Have you been wondering why your online dating profile isn’t getting you the results you wanted? Have you wondered if there’s a reason why people aren’t contacting you? There is. It’s your photos. They’re the first thing people notice and they’re why someone decides to take the time to learn more about you.
A friend of mine recently signed up for online dating. She used a reputable site that supposedly matches you up according to detailed questionnaire compatibility. Within two weeks, she was deeply unimpressed with the results she got.
She’s not particularly fussy, she’s warm, she’s beautiful and she’s one of the least judgmental people I know. She called me and said she was having a real problem with almost all of the profiles she saw, and asked if I could take a look at her ‘matches’ and give my photographer’s opinion.
In less than five minutes, I understood completely why she felt disappointed and frustrated. Almost ALL of the profiles we saw, had absolutely appalling photos. Let me clarify… These men are using pictures that aren’t just kind of crappy, they’re jaw-droppingly bad. So bad, that they’re totally off-putting. (And in fact, sometimes caused slightly unkind laughter.)
Let’s be honest, everyone decides to look in depth at someone’s profile because they find their photo appealing. No matter how charming, clever, articulate, etc. your written profile is, if your photos are terrible, nobody’s going to bother reading it. We’re shallow creatures, we human beings and online dating is basically comparison shopping. In this instance, the packaging is as important as the product.
What is a bad online dating photo? What immediately turns people away and makes them instantly dismiss you as a ‘NOPE’? (Or possibly burst out laughing in disbelief.) There are – sadly – more than a few types of ‘oh the humanity’ bad profile photos. Here’s a breakdown:
The blurry, grainy photo. With even the cheapest smart phones having fairly decent cameras these days, there’s no excuse for fuzzy looking photos. If people get eye-strain trying to make out your features, they won’t even bother.
The photo where you’ve clearly cropped someone else out of the picture. It makes people wonder why you cropped that person out, wonder if you’re lying about being single, and wonder if you’re so unattractive that you only had that one semi-decent shot to use.
The photo where you’re wearing a brimmed hat and/or sunglasses. First of all, it makes you look unapproachable and untrustworthy. Secondly, it makes people wonder why someone in Witness Protection is online dating. Thirdly, if you’re wearing a hat in all of your photos, it’s a dead giveaway that you’re trying to hide a receding hairline. People may not mind the lack of hair, but nobody is impressed by the failed attempt to disguise it.
The photo of you partying with a drink in your hand or doing a stupid ‘I’m a rock-star’ pose. You don’t look cool, you look like a moron. Worse, it gives the impression that you’re immature and possibly have a substance abuse problem. Seriously.
The mirror selfie or web-cam photo. What these say about you, is that you probably have no friends or you’re too lazy to get someone to take a decent picture of you. They also say it’s likely you still live in your parent’s basement, which you rarely leave. And mirror selfies give the added impression that you may be vain, self-centered and too dense to turn the flash off before you take a photo in a reflecting surface.
The super-closeup, head-only photo. Other than instantly making an awful first impression by being just too weirdly intense and creepy, it also makes people wonder what’s so wrong with the rest of your body that you can’t or won’t show it in your photo.
The group-photo and the photo of you with pets. These are both poor choices for similar reasons… They draw the focus away from you and instead, people just look at the cute cat or horse or dog or friend you have your arm around. And people don’t want to have to figure out ‘which one is you’ in group photos.
The retouched photo. Come on, do I really need to explain why this is bad? Well, OK then, I will. An obviously retouched photo says you have low self-esteem, are deceitful and that you’re probably not very smart. Not smart enough to realize that most people can spot a retouched photo, even if you think you did a good job of it.
The photo where you look like a slovenly shlub. You know, the one where you’re in an ancient, ratty shirt (or coat), dirty shoes and stained old jeans or sweatpants. What this photo says about you, is that you don’t care enough about yourself or anyone else, to make the effort to look good at all.
The cheesy professional portrait. I’m all for using professionally taken photos for any kind of online profile. But even those can be a bad idea, depending on the style and tone of them. You don’t want to use something that looks like an overly posed modelling shot, an acting headshot, or a Sears Portrait. Tacky professional photos make people think you’re high-maintenance, conceited and trying too hard.
And finally, the photo that’s clearly several years younger than you say you are in your profile. People feel instantly that you’re insulting their intelligence. Most people can do basic math and have basic observational skills. An outdated photo says that you’re insecure, dishonest and probably didn’t age well at all.
All right, that’s what not to do. Whether or not these things are true about you, those are the impressions your bad photos give. So what kind of online dating photos get results? This is a much shorter list that can be summed up in two words… Good ones.
According to dozens of articles written about this exact thing (a few of which I will link to at the bottom of this post), your absolute best bet is to use high quality photos where you look comfortable, relaxed, happy and natural.
The smiling photo. A real smile, not a fake one. Although your teeth don’t have to be showing, a smile that’s clearly genuine is the most appealing photo you can use.
The flattering hips/waist up photo. People want to see your body shape and type. You can use a full body picture, but only if your face is clear in the image and your body language is dynamic and confident.
The candid personality photo. Something that shows you being yourself and displays something you’re interested in. If you like hiking, use a hiking photo. If you like reading, use a shot of yourself sitting somewhere outside reading a book. (Tip for this, don’t look at the camera, don’t show the book cover and don’t look too posed.) If you love to cook, use a photo of you in the kitchen making something delicious. And so on.
The outdoor photo. Visually they’re more appealing (natural light is the most flattering), outdoor backgrounds are more interesting, and they also show that you leave your house once in a while.
Get someone who knows what they’re doing, to take your pictures. I am a photographer so of course I think this, but online dating experts and match-makers will also tell you the same thing… If you want attractive, intelligent, confident people to be impressed and intrigued by your online profile, the best choice of all, is to hire a professional photographer who specializes in online dating photos.
Yes, it’s going to cost you some money. But when you immediately start getting much better results and a lot more of them, you’ll realize the investment was more than worth it.
Do some research, find photographers in your area and take a look at their online portfolios. When you look through their photos and find yourself thinking how appealing and nice people look, then that’s the photographer you should use.
If you need an online dating photographer in Vancouver, BC, you can see my portfolio here: http://www.tameaburdphotography.com/portraits
To read some of those articles I mentioned, check out these links: