selling themselves.”

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The author before (L) and after (R). (Photo: SmartMoney)


Pay Dirt tested Portrait Professional, which has 200,000 clients in the U.S. — 50% of its total global customer base. The company says it analyzed thousands of photos to learn what makes people look attractive or unattractive, claims it can automatically reduce double-chins and offers over 200 ways for people to manipulate various imperfections (reshape lips and noses, remove fat, increase/reduce breast size, create muscles, erase dark circles under the eyes, raise cheekbones, thicken hair and whiten teeth). The instruction video already has over 1.5 million hits on YouTube.

[Related: How to Write the Perfect Resume Hook]

The verdict? You can look as young and slim as you like, but experts say there are pitfalls to ironing out too many wrinkles and facial flaws from profile photos on professional networking sites like LinkedIn. Removing a pimple is one thing, but any more dramatic changes in appearance could shock prospective employers, says personal branding consultant Nick Gilham.  There are also ethical issues to consider, he says. “This would make me wonder what other lies you would tell? Would you lie about your job accomplishments or titles too?”

Still, a little light airbrushing could go a long way for some job-seekers. Smoothing out a few lines, while leaving your appearance broadly intact, might help older job hunters look young and energetic, Schawbel says. For seniors struggling to find work — some 52% of those aged 55 and older are unemployed versus just 38% of those under 55 years of age, according to the American Association of Retired Persons – the extra touch-up may help, experts say. LinkedIn connection director Nicole Williams says an “appealing” picture catches the eye of recruiters: “There’s no denying that attractiveness gives you an advantage over the competition.”

Dating sites pose other issues. A flattering photo on eHarmony or OkCupid might result in a few extra dinner engagements, Oliver says, but your date will likely end up feeling deceived (One 2009 study, “Putting Your Best Face Forward: The Accuracy of Online Dating Photographs,” by researchers at Cornell University, found that one-third of photographs on dating websites were inaccurate.) Her advice to the lovelorn and professionally restless: “If you are pleasantly plump, don’t airbrush yourself so much that you look like Twiggy.”

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