This is step 2 of my patented 6-step series on How to OkCupid. This step focuses on taking and selecting good profile pictures.
Step 1: Get Out There!
Step 2: Be Good-Looking!
Step 3: Be Interesting!
Step 4: Find Other Interesting, Good-Looking People
Step 5: Make Contact!
Step 6: Date!
STEP 2: BE GOOD-LOOKING!
According to OkTrends, the blog written by the creators of OkCupid, your profile pic is the single most important factor determining the amount of messages that you’ll receive. As I said earlier, you’re not trying to maximize the amount of messages you receive, BUT you also don’t want to fail to present an accurate picture of your appearance.
Some numbers to remember:
- 80% of men are rated as worse-looking than “medium” (2.5 stars out of 5) by women seeking men. If you’re a man seeking women, understand that most of the women you encounter will not find you attractive, and that’s ok and normal.
- 2/3 of the messages that men send to women go to the most attractively-rated 1/3 of women. This means that the most traditionally attractive women are getting flooded with messages. If you’re only messaging women who correspond to society’s view of what makes a person attractive, it’s going to be very difficult for you to find interested people.
Play Up Your Supposed Weaknesses
On OkCupid, you can rate how attractive you find someone on a scale of 1-to-5 stars. One of the counterintuitive pieces of data that OkTrends discovered was that “the more men disagree about a woman’s looks, the more they like her.” The regression equation they got was this:
Messages received = .4M1 -.5M2 +-0M3 -.1M4 + .9M5
M1 is the number of one-star ratings a woman received; M2 is the number of two-star ratings, etc. As you can see from the formula, the biggest indicator of how many messages a woman received was the number of 5-star ratings she got. No surprise there. However, the second-biggest indicator was the number of 1-star ratings that she received. The more 1-star ratings, the more messages she gets. 3-star ratings are irrelevant, 2-star ratings are detrimental, and 4-star ratings actually have a small negative impact. Their theory about why this happens is a little questionable, but their advice is spot-on:
Browsing OkCupid, I see so many photos that are clearly designed to minimize some supposedly unattractive trait—the close-cropped picture of a person who’s probably overweight is the classic example. We now have mathematical evidence that minimizing your “flaws” is the opposite of what you should do. If you’re a little chubby, play it up. If you have a big nose, play it up. If you have a weird snaggletooth, play it up: statistically, the guys who don’t like it can only help you, and the ones who do like it will be all the more excited.
I couldn’t agree more. Play up the things that some people might find ugly. It will give people an accurate picture of what you look like AND it will get you attention from the right kind of people.
Take a Good Picture
One of the keys to presenting an accurate picture of yourself is taking a representative photo. Again, OkTrends gives some good advice on what kind of photos tend to get the most interest. Some general tips:
- Use a good camera. Pictures from an SLR tend to fare better than point & shoot, which does better than phone pictures
- Use natural lighting, not a flash
- Use a low f-stop. It keeps you in focus, but blurs the background
- Don’t be afraid to show off your body. Shirtless pics get plenty of attention
- Do something interesting in a few of your photos
I have a few suggestions of my own, too:
- Have lots of photos. OkCupid lets you have up to 10 pictures. Use them to show a few different sides of yourself (literally and figureatively)
- Show your face. Hiding your face suggests that you’re trying to hide the fact that you’re on the site. People like confidence. People who are ashamed of what they’re doing are unattractive. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
- Show your body. If you don’t, first of all, that’s part of you that people just won’t know about you ahead of time. It’s not presenting an accurate picture of yourself. Secondly, it suggests that you’re ashamed of your body. See above re: shame and people’s time for that.
- Hire a professional. Professional photographers know what they’re doing, and most have experience taking headshots. A professional can make sure you’re putting your best self on display. Just make sure you’re not minimizing any parts of yourself that you think are unattractive. Remember, above all, we’re going for accuracy. Let your photographer know that, and they will be able to help you out.
I also heavily recommend that you make use of My Best Face. It’s a site set up by OkCupid that allows you to upload several photos of yourself, then have them rated by other users to see which is most attractive. You’re not necessarily trying to use the photo that is the most broadly appealing, but it’s good information to have, and you may want to use the winning photo as your main profile pic, since it’s your first impression.
OkTrends also provides some interesting graphs regarding the effects of your facial attitude:
And your photo context:
See also the chances that a message leads to an actual conversation:
My takeaway is that women get more attention if they make eye contact and smile. Men get more attention if they look away and don’t smile. The “MySpace shot” gets a lot of messages, but those tend to fail to lead to an actual conversation. The better strategy seems to be to use a photo where you’re doing something interesting or with an animal.
Above all, make sure you choose a photo that accurately represents the way you actually look. You’re trying to give the most accurate impression of yourself possible, so make sure the you that shows up in person is the you that’s on your profile.
Next: Step 3: Be Interesting!