Duckface selfies. Cartoon filters. Shirtless gym pics. These photos won’t actually win you matches on dating sites. People are looking for an authentic date with a well-rounded life, so how do you make sure you show people who you really are? By choosing the best profile picture.
In the world of online dating, you have a much shorter time frame to make a good impression, mere seconds to capture someone’s attention. Because of this, choosing what images to add to your online dating profile should be a thoughtful process.
Here are thirteen expert tips from popular dating platforms and academic studies for taking, choosing, , and editing a memorable dating profile picture.
Tips for Taking Your Profile Pictures:
1. Show your natural smile.
Khalid S. Khan and Sameer Chaudhry, researchers from the University of North Texas and Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, examined multiple studies and found that a photo with a real, genuine smile attracts people more. You likely passed over this type of smile in your photo album because it squinches your eyes, making them smaller and highlighting crow’s-feet. It’s an attractive facial expression, though, because it displays true happiness.
2. Men: Look away and show your abs.
The website Big Think interviewed Sam Yagan, CEO of the dating site OkCupid, and learned that profile pictures trend better for men when they’re unsmiling and looking away from the camera. Potential matches also love pictures of guys who post ab shots, but only “really nice abs.”
3. Women: Wear red and show a little cleavage.
Women, don’t underestimate a red dress—Khan and Chaudhry also discovered that potential suitors love when women wear red. Big Think reported that women also fare better when they look straight at the camera. And showing skin is considered attractive; women who show cleavage do much better than those who dress more conservatively. Cleavage-baring photos rank 24% better for women in their early 20s and 79% better for women in their 30s.
4. Wait for the optimal time.
OkCupid found that people who take their best dating photos during the late-night and late-afternoon hours get more attention on the site. This could be because late-night photos tend to be sexier, and late-afternoon photos are ideally lit when the light is soft, heading into the sunset golden hour.
5. Turn the flash off.
A camera’s flash adds seven years, OkCupid also reports, making you appear much older in photos. So make sure the flash is off before you start snapping. Natural, soft light from the sun hides blemishes and aging effects like wrinkles, and you avoid flash glare like red eyes.
6. Add a full-body shot.
A shot taken of your full body where a romantic partner can get a good view of your body type can get you up to 203% more incoming messages according dating profile data from the online dating site and app Zoosk. Additionally, members with a full-body photo also get more replies to their messages—33% more than the average. .
Tips for Choosing the Best Profile Pictures:
7. Avoid group shots.
Data from Zoosk also reveals that people who use group shots on their dating profile—especially as their lead image—receive 42% fewer messages than those who post pictures of just themselves.
8. Leave the pets out.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a cat or dog person, potential daters don’t like pet photos. Zoosk also found that poses with a dog or cat generate 53% fewer messages.
9. Show off your adventures.
According to the dating app Hinge, photos that receive the most likes are shot candidly or show you participating in sports. Women who post a sports photo are 166% more likely to receive a like, while men are 45% more likely to receive a like. Avoid beach photos, though. Men are 80% less likely to receive a like on a beach photo, while women are 47% less likely.
Tips for Editing Your Profile Pictures:
10. Ge creative.
People rarely post black-and-white photos, but Hinge says they trend well. Black-and-white photos receive 106% more likes than their original color counterparts.
11. Add more photos.
The more photos you add, the more incoming messages you receive according to Zoosk. But the magic number is four. . Daters who have four or more photos on their profiles receive the most incoming messages. And, as an added bonus, they also have longer conversations.
12. Ask for an outside opinion.
Once you’ve come up with a strong variety of photos you want to post, ask a friend to help narrow down your top choices. Some research has found that people rarely pick the most flattering pictures of themselves for their dating profile; strangers actually do a much better job. If you aren’t comfortable asking a stranger for their opinion, at least have a friend scroll through your photos and select their favorites.
Your online dating pictures need to capture a 360-degree perspective of your life. Photos are just the beginning to potential romance, so don’t post pictures hiding behind sunglasses or faking a trendy lifestyle. Genuine will always be more appealing to a perfect match—and you won’t have to explain why you don’t look like your profile picture on your first date.