Article last updated on:
February 12, 2024

You’re likely here because you:

  • Heard people say it’s good using faces in YouTube thumbnails
  • But you’re not sure if you should do it
  • So you want expert advice

Let’s discuss this issue.

Explained: Face or No Face in Thumbnails?

Human faces are naturally captivating, and that’s why they’re so commonly used in YouTube thumbnails.

But it’s not just about grabbing attention; using faces strategically can boost your click-through rate (CTR) and engagement.

1. Why faces work

Example of a YouTube thumbnail with a face
  • Emotional Connection: Faces trigger emotional responses in viewers, making them more likely to click on a thumbnail that evokes curiosity, excitement, or amusement.
  • Recognition and Trust: Familiar faces, like those of popular YouTubers or celebrities, can build trust and encourage viewers to click.
  • Social Proof: Thumbnails with people looking directly at the viewer create a sense of connection and social proof, making the video seem more engaging.

You’ve seen people do it, I’ve seen people do it… Everybody has!

And that’s really enough proof to understand that faces work for thumbnails.

2. How to use faces in your advantage

Illustration of thumbnail testing on YouTube

Pro Tip: Use A/B testing to compare different thumbnail variations and see which ones drive the most clicks.

  • Show Emotion: Use close-up shots that capture genuine emotions like surprise, joy, or wonder.
  • Make Eye Contact: Direct eye contact creates a connection with the viewer and draws them in.
  • Highlight the Right Person: If your video features a guest or expert, showcase their face prominently.
  • Consider Your Audience: Tailor your thumbnail faces to resonate with your target audience‘s interests and demographics.
  • Maintain Quality: Use high-resolution, well-lit images for a professional look.
  • Test and Analyze: Experiment with different faces and expressions to see what resonates best with your viewers.

3. Analyzing a thumbnail with a face

Thumbnail with a face - YouTube video comparing Spotify to Apple Music
  • What do we have here: Simple icons + a face
  • The face: Doesn’t have a neutral look. Makes you ask yourself what’s going on
  • Proof that it works: 507k views in 4 months
  • Video has quality: 4K, Subtitles, 15 Chapters, and a Short Title

Realistically, do you want to see a face in a ‘Spotify vs Apple Music‘ picture? (No offence to 6 Months Later).

  • Shouldn’t it be about the apps?
  • Their features?
  • Or anything else directly related to the apps themselves?

Maybe the answers is yes…. or maybe not — but this is just to show that the YouTube Algorithm isn’t working entirely how we think (or want) it to.

Personally: I’ve seen enough thumbnails with faces that I’d now rather click on a video with just the Spotify + Apple Music logos on a simple background.

  • But that’s just me, and YouTube doesn’t work my way…
  • Reason why you should always stay neutral.

Follow the trend if you really want to succeed on YouTube.

Pros & Cons: What are the benefits?

1. Pros – Using a face

  • Increased Click-Through Rate (CTR): Studies show that thumbnails with faces tend to have a higher CTR than those without. Your face adds a human element and grabs viewers’ attention, making them more likely to click.
  • Personal Connection: Having your face in the thumbnail helps viewers connect with you on a personal level. They get a sense of who you are and what your personality is like, which can foster trust and loyalty.
  • Recognition and Branding: If you consistently use your face in thumbnails, viewers will start to recognize and associate you with your content. This can help build your brand and make you stand out from the competition.
  • Emotional Response: Faces evoke emotions, which can be used to your advantage.

A surprised expression might raise curiosity, while a happy face might make viewers feel positive about your content.

2. Cons – Using a face

  • Limited Appeal: Not everyone enjoys watching videos with people in them. This could limit your audience reach, especially if your content caters to a niche without strong personality-driven preferences.
  • Focus on You: Viewers might perceive your content as being solely about you and your experiences, even if it’s not. This can be limiting if you want to cover diverse topics or focus more on the subject matter itself.
  • Negative Attention: Using your face can open you up to potential criticism and trolling, especially if your content is controversial or you have a large audience.
  • Privacy Concerns: Some creators might be uncomfortable putting their face online, especially if they value their privacy or anonymity.

3. Comparison Table

FeatureFaceNo Face
Click-Through Rate↑ Increased↓ Lower
Personal Connection↑ Stronger↓ Weaker
Recognition & Branding↑ Easier↓ Harder
Emotional Response↑ Possible↓ Limited
Limited Appeal↓ Potential↑ None
Focus on You↓ Possible↑ Less Likely
Negative Attention↓ Possible↑ Less Likely
Privacy Concerns↓ Higher↑ Lower

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why do YouTubers put their face on thumbnails?

YouTubers often put their faces on thumbnails because it helps create a personal connection with the viewer.

  • Attention: Faces naturally grab attention compared to text or objects.
  • Connection: Familiar faces (YouTuber or guest) build trust and feel more engaging.
  • Emotions: Expressive faces evoke curiosity, excitement, or humor, enticing clicks.
  • Clickbait: Exaggerated expressions can lure viewers, though effectiveness is debated.

2. Why do people make Surprised Faces?

People make surprised faces in YouTube thumbnails because it’s a powerful way to grab viewers’ attention. A surprised expression can evoke curiosity and intrigue, making people wonder what caused that reaction.

It suggests that the video content is:

  • Shocking
  • Exciting
  • Unexpected…
  • Which can increase the likelihood of someone clicking to watch.

This tactic plays on human psychology, as we’re naturally drawn to emotional expressions and want to find out the story behind them.

3. Do thumbnails with faces get more views?

Yes, thumbnails with faces often get more views. Faces, especially with clear, expressive emotions, can attract more attention because they’re relatable and eye-catching.

People are naturally drawn to human faces.

3. Should I use my face in YouTube thumbnail?

Yes. If you’re comfortable being in front of the camera and your content is about your experiences, opinions, or you’re the main focus, your face can add a lot of value.

Just make sure your expressions match the vibe of the video to grab the right kind of attention.

Conclusion

This guide just studied everything about faces in YouTube thumbnails.


Thank you for reading this,
ThumbnailTest

About the author

David is the head of the editing team at ThumbnailTest. With his help, the editorial team is able to provide you with the best free guides related to YouTube thumbnails and A/B testing.