"A picture is worth a thousand words."

That proverb is never more true than when applied to profile pictures on online dating sites. A good profile picture greatly increases your chance of receiving messages and responses from potential partners. Conversely, a bad profile picture or profiles that don't include pictures at all are much less likely to receive messages.

Choosing the right dating profile picture is as much science as it is an art. You want a picture that is technically high quality, highlights your unique assets well, and takes advantage of statiscally proven facts about effective dating profile pictures all at the same time. The following tips will help you choose the right profile picture.

Why is Your Dating Profile Picture Important?

Your profile picture is the first impression that another person will receive of you. It is like an online introduction and handshake all at the same time. For better or for worse, most people make snap judgments about others based on how they look. And in the case of an online dating site, that snap judgment is about whether to continue reading their profile. You want a profile picture that draws the eye and creates an impression that you embody good qualities like honesty, intelligence, friendliness and stylishness.

What Makes a Poor Profile Picture

Choosing the right dating profile picture is as much about making the right decisions as it is about avoiding the wrong decisions. The following are things you need to avoid when submitting a profile picture to an online dating website.

Low Quality Photos

Any picture that is fuzzy, grainy, blurry, out of focus, or has bad lighting (including glare from the camera flash) should never be used. A low quality photograph is an instant turn off, in part because it makes you look lazy.

Photos With Other People

This is a dating website. The last thing anyone wants to see on a dating website is a person that looks like they are dating someone else in their profile picture. It doesn't matter whether the person in the photo is your cousin, sibling, best mate, co-worker, or even a grandparent, a picture with another person is a turn off.

Why so Serious?

A serious expression may be appropriate when you pose for your company ID photo, but it is terrible for a dating profile picture. Try to avoid any pictures where you look serious, stern, grumpy, out of sorts, or tired.


There are two major reasons that selfies make bad profile pictures. First, it is almost impossible to take a selfie that shows you from a truly flattering angle. Your arm just isn't long enough (even with a selfie stick) and you don't have enough control over the shot. Second, a selfie creates a first impression that you don't socialize much, which is generally considered a negative quality on dating sites.

Taking Your Shirt Off

While this is a dating site and most people on it are looking for someone that they will eventually get intimate with, showing off the goods does not benefit you in finding dates. One of the most exciting moments in an intimate relationship is seeing your partner undressed for the first time in real life. By flashing the goods by going topless or wearing a skimpy outfit in your profile photo, you lessen the anticipation for that moment. Even if you are trying to look sexy in your profile picture, make sure to do it without baring your torso.

What Makes a Good Profile Picture

Making Eye Contact

A profile picture where you are making eye contact with the camera, and thus eye contact with the viewer, is more effective than one where you are not. When you aren't looking at the camera, it makes you look aloof or uninterested. This is just about the worst possible perception that a potential date can have about you. Remember, a photo is basically an introduction and you should always make eye contact when introducing yourself to someone.

A Good Smile

Studies show that people universally are more attracted to people that are smiling in pictures than those that aren't. And since your goal is to find a dating partner, attraction is very important. A good profile picture smile isn't just a big crocodile grin. A good smile is one that fits your face well and is also reflected in your eyes. If you are smiling, but your eyes are cold, at best it will look forced and at worst you will look like a serial killer.

An Interesting Activity

Somewhere in your profile it mentions that you enjoy rock climbing. This is probably a huge turn-on to some people. But the right person may never read that if your profile picture doesn't draw their attention. However, if your profile picture shows you climbing a rock wall, you are almost certain to draw the attention of fellow rock climbers. A good picture of you enjoying one of your favorite activities is an ideal way to get good matches to contact you.

An Exciting Background

Similar to the last piece of advice, the background of your photo can be as appealing as what you are doing in the photo. A photo of you standing in a museum or at a professional baseball game says a lot more about you than a photo where you are standing in front of a blank wall. You want a background that tells a story without stealing the show.

Important Final Tips

Now that you know what makes profile pictures good and bad, you need to either take a good picture or choose one from the pictures you already have. The following tips will help you make your final decision.

Don't Pose

If you do take a new picture for your profile picture, you don't want a posed picture, like the kind you took for your high school annual. These types of pictures make you look stiff and never seem natural.

Get a Second Opinion

Before choosing the picture, narrow your choice down to a few options that you like and then get a trust second opinion, preferably someone of the gender you prefer to date. Similarly, you should also look on the internet for professional advice about what kind of pictures and poses best frame your features and body type.

Keep Your Photo Current

This rule for choosing a profile picture won't actually help you meet new people online, but it is critical if you want to go on a second date with anyone you meet (or possibly even finish the first date). Your picture should be as up-to-date as possible. If you don't look anything like your picture when you show up for the date, it is likely to spoil the date. A slightly unflattering but current picture is always better than a ten year old picture that looks great, but doesn't look anything like you anymore.

Additional Photos

Finally, beyond your profile picture, you should also include additional pictures of you. This montage helps create a better overall picture of your life and personality than just a single picture. Because the other pictures aren't making the first impression, they can break the above rules slightly, as long as they don't turn off potential dating partners. Group photos, selfies, and photos where you aren't making eye contact with the camera can all work well here, as long as they aren't the first thing a potential date sees and as long as they highlight something about your life or personality that will attract others.