a person holding a small dog

This post is adapted from the blog of Snappr, a Priceonomics Data Studio customer. Does your company have interesting data? Become a Priceonomics customer.


Today approximately 39% of American heterosexual couples first met online. That’s a far cry from 1995 when just 2% of US couples met that way, or even a decade ago when there was a greater stigma about online dating.

With online dating edging out alternative forms of meeting your potential life partner, your online profile picture has become perhaps the most important determinant of your dating success. But do online daters optimize their dating profiles to maximize the chances that they get noticed?

We analyzed data from Priceonomics customer Snappr, a photography company that built tool called the Dating Photo Analyzer where thousands of people have uploaded their dating profile pictures so that our computer vision and machine learning algorithms could analyze them across key attributes. In this post, using a sample of 3,000 photos submitted to the Analyzer, we’ll review how different photos are by gender, and suggest small tweaks users can make to enhance their chances of getting noticed.

We found a number of distinctions in the profile photos by gender: men are less likely to smile, women are 10x more likely than men to be in swimwear, men are 10x more likely to be wearing a business suit, and women are about 50% more likely to have a pet in their photo.


After users upload their dating profile photos for analysis, our algorithms analyzed the photos for a number of attributes that could impact the potential performance of the photo on an online dating site or app. In this article, we focus primarily on how photos are different by self-identified gender.

First off, who smiles in their online photo? We scored each photo on a continuous scale of 0 (not smiling at all) to 1 (a huge smile). On average, men a bit less “smiley-ier” than women.

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Data source: Snappr

When it comes to smiling, Men score are 35.6% of a full smile on average, while women score 47.6% (just a bit more of a smile).  

For women fed up with being told “you should smile more”, research suggests a retort for these unwelcome suggestions; women can start telling men, “you should smile less.” In a scientific paper entitled “Happy guys finish last: the impact of emotion expressions on sexual attraction”, researchers show that smiling negatively impacted attraction from heterosexual females.

How common is it for someone to be in their bathing suit in their dating profile picture? Not very common at all.

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Data source: Snappr

Just 4.8% of women are in their swimwear in their main profile picture. Not many people wear their bathing suits in their dating profile photos, though women are 10x more likely to be in their bathing suits than men. Given that photos in swimwear tend of perform better on dating sites for both genders, perhaps it’s time for men to show a little more skin?

Wearing sunglasses in your profile photo is generally considered a no-no for your dating profile photo. However, nearly ten percent of daters still do so:

chart, bar chart

Data source: Snappr

In our analysis, 8.0% of females were wearing sunglasses in their profile photos, and men were about the same. If you’re in this bucket, you might want to consider a different profile picture where your eyes are visible.

If you’ve ever thought about getting a pet, you’ll be happy to know that including it in your profile photo is generally considered positive for both females and males. That said, almost no one includes their cherished animal in their profile pic:

chart, bar chart

Data source: Snappr

Females are 50% more likely than men to be hip to the fact that having a pet in your picture is a good thing, but even still less than 2% of them have a pet in their profile pictures. Getting a pet is a big responsibility and the care of a living thing should not be taken lightly, but maybe it’s time to get a pet?

How about getting all dressed up in a suit? Research shows that casual wear performs best for men. Nevertheless, over 10% of men are wearing suits.


Data source: Snappr

Fellas, it’s time to ditch the suit for something more casual (perhaps a bathing suit), get a puppy, and smile less if you want to increase the chances of your profile photo getting noticed.

Other technical considerations

Here are some things about the technical composition of the photo that you may not know influence the chances of getting noticed:

Side of face / vertical angle: Pictures of the left side of the face are generally considered more pleasing. Similarly, pictures taken from a vertical angle (AKA the “MySpace angle” also score better.

Aspect Ratio: Somewhere between 3:4 and 4:3 aspect ratio is the ideal range.

Zoom: According to research, photos perform best if they are zoomed such that your face is clearly visible but most of your body is still showing.

Sharpness/Light/Saturation: For each of these metrics, well-balanced photos tend to score better. Not too sharp, bright, or saturated, but not too little either!

Outdoor photos: Some dating sites have found that men receive more messages when their profile photo is indoors and women receive more messages with indoor photos. Certainly, more research should be done on this important topic, but be advised!


As online dating becomes the dominant source of introduction for couples that get together, your online appearance via profile photo will continue to grow in importance. Luckily easy technical enhancements outlined in this piece can improve your photo’s performance. 

For some, you might get better results just by zooming the photo properly. For others (cough cough, men), you might need to smile less, show more skin and get a puppy to do better at online dating.

If you just want to cut to the chase and know if your photo is good or bad, you can upload it to Snappr’s Dating Photo Analyzer used in this article. Around 20% of the shoots Snappr does are portraits, and 15% of these customers specifically say their portrait is for a dating purpose. We suspect that around Valentine’s Day, the actual number is much higher.


Note: If you’re a company that wants to work with Priceonomics to turn your data into great stories, learn more about the Priceonomics Data Studio.