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Online Dating Profile Pictures: 6 Surprising Tips For Better Pics (PHOTOS)

Huffington Post     First Posted: 04/19/10 06:12 AM ET   Updated: 05/25/11 04:35 PM ET

The free online dating service analyzed over 7,000 photographs from users on its site to better understand what kinds of profile pictures are most effective for men and women.

Their surprising conclusions debunk some commonly held profile photo myths. Those corny MySpace shots? They do pretty well in the online dating scene, as it turns out...

We've synthesized the findings from all their statistical analysis and number-crunching in the slideshow below to present a few tips on what poses, settings, camera angles, and clothes work best for dating site profiles.

Want more details and examples? Check out OkCupid's blog OkTrends for the full report.

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  • Eye Contact

    OkCupid found that making eye contact with the camera is effective with some facial expressions, but less so with others. The worst attitude for women? Making a 'flirty face' without eye contact. Women who look directly at the camera while making flirty faces or smiling tend to get more messages than those who smile or look flirty <i>without</i> eye contact. For both sexes, not smiling while <i>making </i>eye contact is an ineffective pose. The optimal pose for guys' pics: don't smile, don't make eye contact. The second best? Smiling, without eye contact.

  • Camera Angle

    Those cheesy self-shot and webcam photos (aka the 'MySpace shot') actually have an edge in the online dating scene. For both men and women, self-shot pictures are more successful than average. OkCupid also found 'the MySpace Shot is the single most effective photo type for women.'

  • Showing Skin

    A little skin--helpful or harmful? OkCupid found that for women, the 'Cleavage Shot' is 'very successful, drawing 12.9 new contacts per month, or 49% more than average.' Women get fewer new messages as they get older, but a 'Cleavage Shot' can help stem this decline in messages: 'The older the woman, the more relatively successful she is showing off her body,' OkCupid concludes. Shirtless photos can help men, as well. 'If you're a guy with a nice body, it's actually better to take off your shirt than to leave it on,' OkCupid recommends. If you're staying clothed, dress as you normally would--guys who are 'all dressed up' fare less well than those who wear 'normal' outfits.

  • Smiling

    Even if you're friendly, funny, or just plain happy, smiling is not necessarily the best way to go. OkCupid's data indicated that women (when they looked directly into the camera) received more contacts when they made a 'flirty face' than when they smiled. On the whole, however, smiling is still better than not smiling for women. Men's photos are most effective when they look away from the camera and <i>don't</i> smile. Next best? Smile, but don't look at the camera.

  • Face

    Most dating sites--OkCupid included--tell users that they should be sure to show their face in their profile pictures. In fact, whether or not you show your face doesn't make much of a difference on your success. 'We found that all other things being equal whether you show your face really doesn’t affect your messages at all,' the site explains.

  • Context

    Want to show how social/well-traveled/fit you are in your picture? What you show yourself doing in your profile photo can affect the number of connections you make. The most popular photo contexts for women were: 1) 'Myspace' shot 2) In bed 3) Outdoors. For men: 1) With an animal 2) Showing off muscles 3) Doing something interesting. But what about the <i>quality</i> of those connections? OkCupid examined what kind of photos led to 'legitimate conversations.' The top three contexts (for both genders): 1) Doing something interesting 2) With animal 3) Travel photo.