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The COMPLETE Guide To Online Dating Photos

Of all the people I encounter while matchmaking professionally, nearly everyone needs some help with their photos. Probably 95% of singles could use at least one more photo to round out their profile to convey something different. And many need a complete overhaul. It doesn’t matter how attractive the person is. Your photos, unfortunately, need work...

And you know it! No one I know loves photos of themself. So spending time focusing on your bad pics can seem painful. But trust me - it’s worth it. Photos are superficial, but attraction matters most with online dating (and matchmaking when you're working with a company that shares them). With a little time and effort, your pain can turn to major gain in the form of an awesome new partner who might just be your partner in crime for life.

There are a lot of articles written about online dating photos, but none that I found that are fully comprehensive in sharing everything someone needs to create or optimize their persona online. I'm happy to share all the tips in one handy guide for you.

  1. LOOK HAPPY OVERALL. Conveying genuine happiness may be the most important advice I often give. Think about something that makes you truly happy when you have someone take pics. Everyone should have one shot where they’re smiling big, partially to show a lust for life that is attractive, and partially to show their teeth, which many people care about. This applies to men too, since nobody wants someone who is depressed, conceited, or a grouch. And remember to convey joy with your eyes or the smile may not look real. Women often forget this and they might look hot, but like a b*itch…even if the guy chooses to meet you, he probably has intentions that aren’t aligned with a LTR.
  2. INVEST IN A PHOTO SHOOT. A professional photographer will help you avoid a lot of the pitfalls discussed in other points in this post. And there certainly won’t be 10% of your ex cropped in any of the shots!  When hiring a photographer yourself, be sure to browse their portfolio to make sure the shots seem natural and that you know exactly how many shots you can keep. If you don’t want to do the research, you can hire a pre-vetted DateSpot partner photographer for a $450 shoot that includes 3 outfit changes and 5 lightly retouched photos to download.
  3. RELAX. If you do get a photographer or someone else to take pics of you, it’s important to stay loose. Shane Karns, a DateSpot partner photographer, says “​​The more relaxed you are and the more you're yourself the better the images will turn out. Every now and then I'll have a client that approaches our session with a fun-loving vibe and the images always look and are more authentic. Authentic, approachable, and yourself is the goal here as you're sure to obtain more favorable responses!” To help yourself stay cool and collected, try a 1 minute (or 10 deep breaths) meditation session with your eyes closed, thinking about how much better your photos are going to look even without you trying much.
  4. TRY SOME LAUGHING SHOTS. You laughing, even when you’re pretending and it may feel totally awkward, usually looks authentic, happy, fun, and energetic. The shot will also stand out from the typical smiling ones.
  5. ALL SHOULD BE RECENT. By recent, we’re talking the past two years. If you’ve drastically changed your hair color or cut, remove the old you to make space for the new you. Showing old photos of yourself - even if you were much hotter or thinner back then - is not helping you; it’s only wasting your time since it would lead to disappointment in the first 5 seconds of you meeting.
  6. CONVEY MATURITY. One drinking photo is ok, but avoid multiple partying shots or you look like someone who isn’t serious about a real relationship. Ladies, avoid pouty face “duck lips” as that’s not someone who looks like a genuine, caring person. Skip anything that doesn’t convey trustworthiness, because people require that on the apps. You want to look like someone who could easily shift to the role of a mom or dad one day, especially if having kids is a goal, or show that you already are a great parent if you already have kids.
  7. MIX IT UP. Show different sides of you, your personality, and your interests.
  8. INCLUDE A FULL FIGURE SHOT. You need to show what your general body shape is. Men want to know, and think you’re hiding something if you don’t. They’ll often just say no if you don’t have one. When I’m collaborating with other matchmakers on matches, if the matchmaker doesn’t have a full figure shot, I always request one as I find it so crucial.
  9. WEAR CLOTHES YOU’RE COMFORTABLE IN. Guru Khalsa, a DateSpot partner photographer, stresses being comfortable and wearing some clothes you normally wear on your day-to-day: “Buying a new outfit is fun, but I love it when somebody shows up wearing their favorite pair of jeans and their go to shirt. Having a few changes of clothes is nice and all, but being you and showcasing your active or goofy side is what will stand out.”
  10. DON’T OVER-EDIT. Light retouching of photos is ok, but don’t change your shape or size or anything drastically. You can remove that one temporarily blemish, but your skin doesn’t have to look perfect to attract a partner. In fact, if you Photoshop too much of it, it can easily be a turn-off as it just looks fake. People will wonder, if you’re lying about your face, what else are you lying about?
  11. DEMONSTRATE ONE OF YOUR INTERESTS. A common request I get in matchmaking is to be with someone who is passionate about something. Fun and creative are other descriptors that often come up. Show people visually that you enjoy life through the lens of something you love. If you play guitar, a shot you strumming can look cool, or showing the instrument in the background on a couch, etc.
  12. DON'T INCLUDE MORE ATTRACTIVE PEOPLE. You don’t want your potential partner hitting a photo and saying “wow, they’re gorgeous!” And then realizing it wasn’t you, only to feel that they wouldn’t be getting the grand prize. YOU are the prize, so make it look that way.
  13. CAPTION YOUR PHOTOS. Provide context to make your personality and sense of humor shine through. You can also include the month & year to show that they are recent shots.
