Dating Profile Tips: Choosing the Best Pictures

Woman Smiling Holding a Cat

First impressions are everything, especially when it comes to online dating. Unlike meeting people in real life, when it comes to online dating sites, potential future partners have very little information with which to work. There’s whatever information you included in your profile and the pictures you’ve uploaded. The latter is significantly more important.

A collection of well-crafted photographs is essential to creating a winning dating profile.

It takes a stranger one-tenth of a second to form a first impression about you upon seeing your face. People’s opinions are made before conscious thought has a chance to kick in. So, if we’re to find success using an online dating site, we must choose profile pictures that trigger a positive response during that initial split second.

Your pictures don’t just show how you look; they demonstrate your sense of style, lifestyle, grooming habits, hobbies and interests, and the types of people with whom you associate. They communicate what you find interesting and how you see and interact with the world.

Today, we’re going to teach you how to take the best pictures possible for online dating sites. If you’re lucky, maybe they’ve already been taken, and you just need to choose the right ones from your library of photos. Either way, we’re going to discuss some general rules to follow to ensure you send the right messages and get the maximum amount of attention on your dating profile.

Post More Than One Picture

A picture might be worth a thousand words, but on its own, it can only do so much to show the world how you actually look. After all, it can only capture you from a single angle. Play around with your camera, taking photos from a myriad of angles, and you’ll realize just how different one face can look depending on the perspective, lighting, and camera placement.

Even the clearest, most honest, straight-ahead high-definition picture is limited in how much it can convey to strangers who’ve never seen you before. When building a dating profile, you need to present people with a variety of looks that they can use to construct the full picture in their minds.

Most online dating sites give members the option to upload up to twelve photographs. The ideal number for a quality profile lies somewhere between four and ten. That gives you plenty of opportunities to present your facial features and physique from multiple angles, along with different expressions, grooming decisions, posture, environments, and more.

If your photo library is cultivated correctly, there should be no surprises when you meet your matches in person for the first time.

Take a Variety of Different Types of Pictures

While we’re on the subject, your collection of profile photos should capture a wide range of unique looks and settings. Don’t use the same approach twice. Different pictures convey different meanings. At least three of the pictures should feature you alone. You need a headshot, a full-body pic, and one from the waist up.

  • The headshot and waist-up pictures are prime candidates to be your main profile photo; make sure your face is well-lit, clear, and not obscured by sunglasses or anything else. They should not be selfies – we don’t want your outreached arms framing the image! Have someone else take the photo while you look into the camera and smile!

  • The full-body picture is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate your values. This is where you can get creative with the setting. Choose a backdrop that shows off one of your hobbies or maybe an important vacation you took.

You may also do these separately. So, post a photo showing off your full body but also include pictures of the places you’ve been or leisure activities you enjoy. As long as you have plenty of solo images, you could also include a group photo.

Just make sure each picture is noticeably different than all the rest.

Take Clear, Cropped (and Honest!) Photos

I touched on this already, but your profile pictures should be high-quality clear images of yourself. Your primary photo should be closely cropped so that your face (and possibly upper body) takes up most of the space. Minimize background distractions and avoid any confusion by choosing an image in which you’re alone.

Again: don’t take a selfie, and don’t wear hats or glasses or anything else that may cover your face.

You also want to take the picture straight ahead. The idea is to present a realistic representation of yourself.

Sure, it may feel good to use deceitful angles that make you look 20 pounds lighter at first when you’re getting more matches, but what then? How do you expect these people to react when you finally meet in person?

You’re much better off being honest upfront. There’s nothing worse than arriving at the bar or restaurant only to see the disappointment register on your date’s face (if they recognize you at all). People are extremely sensitive to being catfished.

Any inkling that you’ve been dishonest in how you’ve presented yourself is sure to be a major turn-off. Once they feel tricked, you’ll never win them over. It doesn’t matter how nice, funny, or charming you may be.

Should I Look into the Camera?

If you’re a woman, you should look directly into the camera and smile. Researchers at OkCupid found that women who made eye contact and smiled or made flirty faces got the most attention from other members.

