The Perfect Online Dating Profile Picture, According to Research


Don’t judge a book by its cover. But in the online dating world, a picture is often all you have to go by.


Picking good profile pictures is the key to success in finding matches. It’s a lot of pressure—especially if you don’t like photos of yourself. Fortunately, major online dating companies regularly complete surveys to figure out exactly what users find attractive. Based on this research, you’ll have the best dating profile pictures in no time!

The Dating Profile Pictures to Avoid

Avoid the following photos as they often lead to immediate rejections.

  1. Photos with your ex: If a potential match thinks you’re already in a happy, monogamous relationship, it doesn’t matter how good you look in the photo. Writing “the girl in my pic is my ex lol” in your profile doesn’t matter. In fact, you look like you have unresolved history.
  2. No photos of your face: People want to know who they’re talking to. A beautiful backdrop is great, but stunning landscapes shouldn’t occupy your whole profile. Not having any photos at all of yourself on a dating profile makes it look like you have something to hide.
  3. Obvious image manipulations: People want to know what you actually look like. They’re not going to date Photoshop.

Do I Need to be Attractive to Use Online Dating?

Attractiveness isn’t a deal-breaker when it comes to online dating. Seriously!

In fact, OKCupid found that being too attractive might result in receiving fewer messages. This holds especially true for men. Average or below-average-looking people are more likely to receive messages from women.

Getting more messages doesn’t mean finding an offline connection quicker. People who receive a lot of messages tend to spend less time replying, making it difficult to get to know each other.


It’s also hard to quantify what these labels mean: your “average” might be someone else’s “very attractive”. To be clear, your attractiveness is unlikely to be the core reason your profile doesn’t get attention.

EHarmony reiterates that, while a decent profile photo may start a conversation, a good personality that leads to genuine connections is more important.

Don’t use too much make-up either. Censuswide did an online dating survey in the U.K with 1000 respondents that revealed 72 percent prefer you to wear no make-up at all over wearing lots of it.

Should You Use Selfies in Online Dating Profiles?

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. Selfies might seem a necessity, and that’s probably a good thing for women. Why? The London School of Medicine found that the most effective photos for women are often selfies taken with your head tilted slightly.


However, men receive eight percent fewer matches when including selfies.

Make sure you can clearly see your face in pictures: A Tinder photo tip says that profiles that open with a full shot of your face get 27 percent more likes.

Full-body shots are a winner—86 percent of men and women agree—as are medium shots, which include your face and torso against an interesting (but not distracting) background. These give potential matches a good sense of body type.

Just don’t take them in front of a mirror. Zoosk found that 29 percent of women actively dislike mirror selfies. And definitely don’t take a selfie in the bathroom. These result in 90 percent fewer likes.


Which Photos Should You Use in Online Dating Profiles?

The best profile photos lead to conversations. But what kinds of photos are most likely to do that?

Simply taking a photo outside can lead to 19 percent more messages for men because you’re putting in some extra effort. According to eHarmony, other great conversation starters with your date include photos that indicate interests in politics, travel, exercise, or theater.

If you have a cute dog, pose with them in a picture. In the battle of dogs versus cats, dogs are the clear winner in the dating world: you’ll get 53 percent fewer messages while posing with a cat than if you’re on your own.


It’s a different story for women. The same study shows that the most attractive interests for women to showcase include personal growth, health, family, dancing, and art. Being photographed indoors is also, strangely, more attractive.

Beware: women with pets in their photos get fewer matches, on average.

A love of food is similarly appreciated by women and men, so don’t be afraid of using a shot in a restaurant.

Should You Include Group Photos on Your Dating Profile?

Many include group shots in their profiles, but you’re advised not to. You might get lost in the crowd. Imagine if you match with someone who thinks they’re actually talking to one of your friends!

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If you’re especially keen, make sure a group shot isn’t the first image matches see. Group shots confuse those viewing your profile for the first time. They have no way of knowing which of those individuals you are.

Don’t overcrowd a picture. Certainly don’t have more than four individuals in a picture. And make sure you stand out. If you’re blonde, post a picture where you’re the only blonde person in the frame, for example.

The same is true of backgrounds: you should be in the most interesting thing in the image, right in the foreground, and nothing should distract from you.

Family photos—providing they’re not cheesy—can work well, as women and men typically find familial closeness attractive. Photos where you pose with your mum actually have a seven percent higher match rate than those without. You might feel guilty using your own mother like that though.

Should You Smile for the Camera?

This is harder to answer because sources disagree.

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For women, a flirty smile aimed at the camera works because potential matches feel a connection when you seem to lock eyes.

Tinder reports that smiling increases your chances of a match by 14 percent, so think about that next time you start pouting for the camera. In fact, pouting is a turn-off, pretty much universally.

Women are 47 percent more likely to smile in photos than men, and that’s a good thing. Statistics show men are best looking away from the camera without a smile, although not in every picture. You need to show your eyes in some photos, to strengthen potential connections.

Then again, Tinder reports 10 percent more likes when a primary profile picture includes a small, regardless of gender.

In conclusion: do what works for you. If you think smiling is a more accurate portrayal of your character, you should smile!

The real problem is when grins look fake. That means some of the best are taken with you off-guard. You’ll look warm and comfortable. Don’t come across as creepy. If you smile, squint slightly so it looks more natural than having googly eyes.

Which Photos Should You Choose For Online Dating Profiles?

You need to post more than one picture. Four photos give a well-rounded perspective of your life.

But which photos should you choose? Here’s an example of an interesting camera roll:

  1. Your first picture needs to be of you—and only you. This should be the most flattering photo you have. First impressions take less than one-tenth of a second. In that time, people subconsciously judge attractiveness, how trustworthy you are, and what your personality is. These really matter, especially on dating apps.
  2. Your second photo should show you taking part in an activity. Be casual and confident. Show you’re comfortable being yourself.
  3. A full- or medium-body shot against an interesting backdrop. Make sure you clearly show your head and torso at least. The best option is a full-body shot. Zoosk says that a full-body photo of yourself increases the number of messages you receive by 203 percent!
  4. Use another photo of you participating in a hobby. Vacation photos demonstrate ambition and a love of life. Or if you’re a guy, pose with a dog.

Some services require more images. Hinge, for instance, asks for six, although one can be a video. Nonetheless, you should avoid oversharing. Ideally, include enough to start a conversation. Having more than six can make you seem egotistical. You risk eliminating any mystery and mixing in too many mediocre photos that detract from your strongest looks.

Online Dating Photos: What Not to Do

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“Be yourself” is good advice, in all walks of life. But what else shouldn’t you do?

  • Don’t take gym selfies. You risk looking self-obsessed. And most gym-users are sweaty and tired, which isn’t a good look. On Tinder, profiles with gym selfies get 5 percent fewer likes.
  • Don’t wear sunglasses. Matches like to see your eyes. Remember, they’re the windows to the soul. Otherwise, you look like you’re hiding something.
  • Don’t use old photos. No one appreciates low quality images, and potential matches will doubt you still look like you did in 2007.
  • Don’t include a photo of an inanimate object. This sounds like an obvious one, but people don’t want to see your car. They’re interested in dating you, not a chunk of metal.

Most Importantly, Look Like Yourself

In the end, the goal of online dating is to meet up in real life. If your profile doesn’t accurately represent you, it doesn’t matter how perfect it is statistically!

Making tweaks to improve your chances is fine. Pretending to be someone you’re not is not. And once you have matched with someone on Tinder, make sure you stay safe when you meet for a date

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