As technology has made everything easier for us, it also means we expect things quicker and make decisions much faster. From a simple swipe we watch movies instantly, make online purchases in seconds and decide on potential dates in a blink of an eye.
Unfortunately for online dating, instant decision swiping doesn’t always give the swipee a fair chance (what happened to personality, good character, life ambitions, hobbies?!?!) The reality is that the first gut instinct to swipe one direction or other is based mostly on the looks of a profile photo.
With this in mind, your profile photo should be something you put a little effort into these days, especially if you are looking for something more than just a one-night stand. Here are some simple tips for improving your online dating profile image.
Gentlemen, please, please, please, if you are looking to do any serious dating, please stop posting selfies taken in the mirror of a bathroom! Actually, just stop taking selfies of yourself looking in the mirror. These photos come off a bit narcissistic and just make you look awkward. If you’d like to highlight an athletic bod, there’s so many less creepy ways to do that. (No, you with zillion pound weights at the gym is not the selfie to take either.) Potential dates are happy that you are checking the mirror to make sure there’s nothing in your teeth, but they don’t want to think that you spend all day looking in the mirror.
Another reason why bathrooms (and gyms) are never a good idea for dating profile selfies is that they never have good lighting. Finding good lighting to take your selfie in will always make you look better, I promise. Look for open shade, soft window lighting, or golden hour lighting (right at dawn and about an hour before dusk). If you are in full sun, this might be the only time I will actually suggest keeping your sunglasses on. Usually, people like to see your eyes but full afternoon sun can create harsh shadows under your eyes and so at least with sunglasses on your face will look evenly lit. Try to avoid blown out highlights on your face or shirt as well, especially if you are wearing white.
If you’re a young professional, looking to date another young professional, put some thought into what you are wearing in a dating profile photo. You don’t have to be in a suit and tie (although a button up shirt without a tie and jeans never hurt) but at least wear a shirt that doesn’t have wrinkles and fits well. Looking too sloppy in your profile photos doesn’t come off as you being super chill, it comes off as you being a bit lazy. If you can’t put yourself together a bit for a photo, it leaves ladies wondering if you’d put any effort into a relationship. If you’re an outdoorsy person looking for another outdoorsy person, a fishing or hiking shirt is fine but make sure it’s clean and again fits well.
Shave, or don’t, but be intentional about your facial hair. If you have a mustache or beard, take the extra minute to groom it that morning. If you don’t usually have facial hair, make sure you’ve just had a clean shave before taking your selfie. Check out what’s going on with your hair that day. Do you need a haircut to look your sharpest? Get one sometime before taking your photo. As we already mentioned, you don’t want to take your dating profile selfie in the mirror but definitely take a look at one at some point that day and make sure your face isn’t sweaty. Be intentional about how you present yourself to strangers so that they can make a more accurate first impression of who you are and what you are looking for.
Along those lines, think a little about what’s going on in the background of your photo. Your dating profile selfie is worth a thousand words and says them in an instant. Think about what you want a potential date to know about you, even if they don’t read any words in your profile description. Do you want to find someone with a shared personal interest? Take the photo at or taking part in that certain activity. If you just want a nice clean look, think about taking your photo in place with a neutral background like sitting (not slouching) somewhere near good window light, or in the shade, and crop the photo in so that most of the background isn’t included in the image.
A good friend is useful when it comes to dating profile photos for a couple reasons. First of all, hopefully they are honest enough to tell you when you look your best in photos and can help you select the final image that you’d like to use. Ask for their opinion and listen to their reasoning for their selection. They may be able to tell you what face you make that comes off as way too serious or if your smile looks better with teeth showing or not showing. The other helpful thing they can do is to take the photo for you so that you don’t have the awkward arm-reaching-out-to-take-the-photo look going on. You might find that you have a more genuine smile when you don’t take the photo yourself. Plus, a friend might be able to take it from a more flattering angle. Find a friend that will take the task seriously and who might even take a few candids while taking a photo of you. Sometimes those are a better option than photos of you directly looking at the camera.
Yes, this one is a little bit of a shameless plug but also a photographer is always going to look to capture your best angles in good lighting – basically, all of the tips above are something they are used to paying attention to at every shoot. They’ll help you feel relaxed and let you know what to do with your hands so that you look natural in the images. They can also give you an unbiased opinion about how the images might read to strangers and which ones seem to highlight your best attributes.
In any case, try to relax, don’t force a look or try to pose in a way that doesn’t feel natural. When in doubt, put one hand in your pocket, the other down your side and just smile. A smile is more pleasing than someone looking very serious (even when you are looking for a serious relationship).