The Best Profile Picture, Scientifically Speaking

| | ,

Do you want to know my pet peeve of running a dating website? Blurry, red-eyed selfies. It makes me want to pull a Jerry Maguire and net my goldfish into a bag, storm out of the office, and start yelling at people to “help me help you! help ME help YOU! HELP ME… HELP YOU!” Your profile needs a good photo to complete it.

help me

Did you know the human head weighs 8 pounds?

human head

Did you also know there are scientific studies focused on which profile pictures are the most successful? Which hallmarks of a photo increase your approachability? How a duck face is significantly less likely to gain you attention than a toothy smile? Or wearing sunglasses does more than block the sun, but block your visibility online?

Let me teach you what I have learned to help people see you. To help people want to know more about you. To help people notice your profile amidst the thousands of others, beckoning them to click through to learn more, to flirt more and to message more with you.

Help me help you. Read on and APPLY these tips. It’s science, people!

Show me the money!

show me the money

What, then, is the money shot? What is the perfect photo that will gain you the most plays on the dating playing field? For that answer, we are going to turn to the playbook of Kevan Lee, the director of marketing at Buffer. Kevan did some seriously impressive research, referencing multiple studies and sources, and summarized his findings in his article The Research & Science Behind Finding Your Best Profile Picture. He did such a great job that there is no point in me reinventing the wheel, but I can streamline it a bit. Since his research was in regards to all social media profile pictures, I narrowed in on his findings that would apply well to dating profiles, specifically. I strongly encourage you to read his full article, but here are several key elements in a nutshell:

Your eyes: Keep them clearly visible and unobstructed by hair, shadows, sunglasses, etc. A slight squint goes a long way. For women, look at the camera. For men, look away from the camera.

Your smile: A smile that shows your teeth, but is not a laughing smile, wins across the board and totally smashes the not-smiling competition (quack quack!). If, however, you’re looking more for friendship than romance then go with the laughing smile.

Posture & Position: Head-&-shoulders and head-to-torso shots both work really well. A slight tilt to the head has a surprisingly positive effect. Instead of centering your face in the photo, position yourself slightly to one side or the other. Your light source should be in front of you.

Clothing: The research was directed more towards business wear, but to apply it to our more casual atmosphere I think it’s safe to say lighter shirts and blouses, perhaps with a dark outer layer such as a blazer, are the most effective. Also, a very clear but perhaps surprising result: conservative photos beat out sexy photos across the board.

You had me at hello.


I know what you are thinking. Do I really think you have a picture handy of you with clear, squinted eyes, a toothy, but not too-cheeky smile, and a slightly tilted, off-center head? And more, am I expecting you to hire a professional photographer? No, I don’t and no, I am not (though I would recommend it!). But, I do think that a camera is usually the same distance from you as your phone. Your phone can, in fact, take quality, non-blurry, normal-colored-eye pictures. And, with the help of a friend, a selfie stick, or even a complete stranger your phone can take a picture without the aid of a mirror or a clearly visible arm. A quality shot is worth the effort and short-lived awkwardness!

The final science lesson Kevan relays to us is a profile photo, by far, has the greatest impact on others’ first impressions of you. We may not like the implications of that at first, but remember, it’s not about looks, but how you present yourself. So please, spare my goldfish from having to relocate and implement what science has taught us with these tips. Your profile photo really is the ‘hello’ of your profile. Make it count!




How to Create a Strong LoveAbility Profile

Don’t Stare, Kids