Here’s the naked truth:
Online dating relies on first impressions.
Even though we’re over a decade into the Tinder revolution, many of us still thwart our chances of finding love with less-than-ideal profile snaps.
That’s why we’ve decided to poll ~1,000 Americans and uncover, among others:
- The importance of photos in today’s day and age of instant everything.
- Whether it’s OK to swipe right on coworkers.
- The deadly sins of dating profile pictures.
Let’s dive in.
- The TOP three biggest dating profile sins are posting photos taken from weird angles (41.12%), edited or filtered photographs (41.02%), and vaping/smoking shots (40.62%).
- While seven in 10 online daters keep their snaps fresh, 31% haven’t updated them in over a year.
- 15% of men have borrowed a pet for a dating profile shot, likely in an attempt to lure more matches.
- Hiring a photographer to get high-quality pictures leads to more matches (49%), more likes (48%), and more people messaging you first (43%).
- 73% of users wish severe image retouching was banned from dating apps.
- 89% of singletons have had at least one date with someone they met online who looked nothing like their photos.
- 91% of female and 89% of male US employees admit to using a dating app at work at least once, with 30–45 minutes being the most common time spent swiping on the clock.
- 93% of workers have used dating apps on the job more often since switching to WFH.
- 81% of Americans have bumped into coworkers while browsing a dating app. Of those, 96% of men and women claim they took a leap of faith and swiped right. Yet, most regret it in retrospect.
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Your Profile Pictures Are Worth a Million Words
Don’t judge a book by its cover.
A photo is often all you have to go by in online dating.
Thus, 85% of women and 80% of men agree or strongly agree that pictures are the most critical aspect of a profile. As such, it’s safe to assume singletons keep them up-to-date. Or do they?
Here’s the last time Americans, who currently use at least one dating app, updated their profile pictures (with a text version below just in case):
|1–6 months ago||26%|
|6–12 months ago||23%|
|12–24 months ago||20%|
|<1 month ago||20%|
|More than 24 months ago||11%|
As you can see, roughly seven in 10 online daters keep their snaps fresh, while 31% haven’t changed them in over a year. Interestingly, when we asked survey respondents if they believe their profile pictures accurately reflect their current appearance, 98% said “Yes.”
Wishful thinking? Perhaps.
Moving along, we asked Americans if they’d ever hired a photographer to get high-quality shots.
It turns out 94% of men and 89% of women had. Here’s how it benefited them:
|I received more matches||49%|
|I earned more likes||48%|
|I had more people message me first||43%|
|It didn’t improve my dating experience||23%|
The bottom line?
Better pictures get more likes, right swipes, and messages.
Pets in Profile Photos: Yay or Nay?
We all love our furry friends.
But do they help up your dating game?
To find out, we asked survey takers how they feel about potential matches posing with a pet.
About 63% of females and 62% of males find cats appealing when sifting through profiles.
When it comes to dogs, ~69% of women and 65% of men feel positive about them.
That generally goes hand-in-hand with another recent study. It found that while ladies favor men with dogs, they still give men with cats an edge over non-pet owners.
If you have a pooch or kitty, showcase them on your dating profile. Just don’t borrow one like 15% of our male respondents have!
The 7 Deadly Sins of Dating Profile Pictures
At this stage, we set out to identify the most off-putting kinds of profile photos.
To do it, we gave respondents a list of picture types, often considered major red flags, and asked them to pick the most unpalatable.
Below are the results:
|Most Off-Putting Types of Dating Profile Pictures||Average||Men||Women|
|Photos taken from weird angles||41.12%||39.32%||45.67%|
|Edited or filtered photos||41.02%||40.32%||42.91%|
|Photos with excessive pouting||39.42%||38.05%||42.91%|
|LinkedIn-like photos (i.g., too serious, official)||38.22%||38.05%||38.76%|
The data shows that posting photos taken from weird angles is the worst dating profile picture sin, according to 45.67% of females and 39.32% of males. So if you’re looking for the one on Tinder or any other dating app, ensure your angles are flattering.
Edited or filtered photos came a close second at 41.02%, followed by vaping/smoking snaps with 40.62% on average between the two genders.
It’s also worth noting that while women’s #1 gripe is photographs taken from odd angles, men consider vaping or smoking photos the least attractive.
What about you? Did you commit any of the deadly sins we’ve discussed?
