The dating app Hinge sifted through thousands of their users photos and figured out what gets those likes and what gets ignored. The results are pretty surprising. Hinge’s profile requires you to add six photos, and people can like them and start conversations based on them individually. So they can really tell what kind of photos illicit the most positive responses.
To get to the bottom of what's effective, they tagged thousands of randomly selected photos with 35 different labels (for example: hair up vs. down). The basic takeaway is that you should pick photos that highlight the real you. As Olivia Abramowitz, Hinge's VP of Marketing, told us in an interview, "Your photos should show you in your natural state, doing something that you love."
So how does that translate in practical terms? Well, for one thing you're going to want to skip sunglasses and Snapchat filters — or really anything that obscures your face or eyes. Also, Abramowitz said a shocking number of pictures featured other people who could easily be mistaken for a significant other and that was a big turn off. So skip that photo of you with your brother, no matter how great you look.
Interestingly, posing on a beach also made a photo much less likable — women’s sand shots were 47 percent less likely to draw a like, men’s were 80 percent. Abramowitz thinks this could be related to the fact that Hinge’s audience tends to be focused less on hookups and more on finding serious relationships. So perhaps they just didn’t respond as well to these more revealing photos because they felt less comfortable starting a conversation based on them.
Conversely, using a photo in which you’re engaged in some kind of athletic activity was super appealing. For women, sports photos were 166 percent more likely to get liked; for men, they were 45 percent. While it’s possible a lot of people are interested in finding someone who’s active, Abramowitz suggests these photos work especially well because they give people a natural conversation starter. “Hey, I’m into tennis too” obviously works a lot better than a plain old "Hey."
One thing this data makes very clear is that our intuition about what should work kind of sucks. For example, candids shots got 15 percent more likes. But, amazingly, 80 percent of the photos people use are posed. Similarly black and white photos got 106 percent more likes, but only three percent of all the photos were black and white. Maybe time to rethink a few of our strategies!
Selfies were also a no-go. Regular selfies were liked 40 percent less. Bathroom selfies were 90 percent less liked. Whomp whomp. (But seriously, never use a bathroom selfie.) Abramowitz suggests that selfies might look too posed or give the impression that you’re trying too hard.
And now for the nitty-gritty details: For women, smiling in a way that shows your teeth made you 76 percent more likely to get a like. Looking away from the camera (which upped likes by 74 percent) and standing alone (increased likes by 69 percent) were also big helps. And, oddly, so was wearing you hair up, which boosted your chances of getting a like by 27 percent.
For men, it was almost the exact opposite. Looking straight ahead was key, making you a whopping 102 percent more likely to get liked. Smiling so as not to show off your teeth was preferred, upping your chances by 43 percent. Though, as with women, photos where you’re standing alone worked 11 percent better.
Of course, this is all based on Hinge's userbase — so it's entirely possible a bikini shot will work far better on another app. But the general insight here is a good one. As Abramowitz put it, “The best photo of you isn’t always the best photo to use.” You're not necessarily looking for the most flattering photo ever taken of you. You’re looking for the ones that convey something about you, even if every hair on your head isn’t in the exact right spot.
So focus on finding the photos where you look like the real you doing the things you actually like to do. Give them something to talk to you about, and eventually the right people should find their way to you.