You can win or lose a person’s attention with your profile pictures, and it’s not because of your looks. What you’re doing in the pictures can affect how you’re perceived, and with the right pictures, you might be able to catch a few more eyes and invites in your inbox.
You don’t have to be ridiculously good-looking to be successful at online dating. In fact, sometimes more attractive people can be at a disadvantage in online dating. According to a study by OKCupid, women prefer to message guys of “average” good looks more often than they do the “most attractive” men. (But the reverse isn’t exactly true—on OKCupid, two thirds of male messages go to the highest rated third of women.)
So if you’re a normal guy, you’re already ahead of the game.
Then why do so many guys post Zoolander selfies, shirtless gym pics, and professionally photographed headshots? They’re trying too hard—and it shows. The woman you’re looking for probably doesn’t care about that stuff.
What does increase your odds of meeting more people in person, regardless of your gender and orientation, is when your pictures show your hobbies, your sense of humor, your full life, pets, and interests. More than any selfie, these profile pictures show people how you’re unique and interesting. They tell us that we have things in common with you, lots to talk about, and that it looks like fun to hang out with you. We’ve talked about this briefly before, but today we’re taking a closer look at what kinds of pictures do well.
Note: This is a guest post in which lots of the advice is geared towards men looking for women—but many of the rules apply all around. In cases where they don’t, we’ve noted it with some info from OKCupid.
1) You being active / doing something you love. Smart people make their pics work double-time: showing their appearance and their interests. OKCupid’s research on successful profile pictures shows that men are twice as likely to meet women in person when you post pictures of yourself “doing something interesting” instead of “drinking” (a standard stand-by photo).
Do you have photos from the last time you went rock climbing? Coached your nephew’s soccer team? Played Dominion? Give them some love on your profile. And if you don’t have photos of you doing something you enjoy, get some! Next time you’re geo-caching or in the midst of a game night, have a friend take a couple pics.
Why this works: You’re showing visitors how you lead a full, engaging life—and that you potentially share some common interests. When your pictures create topics of conversation, the viewer won’t have to think hard about how to respond to your message. And the easier you make it for them to respond, the better. Next thing you know, you two are chatting away about your favorite rock climbing spots nearby.
Why this works: People want to know that you’re capable of having healthy relationships. When a few photos show your cycling team, volunteer group, or others who clearly enjoy spending time with you, inquiring eyes can feel fairly confident you’re not a sociopath. (Which really increases your odds of meeting more dates in person!)
2) You, not alone. When a someone’s profile pictures are all selfies, it doesn’t show off your social side (and, depending on the nature of those selfies, could even come off a little narcissistic). One or two photos of you with friends, looking happy and natural, are way better than a profile full of boring, posed selfies.
If you haven’t checked out the photos tagged of you on Facebook lately, take a look again. Your goal isn’t to look perfect in every one. It’s okay if you and your buddy are beet-red and sunburned from a day of fishing. The goal is to prove you’re a normal, happy person with friends who enjoy your company.
But try to keep big group pictures to a minimum. Group shots make it difficult for people to spot you—turning the photo into a game of Where’s Waldo. A photo of you and one or two friends is ideal.
3) You with your family. This works like a powered-up version of photos with friends. At the next holiday, grab your brother, a couple cousins, or your grandfather. Have someone take the photo close-up, so you’re easily recognizable, and put your arm around Grandpa.
Why this works: Many women love family pics because we instantly assume you’re close with your family, a caring son, a good brother, and a sweet grandson. Basically, that you’re one of the good guys. Good guys make good boyfriends.
4) You with your pets. According to OKCupid, photos with animals are even better for getting women to meet in person than your photos of “doing something interesting.” So round up the nearest dog, cat, or baby elephant and let the magic happen. Oddly enough, the study shows that reverse isn’t true for women posing with animals.
A photo of you with your adorable niece, nephew, or friend’s kid is also great subliminal messaging. It implies you’re good with kids and therefore would be a great dad. (Upload with caution, though: you may attract some wife-ready women, so be sure that’s what you’re looking for.)
Why this works: Guys who are kind to animals are hot, no question about it. You give off a vibe that’s caring yet playful… gentle yet protective… easy-going yet responsible. Swoon. Plus, when women see a cute guy cuddled up to a snuggly animal, we imagine how good you’ll be at cuddling us.
5) Your full body shot. This is an online dating best practice because it’s common decency. We want to know what you actually look like. You get nervous when all of a woman’s photos are cropped right below her cleavage, right? You know she’s hiding something, and it’s not a wooden leg. (Strangely, for women posting pictures of themselves, the classic “Myspace shot” is actually what receives the most responses).
Unless you want the other person to be suspicious of you, post at least one photo showing your full body.
Why this works: You want the other person to know you’re an honest, genuine human. Lots of creeps post deceptive photos, or lie on their profiles. After a couple bad dates, anyone would be sick of this. When we see you’re confident and honest about who you are, we’re into that.
6) Are flattering. Yes: duh. But tons of people post deliberately unflattering photos, looking super drunk, making ugly faces, or whatever. Sometimes it’s for humorous effect, but you might just beat someone to the punch by giving a reason to be rejected. But what’s the point of online dating, then?
The Most Useful Online Dating Profile Pictures
7) Are genuine. Happiness is attractive! Multiple stone-faced selfies in the gym mirror makes anyone look dull. And five emo-pout photos in a row get tiresome. Show people that you like to be happy. We want to know what you look like when you’re having a great time—so we can imagine how fun it’ll be right there next to you.
It’s okay if you’ve got a goofy snorkeling photo or a picture of you on Halloween as a hunchback. You should show your interests and personality. Just don’t let those less flattering photos outnumber the ones that prove you’re way hotter than Quasimodo, even if you think you’re being hilariously ironic.
- When you choose a deceptive profile picture, and then meet a date in person, they’ll see that you lied. Lying by omission is not a good way to start a relationship—but you’ll probably not make it to a second date at all.
- You might be losing opportunities to meet people who like your so-called flaws! Crooked teeth can be raffish, bald can be sexy, and some extra weight can be great for cuddling. There are many walks of life out there!
8) Are accurate and recent. Some people choose photos that make them seem “better looking” in some way. They might hide their beer gut, crooked teeth, or bald spot. This is a major bummer for two reasons:
Online dating is one place where you get to be yourself. Be who you are—so the right person can find you!
Show your physical appearance and age with honesty. People will find your self-confidence really attractive.
Em writes smart online dating advice for men. For more tips on writing messages that get replies, what to say (and what not to say) in your profile, and the best ways to get a woman’s attention, check out MenAskEm.