Women paid more attention to men who smiled while looking off to the side and away from the camera. However, if you’re going to make flirty faces, you should look straight ahead. Gazing elsewhere and smiling is seen as mysterious and charming but making flirty faces in another direction is off-putting.

People don’t want to feel like they’re watching you flirt with someone else.

Don’t Overdo Filters/Photoshop

While we’re on the topic of honest profile photos: don’t overuse corrective filters. Some of the editing software out there today clears up every blemish and makes your face perfectly symmetrical with the click of a button. That’s just as bad as using deceitful angles or uploading pictures from ten years ago. Again, the object is to show what you actually look like!

Using photoshop or filters may give you confidence and generate more attention in the short term, but you’re setting yourself up for failure. It’s better to have fewer matches at first but to have a legitimate chance at romance with whomever you meet in person than to worry about your dates possibly feeling catfished.

Include Your Pet(s)

f you have any pets or hobbies that deal with animals, make sure to include them in at least one of your pictures! Researchers at OKCupid found that:

  1. People are more attracted to photos with animals, and

  2. Women are more comfortable meeting men with animals in their pictures in person.

Plus, pet pictures communicate that you’re a caring, nurturing person who’s responsible enough to keep another living being alive. If you’re a loving pet owner, it also bodes well for your ability to raise children someday.

Animal pics also make for excellent conversation starters. Strangers feel less awkward opening a dialogue with a compliment about the cuteness of your dog or cat than they may feel commenting on your physical appearance to start things off.

Kids Work Pretty Well Too

Kids can be used for similar purposes, especially if they aren’t your own. I always try to include at least one photo of me goofing around with one of my friends’ offspring. If you answer on your profile that you don’t have any children, this photo will undoubtedly pique other members’ interest.

Here’s what Psychology Today says about using pictures that feature children for your online dating profile:

“A study in which women viewed men in different situations (standing alone, vacuuming a rug, interacting with a child) found that the men viewed interacting with the child were rated as more attractive than the men in the other conditions. Furthermore, men who were viewed as paying no attention to children wanting attention were rated as less attractive (La Cerra, 1995). This simply means that men who indicate in their dating profiles that they can be good fathers would be rated as more desirable.”

Include Your Favorite Places or Hobbies

Remember, the goal is to represent as much about yourself, your lifestyle, and your interests as possible in a series of roughly four to ten images. Half of those pictures should be plain, straightforward shots of your face and upper body, leaving you with only a handful of chances to capture the rest.

Ideally, you’ll make room for a few photos that highlight your favorite places – whether they’re your most impactful vacation destinations or the usual stomping grounds. Or both!

Do you love to hike? Do you spend all your time at trendy coffee shops? Are you a live music junky? Do you live on the beach? Are you on a recreational soccer team? Show us!

Whatever best encapsulates you, your desires, and your day-to-day life should be included in your profile photos! Beyond making compelling pictures, these images communicate how you spend your time, the kinds of experiences you value, and your general activity levels.

Avoid Selfies

I’ve mentioned this in previous sections but try to avoid uploading selfies if you can. I know, sometimes it can be hard to find good solo shots that were taken by someone else – especially if, like me, you don’t think to take many pictures when you’re out living your life.

If that’s the case, either make it a point to have a friend or family member come take a few photos for you or hire a professional photographer. You don’t have to do a whole Glamor Shots thing! There are entire services dedicated to helping singles with their online profile pictures.

According to a Match.com survey, 20% of women hate mirror selfies taken with a smartphone.

The eHarmony dating site found similar trends amongst its users. According to the dating site, “people who use selfies in their dating photos have consistently shown to be less successful than those who don’t.” The authors go on to explain that selfies “remove the element of authenticity and spontaneity that should be in your photos.”

Wear the Right Colors for Success

Now, we’re getting into the scientific nitty-gritty of choosing your profile pictures. Studies conducted on online dating sites have discovered that different genders respond positively to potential mates wearing different colors.

Obviously, that doesn’t mean you should overdo it and wear the same colors in all your photos. Having a collection of unique images showcasing a variety of locations, themes, and palettes is more important than plastering what scientists consider the “most attractive” colors on everything.

