Beyond the Books

Your Guide to student life

Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2010 9:41 a.m.

OkTrends explains how to look better in profile pictures

For all those in need of a new profile picture, a study by the blog OkTrends found that beauty is in the eye of the camera holder.

Using not-so-scientific methods, the official blog of dating website OkCupid analyzed 552,000 user photos to determine what qualities make a photo more attractive.

The site says it aggregated 11.4 million opinions on what makes a great photo by pairing up profile photos and asking users which person they would rather date. After collecting basic attractiveness judgments, they measured other factors related to the camera and the photo environment.

Their results show that the camera matters, the flash is unflattering, the best pictures have a shallow depth of field, and there are peak times of day to take a more flattering picture.

As far as camera brands, Panasonic beats Canon, Sony and especially Kodak, which makes the subject look less attractive. Certain types of cameras, like those with interchangeable lenses, tend to produce more attractive photos than cell phone cameras. OkTrends draws the conclusion that more complex cameras take better pictures; however, as commentators point out below the blog post, more complex cameras may just imply more skilled photographers.

Further proving that Excel graphing functionality does not a scientist make, the article uses this graph of sexual partners, not actual sexual activity, to extrapolate that iPhone users have more sex.

Their flash finding, while not groundbreaking, does stand up to science. The hard light of a flash tends to bring out imperfections like wrinkles and blemishes that can make a picture less attractive.

Photos with a shallow depth of field, in which the subject is in focus while everything else is blurry, tended to receive higher attractiveness ratings. The author hypothesizes that blurry photos “feel more intimate and personal,” so they receive better ratings.

After gathering information on the time of day each photo was taken, the study found that the most attractive photos were taken late at night and during late afternoon. The author admits that he “can’t really say why that is,” but he “irresponsibly theorize[s]” that late night photos tend to be more provocative and late afternoon photos tend to be pleasantly lit.

The study’s less than neutral conclusion: “the data strongly suggest that if you’re single, you (or someone you know) should learn a little bit about photography.”