Online Dating Profile Pictures – A Case Study



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The folks over at Loveawake dating site recently came out with a study about profile pictures on online dating sites. They cataloged over 7000 pictures and analyzed them on 3 different subjects: Facial attitude, context of picture and how much skin (was showing). Sure enough some interesting revelations came about. I wanted to share with you guys some highlights of their study and expand upon a few of them.

Facial expression(s): The most obvious (and not so surprising) revelation was that people who smiled in their pictures were more successful in getting responses to their online dating emails than people who didn’t smile. This goes for guys especially. When women see a guy’s picture for the first time on an online dating site, it can be hard at times to really tell what that person looks like. Women tend to want to see if they can pick out the guys personality from the pictures he has of himself. If the photos you have of yourself online look like they were painted by a painter in the Renaissance period (think back to your art school class in college. Remember how paintings of the 1500′s showed people that looked like they were in the last stage of rigor mortis?) then you really are doing yourself a disservice. You want to give yourself every single advantage possible, and chances are if the girl has to choose between you (and your Lurch from the Adams Family pose) and another guy who has a bright cheerful smile on his face….guess who is going to get the email response?

Context of picture: Generally speaking, you want to have at least 5-6 photos of yourself that are clear and easy to view. The study showed that the “Myspace shot” (wherein the person holds their cell phone camera above their head and takes a self-shot) surprisingly works really well for women. On average, they got almost 15 more new contacts every month than women who didn’t have a “Myspace” photo of themselves. Photos of women in bed (surprise, surprise) and outdoorsy type pics garnered the 2nd and 3rd most highly responses. Rounding up the bottom were pictures of girls at a bar, with animals and “doing something interesting”.

Guys don’t want to see pictures of you and 20 of your closets bar slut friends downing another shot of Jose Cuervo at the bar. As my good Pakistani friend who owns a 7-11 once said: “This is not to be good business, my friend”. Same goes for pictures of animals and “doing somthing interesting”. The best way to attract a guy is to have a wide range of photos. The more mysterious, the better. Just don’t go all Emo/Goth in your pics.

Interestingly enough, when it came to the guys and which photos got the most responses the top 3 were: With an animal, Showing muscles and “doing something interesting”. As expected, “drinking” came in second to last.

Showing off some skin: If you are a guy and you got the abs/muscles to show off, by all means do so. Use your strengths to your advantage. Same goes for cleavage shots for the ladies as sex sells. The study showed that with age, the skin shots decrease sharply, which is not so surprising after all. A 19 year old man will do a lot better showing off his body than a 31 year old man. Hrmm….it’s almost as if women around the age of 30 tend to look for something more than a guy with a hot body. The study showed that the kinds of messages (that lead to a successful response) that the cleavage showers got were not directed at the cleavage shots themselves. They cleavage showers who also had a “doing something interesting” photo received more responses because a guy could comment on that photo. An opening email of “Nice tits” from a guy really isn’t going to lead anywhere.

Taking this case study one step further, I would now like to address both women and men with regards to their online dating photos. Here are a few tips (from personal experience as well as anecdotal stories over the years) that can help you achieve a better response ratio on your online dating profile:


Smile. As in real life, women tend to be a bit cautious on the online dating sites. They don’t know who is a stalker/rapist/crazy person and chances are if your photos give off a creepy aura you won’t get any responses. Light and breezy, bright and cheerful. Don’t upload any pics of you downing a 40oz. of Olde English at a house party. Don’t upload pics of you surrounded by other smiling happy females (“player”). Don’t upload weird or random photos. In short, ask yourself “Why am I uploading this photo and what indication could it give off to a female?” Some women tend to be quick to judgment and a seemingly innocuous photo of you drinking a beer with your buddy on the top of the Palms Hotel Casino in Vegas could set off a whole host of red flags in a girls mind. If you want to be successful in an online dating site, here are 5 good photos that you should have uploaded of yourself:

1. Clear face shot in color. No black and white, no side views.
2. If you got the body and are under 35 years of age: shirtless pic (headless will also work). If you are lacking in the muscle department, try putting on a wife beater. It will accentuate your arms and shoulders.
3. “Doing something interesting”. I am a licensed pilot (for fun). On mypicture page, I put an action pic of me doing a pre-flight check on a Cessna airplane. I was crouching under the wing taking a sample of the fuel inside. Head was cocked as if I was intently studying the fuel level. You won’t believe how many responses I got to that photo. If you aren’t a licensed pilot, you can always pay $100 for a “free lesson” and get your buddy to take a picture of you doing the same.
4. Picture of you with an animal. Don’t have a cute fluffy puppy? Go to your local pet store and ask the clerk to take a photo of you holding a puppy. Tell them that “it’s to show my girlfriend in order to convince her to let me get one” or some other b.s. story. Back in the day when I was on another online dating site (yes, I am a “lifer” when it comes to online dating) I had a picture of me and my pitbull. She was half lab so she didn’t look too scary. Again, 1 out of every 2 responses I got included a comment about my puppy.
5. A “head to toe” photo of yourself so women can see what the entire package looks like (not “that” package). Don’t crotch-stuff. That’s just tacky.


1. Show those ta-ta’s if you got ‘em ! Even if you don’t, show some form of cleavage. The point here is not to have your boobs take up the entire photo, but rather give off a sexy allure, however diminished. Take a very tasteful photo of yourself, and don’t make your cleavage the center piece, but be sure to include them. A tasteful photo showing a very slight cleavage shot can be extremely powerful. Guys won’t think you are just trying to show off your goods, but rather they will see you in a great pic and your cleavage as an afterthought.
2. No weird photos. Unless you are an artsy-fartsy kinda gal and are looking for the same in a guy…..leave the picture of you cupping the stone balls of Michealangelo’s David sculpture on your hard drive. I’m going to have to say that I disagree with the OKC study that shows women with pictures of themselves “doing something interesting” doesn’t get many responses. I have always advised women to put up 1 picture of themselves doing a hobby or interest of theirs. For example: If you are into running/cross training, throw up a pic of you in the last marathon you ran. The reason is simple. If you are looking for a guy with similar interests, what better way to attract him than a photo of you doing the same?
3. No drinky-drinky, smokey-smokey photos. Even though you may be best friends with Snoop Dogg, it probably would be best to not upload the pic of you and him puffing on a Philly Blunt while driving in his ’64 low-low on the way to the Compton Swap Meet. Unless a guy is specifically looking for a slut….don’t give him any reason to jump to wild conclusions.
4. Myspace shot. Get one up there ASAP. Grab your cell phone, walk into the bathroom, hold it above your head and take a pic. I think the reason why this picture works so well is that it gives off a mysterious amateur type of allure. Since most guys nowadays are familiar with Myspace (and practically live their lives on it), it makes good sense to include a picture of this nature.
5. No animal pictures. More specifically, no “crazy cat lady” pictures. Sure, you may love your Mr. Fluffy-Foo, but guys have a thing about women and cats. This is based on experience, and most of my guy friends have at least 1 story of some crazy chick they dated who had more than 1 cat. Every single girl that I have dated (3 to be exact) that has had more than one cat has turned out to be a complete psychotic bitch. This isn’t a generalization statement, just an old wives tale.