The Science Behind the Perfect Online Dating Profile Picture

The Science Behind the Perfect Online Dating Profile Picture


According to some of the latest research by the University of Colorado, it turns out women rate men who have their shirts off and expose those rippling movie-like abs to be significantly lower in social in their appeal. Even worse still they also see them as being less competent and more promiscuous.


So what is the best picture, angle, or way to demonstrate your best photo ever to attract the person of your dreams? Because whether you like it or not a good dating profile pic will largely determine your romantic outcomes even more so than the bio.

I work out 6 times a week and I’ve tried to maintain a good physique since college. But if you look at my social media or photos of online dating. There’s not one shirtless pic. I’ve always just thought it was appealing to the lowest common dominator and knew it came across as too desperate. But as it turns out I was subconsciously right. Let’s break down the study a little and get into what makes a perfect online dating photo.

This study’s 567 participants were shown fake profiles of a young, white, adult man named “Noah.” His pictures and descriptions varied along three different degrees: relationship motivation, muscularity, and sexualized appearance. This is how they were to assess “Noah”.

What this meant was some variations of Noah were ripped and muscular and some, had average-looking bodies. Some of the profiles explicitly stated that they were looking for casual sex (Standard bro profile) while others wanted something serious and long walks at the beach.

Some were shirtless and some wore the classic quintessential white t-shirt.

Unsurprisingly enough the three factors — relationship motivation, muscularity, and sexualized appearance — deeply affected their view and perception as to who Noah was as a person.

Women saw the shirtless “Noah” as higher in risky sexual behavior — and unfortunately a lot also in less social appeal and low competence. Damn, sorry “Noah”. So they see him as a walking STD who’s as competent as a door knob. Got it.

Which is very understandable right? Whenever I scroll past that on my IG feed it just comes across as a little desperate when men post a topless pic and it always seems as if they’re overcompensating or using that as the oldest trick in the book to attract a mate. Humans have evolved, that stuff doesn’t work anymore.

Unsurprisingly they all found the muscular version of Noah most attractive, but the men who participated in the assessment saw the physique as higher in risky sexual behavior.

“The present findings indicate that a man’s sexualized self-presentation on a dating profile, even on an app known as a site for hook-ups, elicits diminished perceptions of his competence and greater perceptions that he engages in risky sexual behavior,” the researchers wrote.

“A sexualized self-presentation on a Tinder profile is perhaps not the best self-presentational choice for men wanting to make a positive impression on women.”

So we get the basics of over-sexualizing yourself but what about the best kind of photo’s in general?

The best and easiest photo’s for the create the perfect dating app profile…

1- Photos with you smiling or laughing!

These are classics for a reason. It gives people an indicative eye as to who you are. A smile is a window to the soul. Photos caught in a candid or humorous moment work too. This show’s that you’re carefree and you don’t take yourself too seriously. It lets people know that you’re authentic, this demonstrates confidence all in one photo! It shows you know how to let go, poke fun of yourself and have fun!

2 — Photos of you actively in your passions

Are you a big snowboarder, runner, gym goer, painter, singer, or guitarist? If this is a big part of your life let them see it! The old action shot of you in the zone never fails. They don’t have to be featured in the national geographic but they give your profile a little flair depending on what it is that you do. Portrait mode on an iPhone gets classic professional-looking pics.

3 — Get a friend to take a photo.

Friends know you! They know the best shots, the angles, and what makes you smile and you’ll be a lot more comfortable around them. So when you’re out and about. On vacation and having a blast, ask them to snag a quick picture!

4 — Look for your event photos

If there is an event you attended recently (sporting, professional, gala, friend’s party, social event etc.), see if you can find any picture they took of you on (Facebook, IG) or event page or photographer page. Go one step further and message them and ask!

5. Give your profile some duality!

Yes, we’ve heard all the clichés but a good 4–6 total photos are ideally the sweet spot you’ll want 1 up close-up, 1 action, 1+ travel, 1 environmental, and 1 candid photo to give you multiple streams of appeal.

6 . Use engaging photos

This means photo’s that subtly invite people to ask questions about the photo. For example, I have one of me boxing. They would often ask, “did you win”. I did have one brazen lady say, “I wish I was the punching bag”. My chaste mind asked, why? She responded, “So you could pound me out”.


7. Label photos with a caption

Show them a slice of that scintillating wit you have. For example, if you’re holding your nephew or a pet of some kind you could add the caption, “They’re the cutest thing in this photo tbh.” A light piece of self-deprecating humor that shows that you don’t take yourself too seriously. Captions give people a window into your personality

8. Include at least 1 full body photo and show your face

I know people hate this one. But it’s needed. Remember online dating is a visual medium. Whether you like it or not people want to know what kind of body you have. If all of your photos are headshots people think you’re hiding something. Swallow your pride and upload a full-body photo or too. Mix up the angles, lighting, and facial expressions. That way it doesn’t appear like you took them all in one day. Even if ya did 😉 Also, avoid those cheeky myspace/Facebook angles. We all know what you’re doing.

9 . Make sure all photos are recent i.e. 1–2 years, max!

Be proud of that lovely person you’ve blossomed into. Don’t hold on to the past! People hate being lied to, you should appear exactly how your pictures portray you to be. Any major changes should be reflected in your photos. Honesty is the best policy!

10 . Would you show these pictures to your mum?

That’s my rule of the thumb. If you wouldn’t don’t post it on the dating app. If you’re too nervous to show those kinds of pictures to your mum, don’t put them on the dating app. I want you to attract high-quality people. Think classy, confident, and empowered!

Ultimately these photos should reflect the best parts of who you are. Like a personal photo highlight reel. You’re something different, unique, flattering, and interesting, people love you and you have a lot to offer.

Make sure people can see that!

I would wish you luck! But you don’t need it!

If you like this article, check out my book all about first dates:

Want to hear more dating pieces to get your dating up to your standards? Feel free to stalk my social media IG, Pinterest, TikTok, and Youtube.

Thanks for reading!


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Photo credit: Farkas Mario on Unsplash


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