I wrote this as a response to Bad4's latest post about providing pictures for shidduchim, and figured it was long enough to be an actual post of its own:
It is very true, as many have noted, that physical attraction is not only necessary for the relationship, but significant enough in many cases to determine whether someone may find the suggested candidate attractive enough to date.
One of the biggest issues is that shadchanim/wanna-be-match-makers are not honest, or not totally honest, in describing a person's physical features. Due to this liability, pictures are requested. Often, as others have noted here, the pictures themselves are not reliable due to the staged nature (extra make up, professional picture, etc) or the flawed aspects of the photograph make the person seem less attractive than they actually are.
As a side point, particularly since this happened to me several times when I was dating: why in the world would ANYONE want to have an unattractive picture of him/herself available for the purpose of evaluation regarding shidduchim? I saw dozens of YUConnects profiles with girls who haphazardly slapped up some cropped, unflattering Facebook picture. I was surprised on more than one occasion that the girl was more attractive than her photo depicted. If you want a date, don't pass around a bad picture of you! Get multiple opinions from people you know and trust to approve the worthiness of a particular picture before it gets out there for general evaluation.
Back on topic: So we're basically stuck with a double sense of falsehood. Descriptions are incomplete or wrong, so we ask for a picture, but asking for a picture is insulting and also often misleading. The option to go in "blind" will often lead to numerous disappointments, as some guys have noted. If the looks are a no-go, then the entire venture is a non-starter. That applies to both guys and girls, and girls need to learn to accept that, especially since they don't necessarily focus on looks from the get go as much as a guys often do.
I think there is a clear difference when someone asks for a picture "stam" versus asking for a picture because you can tell they're stuck up, utterly full of him/herself and looking for a supermodel for a spouse. Nobody should have an exact "look" that they absolutely require, because that's simply impossible. Everyone has their own personal likes and dislikes when it comes to appearances, but often these preferences can be lumped into more general categories that paint a fuzzy picture of what is acceptable, thus letting the details remain more open for the actual dating experience.
As I've said many times before on my own blog and comments here [IE Bad for Shidduchim], everyone needs to have a standard of what they find attractive, per those general guidelines I just mentioned, which can include height, facial features, body shape, etc. The only thing a picture should do, and hopefully do accurately is determine if he/she meets that cut-off line in your mind. A short examination of a picture can accomplish that. The same thing is done on a date as well, but the stakes are higher and a greater degree of scrutiny is absolutely necessary, especially if you are determining if you can accept certain imperfections or unique characteristics (this is part of the more specific aspect I mentioned above). For a picture, if the person is "too fat," "too skinny," too this or that, per your personal tastes then you know right off the bat and don't have to go further.
It is NOT fair to jump on someone's back and say they're being too prejudiced against someone because of a decent picture. True, finer elements of a person's features will only be apparent while seeing them in person, but if someone hands me a picture of a girl who was 400 pounds, and I don't find that attractive, no matter how great the quality of the photo, I would say no because that's not what I want. The same thing goes for ANYTHING (not to stereotype against the obese) that a particular person finds unattractive. I had a professor who told us that he couldn't stand red heads when he was dating - and as such, he didn't marry a red head. True, the possibility exists that he could compromise for a particular person, but that would entail further examination. But telling him he's absolutely wrong for having such a strong gut-reaction (based on who knows what) isn't right. In fact, that particular professor even told us about a red head cousin of his who married a guy from Lakewood, and now she wears a dark sheital, because her husband hates red hair (the professor didn't ask what she did around the house/when her hair was uncovered).
At any rate, everyone needs to be honest and up front about looks and pictures. Why can't we just standardize picture usage (like YUConnects does), with EVERYONE providing decent pictures that accurately portray their looks? If someone turns you down that means A) You aren't their physical type, for whatever reason, so deal with it or B) He/she is a shallow jerk who didn't like how your right nostril looked and you're better off not going out with him/her anyway because he/she is stupid.
May everyone find the person who looks the way they would like their spouse to look - and more importantly - find the person who represents all the good qualities required to be a good spouse.