If so, drop a line in the comments.
Think Twice before Editing Your Shots
So far, so good.
You now know what pictures to post and which ones to avoid. But there’s one more thing you should take into account: editing.
To see how daters feel about it, we asked, “What’s your attitude toward some light touching up of profile pictures (e.g., teeth whitening).”
Below are the results:
As you can tell, 62% of men and 68% of women don’t mind a little editing when it comes to dating profile pictures.
That makes sense. After all, we all want to look our best, especially when trying to magnetize a potential partner.
Here’s also a list of what online daters typically do to spruce up their shots:
|Make lips look more appealing||34%|
|Hide skin imperfections||33%|
|Make eyes more attractive||33%|
|Accentuate cheekbones or jawline||28%|
While some minor alternations are OK with most users, heavy retouching (e.g., reshaping one’s face, body outline) is a big no-no.
When we asked Americans if they’d ever swiped left on someone because their photos were too severely manipulated, 90% said “Yes.” Another 89% of respondents lament they’ve had at least one date with someone they met via a dating app who looked nothing like their pictures.
Finally, here’s users’ take on whether severe photo retouching should be banned from dating apps altogether:
|“Severe photo retouching should be banned from dating apps.”||Men||Women|
In short, the results show that while most online daters don’t have a problem with some light photo editing, they do take issue with severe retouching.
If you want to make a good first impression, keep it natural (or stick to minor touch-ups).
It’s Probably Not the Best Idea to Swipe Right on Colleagues
Dating apps and work don’t exactly go together like peanut butter and jelly.
That said, 91% of women and 89% of men admit to having used a dating app on the job. Here’s how much time they typically spend daily swiping away while on the clock (in minutes):
|60 or more||4%|
Thus, 30–45 minutes is most commonly how much devotees of such apps as Bumble or Badoo average daily at work.
Is that too much?
But it’s also worth noting that 90% of women and 94% of men feel they have been using dating apps on the job more since switching to remote work.
So—COVID-19 might have played its role here too.
Regardless, taking such mental breaks isn’t necessarily bad, as long as you don’t overdo it or violate the company policy.
Numerous studies have shown that too much focus can lead to decision fatigue and poor productivity. Thus, swiping on a dating app for a few minutes can be a great way to re-energize and recharge.
What happens if you bump into a coworker on a dating app? Should you swipe right, assuming you’re interested? Play it safe and swipe left to avoid any awkwardness?
That’s precisely the dilemma 81% of our respondents have faced. Of those, 96% of men and women claim they took a leap of faith and swiped right on their colleagues.
In retrospect, 97% of males and 93% of females regret it for one reason or another.
So it’s probably not the best idea to swipe right on a coworker, as it could lead to some awkwardness or even jeopardize your job if things don’t work out.
Stacking It All Up
There you have it.
A comprehensive look at dating profile photos, their importance, the types of shots Americans find the most unattractive, and more.
Let us know in the comments if you have any questions.
We conducted an online survey of 997 US respondents via a bespoke online polling tool in September 2022.
The respondents were 70.9% male, 29% female, and 0.1% identified as other. 13.5% of respondents were 25 or younger, 57.8% were aged 26–38, 25.2% were aged 39–54, and 3.5% were 55 or older.
This survey has a confidence level of 95% and a margin of error of 3%. Given the gender and age makeup of our sample size, the study’s findings are statistically significant for the population at large.
This study was created through multiple research steps, crowdsourcing, and surveying. Data scientists reviewed all survey participants’ responses for quality control. The survey also had an attention-check question.
Fair Use Statement
Did our findings help you learn more about dating profile photos? If you believe your audience will be interested in this information, feel free to share it. Just remember to mention the source and link back to this page.
- Gray P., Volsche S., Garcia J., Fisher H., “The Roles of Pet Dogs and Cats in Human Courtship and Dating”
- Randolph S., “The Importance of Employee Breaks. Workplace Health & Safety”
Max Woolf is a writer and travel lover at Passport Photo Online. His insights, advice, and commentary have been featured in Forbes, Inc., Business Insider, Fast Company, Entrepreneur, BBC, MSN, NBC, Yahoo, USA Today, Fox News, AOL, The Ladders, TechRepublic, Reader’s Digest, Glassdoor, Stanford, G2, and 300+ other outlets.