You’re ready. The idea of dating no longer causes you to break out into a cold sweat and head for the bathroom with stomach pains. You feel confident, secure, and stable. You want to increase your chances of meeting someone you can share your life with, so you decide to leverage the power of online dating. Last year, 46% of people met their current partner online. You take a deep breath, grab your laptop, curl up in your favorite chair, and begin to carefully craft your online dating profile.
You struggle through draft after draft of usernames and clever headlines. With 59 million users, it’s an enormous challenge to find something that is unique and hasn’t been overdone. After what seems like days, you feel like you have climbed Mt. Everest, and you have just one step left . . . pictures. This is perhaps the most daunting aspect of creating an online dating profile. Research has shown that people will form an opinion of you in 1/10 of a second. That’s it! That’s all you get before someone decides to like your picture, send you a message, or move on to another profile. Talk about pressure! It’s almost enough to make anyone climb back into their pajamas, grab a quart of Ben and Jerry’s, and decide to try online dating next year.
However, there are things you can do to maximize that 1/10 of a second you have. Dozens of research studies have been conducted in the last five years to uncover what men and women like and don’t like when it comes to online dating pictures. There are some clear guidelines that will help you choose the best possible pictures for your profile. Here is what you can glean from the research:
- No hats or sunglasses. People who had pictures of them wearing hats or sunglasses received 63% less likes or messages. Why? Eyes are one of the first things people notice about another person. Making eye contact with someone, even through a picture, seems more intimate than looking at someone’s sunglasses. In fact, 53% of men notice a woman’s eyes first in a picture. Don’t cover up those assets, show them off. What about hats? Caps and beanies can be fun and appropriate for hiking and vacationing, but often people wear them to cover up flaws. Unless you wear that hat or beanie all day, every day make sure to have a picture without it. If you’re bald or have a receding hairline, own it!
- Include at least one full body picture. People who had at least one on their profile got 203% more incoming messages and 33% more replies to their messages. Why is this? It has to do with transparency. Being physically attracted to someone is an important factor in dating. While it is important to put your best foot forward, it’s also important to put ALL of you forward as well.
- Have a niche? Include it in a picture but only if you have more than one picture. People who wore their favorite sports jersey received 32% more incoming messages than other profiles. Additionally, people who included pictures of themselves on vacation, participating in hobbies, and competing in sports received more messages than other profiles. However, this was only true if it was in addition to other pictures. This is because these are great conversation starters, but if it is the only picture on your profile, it can alienate potential partners who may be interested in you but might not share your interests.
- Taking a good selfie is incredibly difficult. Getting the angle right, cropping out background images, and adjusting glare are all nightmares. As it turns out, selfies are also not that effective as online dating profile pictures. In fact, for women it is a deterrent to getting messages. Women with selfies received 40% less messages than profiles without selfies. Ironically, men catch a break here but not a big one. They receive 11% more messages if they have a selfie profile picture. For both genders, though, mirror selfies are a no-no. Mirror selfie profile pictures receive fewer likes and messages across the board. The solution is to grab your best friend and have her take some pictures or get some professionally done.
- Filters and photoshop. You might not think so, but it is obvious if you have used a filter or photoshop on your picture. People who have profile pictures that have been edited with filters receive fewer likes and messages by 32%. This is especially true for Snap Chat filters. The only exception is the black and white filters. These pictures get 13% more messages.
- Expensive toys. This seems to be a common profile picture for men. Maybe she’ll send me a message if I pose with my amazing car or motorcycle? Maybe I’ll just post a picture of my car or motorcycle and she’ll be so impressed she won’t care that I’m not in the picture. Men, this is a huge turn-off for women. In fact, men who posted pictures of themselves with their toys or just their toys received far fewer likes and messages than other profiles. Save the reveal of your nice car or motorcycle for a first or second date when she can appreciate it in person.
- Where’s Waldo? Group photos are a nightmare for dating profiles. If you have a great picture of yourself in a small group, then include it at the end of a series of photos of you. Never have a group photo be your only profile picture. It is never obvious to anyone looking at your profile who you are in that picture.
- No ex’s or SOs in your picture. Never. Period.
- Everything matters. When someone looks at your pictures, they may notice your amazing smile and beautiful eyes, but they will also notice the dirty clothes on your bed or the hungry kids pulling at your leg. Make sure that everything in the photo tells the story you want it to because it will be judged.
- If your profile picture hasn’t changed but you have, it’s time for a new picture. If you recently cut off nine inches of your hair, time for a new picture. If you shaved your head, time for a new picture. If your beard has become speckled with gray hair, time for a new picture. A good rule of thumb is to update your picture every year unless you make changes to your appearance sooner than that. It’s about integrity. It’s about being authentic and confident in who you are now.
Now you know a lot of what not to do, so what CAN you do to be proactive and successful with your photo selection? Here is what we know from hundreds of thousands of singles who responded to research studies. Singles are looking for someone who fits the trifecta: attractive, trustworthy, and confident. Each photo you choose to put on your profile should reveal these three items. In order to nail this trifecta, you should enlist the help of friends. It turns out you are not the best judge of your own photos. If none of your existing pictures fit this description, take some. It is perfectly acceptable to stage moments that capture your fun personality, your hobbies, and the things you are passionate about. You want the pictures you include to tell a story. You want them to start a conversation with someone and invite them to message you to know more about you. Most of all, you want to be authentic and transparent.
As you take pictures for your profile, keep several things in mind. People respond warmly to pictures where the person is smiling, where there is good lighting, and where the person is taking up most of the room in the picture. A recent analysis done by Tinder discovered that 56% of women and 72% of men wore neutral colors in their profile pictures. So, skip the neutral and wear red. Not only is it a power color that flatters almost everyone, you will automatically stand out from the majority of other profile pictures.
You should always include more than one picture on your profile. The magic number is four. Research has even shown the most effective sequence for them. Order them: (1) your very best, most attractive picture (2) picture of you participating in a hobby or event (3) possibly a small group photo or travel or vacation photo (4) full body photo. People with less than four photos receive fewer messages. Those with more do not necessarily receive more messages, so it’s up to you how many you want to put on there. One cautionary note, be careful if you choose to include pictures with your children in them. While you may want to show what a cute and adoring parent you are, you may want to keep that for a later time when you have met the person face to face and have developed a relationship of trust with them.
So, put down the Ben and Jerry’s, take a deep breath, and peruse the pictures in your phone. If there’s nothing there that matches the criteria for a perfect profile pic, then grab your bestie and have a fun impromptu photo shoot. Remember, it only takes one like, one message to change your life. So, if it takes a while to get the right kind of response to your profile, that’s ok. You are worth it!