That said, a study by the Université de Bretagne-Sud found that women who wore red in their main online dating profile picture were contacted more than their peers wearing any other color.

For approximately nine months, researchers followed the online dating experiences of more than two dozen women between the ages of 20 and 30 who explicitly stated that they wanted to meet a man. The subjects used colored profile pictures displaying their faces and clothed chests.

Every 12 weeks, researchers would use photoshop to manipulate the colors of their clothes in the photos – thus adjusting for possible deviations in the physical attractiveness of individual subjects.

Two thousand sixty-four men reached out to at least one of the 26 women over the course of the study. On average, women wearing red saw an uptick in the number of contacts they received, ranging between 4 to 6.1% more than their counterparts wearing black, white, yellow, blue, or green.

The most significant discrepancy (6.1%) was between the subjects wearing black and red.

While women wearing black performed the worst with men, the phenomenon does not work the same when the genders are reversed. Separate studies have found that women using online dating services to find a man are more drawn to prospective partners wearing darker clothes in their main profile picture.

Look Better Online, an online photography service aimed at singles hoping to improve their dating profiles instructs men to wear black or dark blue in their main photos. They also recommend wearing a dress shirt without loud patterns.

Only Use Genuine Group Photos

Using group photos can be tricky – that doesn’t mean you should avoid them altogether! Group photos are a great way to show off your social circle, capture yourself having fun in a natural setting, and demonstrate your fun-loving nature.

Plus, having friends and a healthy social life is crucial to presenting yourself as a healthy, well-rounded person. Very few online singles are looking for a partner with no friends and absolutely nothing else going on in their life.

Still, you must choose the right group picture. For starters, determining which of the people in the photo is you should be crystal clear. That means you need to limit the number of “others” featured in the picture. Crop it so that you’re centered and the focal point of the image.

You also want to avoid large, planned group pictures. Don’t use a staged group pic from your birthday party or your annual rec league team photo. If everyone is posed and looking at the camera, don’t upload it to your dating profile!

Only use group photos that are captured organically. Maybe it shows you on a mechanical bull surrounded by stunned and amazed peers reacting to your heroics. Or it could just be a great picture of your interacting with friends and loved ones. If it feels natural and shows you in a positive light, it’ll work.

If you’re a guy, it always helps to include a group picture that shows you in the company of attractive ladies.

That signals that you’re comfortable around beautiful women and, more importantly, that they’re comfortable around you. This shows new women that you’re safe and less likely to be creepy or anti-social. It also suggests that you’re in high demand and that you have options.

All attractive qualities to a stranger trying to learn as much about you as possible with limited information at their disposal.

For single women, guys on online dating sites are less likely to be impressed by pictures of you hanging out with groups of attractive men. That just looks like competition to potential suitors who don’t know the context behind the photos. Most guys aren’t looking to adopt a big group of “dude friends” with their next girlfriend.

Don’t Overthink It

The last piece of advice I’ll leave you with is don’t overthink it.

I know – easy for me to say, right? I just gave you all these rules and the science behind them, and now I’m saying not to overthink it. In reality, you don’t need to follow every single one of these rules to the T. They’re merely guidelines for uploading optimal dating site photos. But online dating is rarely optimal.

Follow these tips where you can but not at the expense of letting your true personality shine through.

The goal is to meet someone with whom you’ll share romantic chemistry. They must know the real you for that to happen. So, a photo faux pau that may poll poorly in a research study could be the quirky upload that catches your ideal mate’s attention.

That’s why it pays to have a decent selection of unique profile photos. You can play it safe with the majority of your pictures while leaving yourself a little wiggle room to mix things up.

Overall, as long as you’ve created your online dating profile with honest intentions and have a realistic idea of how you look in real life, you should be fine. Choose a collection of images that best reflects your actual appearance and who you are as a person.

Don’t worry about having the most popular profile on the dating site. It’s far better to land fewer dates but legitimately resemble the person in your photos than to receive lots of attention online, only to disappoint and catfish your date when you meet in public.

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