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You’ve filled out your online profile honestly, you’ve crafted an essay that intrigues but leaves plenty of mystery…there’s just one more item before you’re on the road to online dating success: your photos.
You just shivered a little, huh?
It’s critical that you have at least one photo on your profile. Most sites have an option to only view profiles with photos; most people check that option. (You did too, admit it.) Match.com has calculated that women are almost nine times more likely to look at your profile if it has a photo. Also, many women won’t reply to your messages if you don’t have a photo—it feels like you’re hiding something.
Listen, I consider myself to be one of the least photogenic people I know. Out of a typical photo shoot, I get one barely passable photo and 40-50 that I’d just as soon burn. But I’ve still not only managed to put photos on my profile that received positive comments from women I didn’t know, but also caused the women who met me in person to comment on how accurately I represented myself. All without massive Photoshop work or smearing Vaseline on the camera lens.
Even if you’re not Jon Hamm, you can still work with what you do have to make a photo or two that will leave her wanting to know more about you.
1. Take Care of Yourself
Yep, the first and foremost advice I can give you is to make sure you’re healthy, fit and well-groomed. A paunchy, slouchy dude with greasy hair and monobrow will have exactly the same chances online as he has in real life: slim and none. Just as you will need social skills to “close the deal” with your online pen-pals, you’ll need to look your best to attract the best women.
2. Keep It Recent
You love that photo from when you were river rafting in 1999. Your friends all told you at the time that it was an awesome pic. That’s great. Don’t even consider it for your online dating profile.
One of the things that drives women nuts about online dating is the photo that looks just like the guy…but with 10 years fewer wrinkles, more/less poundage, a full head of hair, etc., etc. If you don’t want to fall victim to the first-meeting face-fall (when she finally sees you for real, and her face falls as if she just got some really awful news), make sure your photos accurately represent the way you look now.
3. Add to the Mystery
90% of the advice you’ll see tells you to smile big for your profile photos. Apparently that advice is wrong.
Over at OKCupid they’re always looking at data on what kind of profiles attract and which make them run screaming. They recently looked at what it was that attracts women to a man’s photo, and surprise, it’s the same thing that attracts them to the rest of your profile: mystery.
Their data showed that women responded about 30% more to profiles with photos in which a man looks away from the camera and doesn’t smile, than they did to profiles where the guy smiles right at the camera. The second-most attractive group of photos were those in which the man smiles…but still looks away from the lens.
Also, in the spirit of mystery, don’t post too many pics—2 to 3 seems to be the sweet spot.
4. Action—But Not Too Much
Another attractive group of photos, according to OKCupid, include action: women responded much more to photos where a man was “having fun with friends,” or “doing something interesting.” So break out those shots from your backyard BBQ or the ones where you’re sitting behind your drum kit. Women also love it when you pose with an animal. Yes, I know (and OKCupid knows) that we hate it when women are always holding up their cats, but they find it Adorable with a capital A when we do it. So feel free to get a shot playing fetch with Barkerson. Hell, borrow a dog to pose with if you have to.
There’s action the ladies don’t like, however: photos featuring drinking attracted many fewer women than average. So that beer-bong shot is out. So, apparently, are travel and outdoor photos. For God’s sake, don’t pose with anything you’ve just killed, unless you also want to kill your love life.
5. Show ‘Em the Goods
My female friends who are online all have the same gripe: “what’s with the shirtless pics?” Turns out that women may complain about the “ab shots” publicly, but privately they’re all over it: pictures with guys showing muscles attracted almost 60% more responses than average.
Two things to remember before ripping off your t-shirt and snapping away:
- To show your muscles, you’ve got to have muscles. A shirtless photo with a sloppy belly won’t be helping you much. (See Step #1.)
- The effect of the muscle photo declines with your age: by your 30s women begin to find it a bit icky, and even with your abs of steel it won’t get you much further than photos where you keep your clothes on.
One more thing: this does not extend to photos of your junk. Such photos tend to get shared with friends (they’re not laughing with you, they’re laughing at you) and, on frequent occasions, the local police.
6. Find a Decent Photographer
While we don’t seem to mind all those photos women take in the bathroom mirror with their cameraphones, we’ve got a lot more latitude for a really good photo. No need to pay a pro (in fact, avoid a studio), but find a friend whose photos you like and who knows about things like depth-of-field and f-stops. Have him or her take 30-40 photos (making sure to include “action” shots) and pick out the best to try on your profile.
Again, let science be your friend here: try different photos on different sites, and see what gets nibbles.
In the spirit of helping you put your best foot forward, OKCupid has started MyBestFace, where you can post multiple pics and find out which one other users prefer. All they ask is that you rate some photos of others.
After you’ve added a photo, your profile is complete. You’re now ready to start contacting women. In other words, the tough part.