  14. CLOTHING SHOULD SHOW RANGE. Matchmaker and Dating Coach Katy Clark of Cinqe (Instagram @datingwithkaty) shares that variety is key with what to wear. “The perfect men’s outfit is dark blue jeans, crisp white shirt, and tailored blue blazer. Bonus if you add a pocket square. Then show one outdoorsy/exercise photo, and another with jeans and a T-shirt. For women, take a pic in a fitted dress that shows off your fave body part in a classy way, and another in something casual like jeans and a shirt.”
  15. TAKE PHOTOS IN THE LATE AFTERNOON. Data shows that  light tends to be the best at this time, making you more attractive.
  16. POST BETWEEN 4-8 PHOTOS. That’s enough to prove to people that you’re real, and not so many that it’s overkill or starts to get into selections that are less appealing. For matchmaking purposes, I like to go with 6-8.
  17. MAKE SURE THEY’RE NOT BLURRY. Poor quality photos look like you just don’t care. If you don’t care about your profile, you’re not taking this seriously.
  18. GET A SECOND OPINION. Ask a couple people in your personal circle to review your picks or choose them with you. They have a tendency to not want to hurt your feelings, so they may say they’re great, not knowing what the other options are. So show them plenty of alternates that offer true variety. You can also get a dating & photo consultation with yours truly (founder of DateSpot). Reviewing photos is one of my favorite activities and people are generally pleased with my suggestions.
  19. BE ACTIVE. If you’re athletic, show it as that’s super attractive to others and attracts similar people. If you’re not athletic, show yourself being active in some way. You’re projecting your interesting life. OkCupid’s research found that people are twice as likely to meet in person when they post photos “doing something interesting” vs. drinking.
  20. A TRAVEL PHOTO HELPS. A 2017 study from Hinge found that travel photos receive 30% more likes than the average photo. Marketing ourselves as travelers conveys that we're financially stable, adventurous, interesting, curious about others, and have a worldly perspective. But remember that travel is not our daily lives, so have a "lifestyle" shot ideally that is more about what you enjoy doing back home.
  21. USE OPEN BODY LANGUAGE. Don’t cross your arms as it looks like you are emotionally closed off, or timid, or both.
  22. INCLUDE YOUR PET. That is, if you have one. Animals attract attention and make people feel comfortable, that if this person can take care of a pet well, they are caring and responsible in general.
  23. CONVEY CONFIDENCE. Stand up straight with your shoulders back, and make expressions that demonstrate how you love yourself. If you don’t look like you love yourself, and you know yourself best, how are they going to be attracted to you? It’s especially important for men to demonstrate this. And remember, confidence can be highly effective in a cool collected way; you don’t necessarily have to look extroverted.
  24. TRY DIFFERENT EXPRESSIONS. Yaneck Wasiek, a DateSpot partner photographer who specializes in headshots, says “For dating, I like to go beyond the basic smile shot to get some fun and even goofy expressions. It shows that the person is comfortable with herself/himself and has a sense of humor.”
  25. NO SUNGLASSES IN YOUR PROFILE PIC. It’s fine to include one - and only one - photo with sunglasses. But since they don’t show what you really look like, and they can make it seem like you’re hiding something, it certainly shouldn’t be your main profile pic. And all the others should show your eyes.
  26. BE CAUTIOUS WITH SELFIES. The data is out there mixed on whether a selfie across genders helps or hinders your profile. That's because it depends on the selfie, and how many of them there are. You definitely want to limit your profile to one selfie max, and make sure you don’t look creepy or conceited. Men - under no circumstances should you take a bathroom selfie because women constantly call that out as gross. Nix the gym selfie too and instead show off your muscles in a semi-tight shirt. Avoid shirtless selfies and instead get a friend to take your shirtless photo ONLY at the beach, pool, or doing something athletic if your body is banging. Shirtless selfies without that additional context are even banned on certain sites.
  27. WEAR RED. This color has been shown (in Psychology Today) to grab positive attention, especially towards women.
  28. BE ORIGINAL. Don’t whitewash yourself to try to appeal to as many people as possible - it will backfire. People are moving through profiles quickly and want to see someone special who sets themselves apart. Demonstrate how cool, creative, and unique you are, while still remaining in the realm of “normal”. Give them an easy conversation starter.
  29. INCLUDE KIDS, IF RELEVANT. Show that you want to have kids by including a pic of you with nieces and nephews. If you already have kids, it’s helpful to visually reinforce that fact while proving that you’re a proud and dedicated papa or mama.
  30. MEN - GET THE PERFECT SEATED SHOT. One of my favorite shots for men is sitting, feet apart, hands clasped or relaxed, elbows on the thighs, leaning towards the camera and making direct eye contact. There can be anything from a faint smirk to a beaming smile. It always looks open and invites me in. Matchmaker Katy Clark also told me this is her recommended pose for men, without me saying it first, so you know it has some magic!
  31. WOMEN - WEAR MINIMAL MAKEUP. Too much makeup in all your shots can make you look trashy. No makeup in all your shots can make you look plain or washed out. Wear some tasteful makeup, especially for a photo shoot, just don’t go overboard. I recommend always wearing some mascara and a natural-looking lipgloss. If your skin is blemish-free, skip the foundation and powder as that can clash with the camera light.
  32. POST BETWEEN 4-8 PHOTOS. That’s enough to prove to people that you’re real, and not so many that it’s overkill or starts to get into selections that are less appealing. For matchmaking purposes, I like to go with 6-8.
  33. UPDATE YOUR PHOTOS EVERY FEW MONTHS. Many dating sites (like OkCupid) reward their members who update their profile photos by showing them more often. They figure, if this person is changing something, they’ve got to be still single. It allows you to test out different photos and what reactions you get. Plus, you're evolving as a human every day, so let your profile reflect it.

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