6 Secrets to the Perfect Profile Picture

Spice up your online dating profile with these proven tips on taking the best personal photos.

Young girl
(Image credit: Future)

The dating site I've been using, OkCupid, has been letting me down lately. I haven't heard from anyone terribly interesting in a long time. Which is kinda depressing when you're me, and you work from home, and you're a workaholic, and everyone at every party you go to is married or a 23-year-old intern. 

Could it be that my problem is my picture? I wondered this when I saw that OkCupid had crunched some data about the biggest myths of online profile pictures.

I reviewed the myths and came up with six tips for choosing the best profile pic.


Women who put up as their main pic a shot of themselves smiling into the camera do fare better than those who don't smile, it's true. They also get more responses than those who smile away from the camera.

Young girl

(Image credit: Future)

Tip No. 1: The single best kind of photo women can use is one in which they're flirting into the camera — making a pouty-sexy face or some such.

But do not flirt away from the camera, women, because that will work against you — probably because the men will think you are slutty for flirting with some phantom dude who is out of the frame. 

Tip No. 2: Interestingly, when it comes to male profiles, the best ones are of men who are not smiling and are looking away.

(Funny how the gender stereotypes get reversed here. Online, in the pictures, a woman should come off as sexually aggressive, whereas a man should assume a passive role. What do you guys make of this?) 


As it turns out, people with self-taken photos do just as well as anyone else in the online meat market. 

Tip No. 3: Profiles that feature a self-taken MySpace-style photo — in which a girl holds the phone slightly above her head and makes a coy face — do best of all. This apparently had nothing to do with the amount of cleavage shown, as OkCupid took out all the major-cleave shots. So what's the magic here? Possibly just that women look best from that angle.


When it comes to women showing off their bods, those who showed some cleavage in their pics did better than those who didn't — and as women age, this effect increased. 

Tip No. 4: It's never going to work against you to show some dé-coll-e-however-you-spell-it...and the older you get, the more it will help to elevate you above the masses.

In addition to too much skin, too much partying can work against you. Guys who put up pics of themselves with their buddies don't do all that well, relatively. These kinds of pictures do tend to invite a little too much interpretation — a guy might look like he has loser friends or like he is an aging frat boy trying too hard to hold on to his glory days. 

Tip No. 5: Err on the side of caution and forgo this kind of shot. Especially the one in which you're doing a keg stand. Trust me. 


Tip No. 6: Turns out, it's cool to use a main pic where your face isn't very clear.

That is, as long as you're doing something interesting enough to elicit some questions or spark an e-mail conversation, such as deep-sea diving, playing guitar, walking through the desert.

I will attest to the effectiveness of this by saying I had a pic up for a while of myself looking at my feet and smiling quite shyly — not a bit of flirtatiousness exposed — that my friend David took of me in his apartment. His electric keyboard stood in the background. I cannot tell you how often guys wrote to me, saying, "Hey, you seem cool. Are you a musician?" 

I took that pic down a while back. At the moment, I have only three shots up: One is a professional head shot, one is a self-taken one of me smiling away from the camera, and one is of me singing karaoke ("Positively Fourth Street"), which I put up for the purposes of showing that I was not a "secret internet fatty." I guess I should take one of me with some cleave and of me doing something interesting, huh? 

If you want more online dating pointers from me by way of OkCupid, check out these posts:

3 Online Dating Stats About Older People vs. Younger People

12 Tips for Making Every First Date Great

5 Things Women Should Avoid in Their Dating Profiles