Advice from a Matchmaker: How to Take the Best Dating-Profile Photo

Looks matter. It sucks but it’s the truth. And when it comes to online dating, you can multiply that 1,000. Actually, make that 1,000,000. If you don’t hook them with your very first profile photo you aren’t going to get right swipes or online convos.

Most women already know this but it merits repeating for the naive ones among us: How you look like in your photos really matters for women because men rarely read the bio part of the profile and therefore won’t consider all the other ways you are amazing.

The Dos & Don’ts below aren’t my opinion. They’re taken from blog posts written by professional photographers, research reports, and articles. The photos are from the dating app Hinge.

First thing first
Most of us aren’t super models or photogenic. So what to do? I have two words for you: professional photographer.

It’s a bit of an investment but it’s a decent one because the quality of those photos will be heads & shoulders above your online competition, which means you’re one step closer to matching with Mr. or Ms. Right.

When you get professional photos done you get photos that show the best version of yourself. They’ll be a bit touched-up to smooth out your skin tone and get rid of the little bumps under your eyes when you smile. The shoot location will ideally match your personality and you will be the one and only person in the frame.

Professional photographers have a knack of getting their subjects to feel comfortable in front of the lens so if you’re the type who gets nervous when people start snapping, rest assured, you’re in good hands. And if you’re the type who hates photos then this is definitely something you need to invest in because it’s the people who hate photos the most who have the worst photos.

The usual suspects
Most people use Facebook-style photos – goofy poses, big toothy smiles, laughing at the bar, floating off the junk boat, group shots at a birthday bash – which are def very cute but they’re only good for sharing with your friends and fam (e.g. people who already know and love you for who you are).

These FB-style pics are not meant for strangers who don’t already know who you are and don’t already love you for who you are. Strangers have no context of who you are or why you would be an amazing person to go on a date with so that’s what your dating app photo needs to do.

If you are sharing FB-style photos you are expecting strangers to make a certain number of assumptions about you but they haven’t got the ability to make them because they know nothing about you. Context is everything.

Then there are the LinkedIn-style corporate head shots that are way more polished but don’t show one drop of personality.

LinkedIn photos are meant to show you as a responsible and trustworthy adult, which are def great qualities for a relationship but these photos skew too much to the law-abiding citizen side and removes all evidence of your sense of humor or attitude.

Three questions to ask yourself
A good dating app photo will be somewhere in the middle (and with maybe a dash of Snapchat) and will deliver a well-rounded version of you that answers the questions:

  • “Would I enjoy myself with this person?” (You want the photo to capture what makes you an enjoyable person. Think about why your friends enjoy being around you.)
  • “Would I feel comfortable/protected/at ease around this person?” (Think about what you bring to a relationship and what your past SOs have loved about you and/or what your ideal SO would love about you.)
  • “Do I find this person physically attractive?” (Bottom line is you want to show the best version of yourself.)

You have to ask these questions from a stranger’s point of view because the person who is swiping on you is a stranger and doesn’t have any context of who you are and what makes you amazing.

Below are the best dos & don’ts that will maximize your right swipes and online convos.

Dos & don’ts
DO choose photos that clearly show your face. This communicates that you are honest, confident and have nothing to hide. Your face needs to be completely in the frame  and there shouldn’t be any shadows over your face. You don’t need to look at the camera but your face has to be 100% in the frame.

DON’T stand with straight arms and legs because it looks stiff and unflattering. Hold your arms slightly away from your body, with a soft bend in your elbows. Bend the knee closest to the camera, putting your weight on the back leg and pushing your hips away. (Click on the link for photos of how this is done.)

DO ensure your primary picture shows you smiling. Women who smile with their teeth get more attention. For men it’s preferable to smile without teeth. Also for men, showing pride is attractive to women.

DON’T use pictures that are no longer representative of who you are today or older than two years. Get new photos if you’ve dyed your hair, gained weight or shaved off your beard.

DO wear solid colours instead of patterns. Patterns take the emphasis off your face. Wear black if you must but a bit of colour goes a long way and let us not forget red is the colour of love. (Also, a 2010 cross-cultural study found women are most attracted to men wearing red.)

DON’T use group shots, especially for the first photo. No one likes to have to swipe through your photos to figure out who you are.

DO stick your neck forward so your whole head moves forward. This will feel weird but does wonders for the photo. (Click on the link for photos of how this is done.)

DON’T use selfies!! “Taking a picture of yourself in a bathroom mirror will reduce your chances of a like by as much as 90%…(and) selfies actually decrease your chances of getting a like by 40%.”

DO have a mix of close-up and full-body photos. A study concluded that full-length shots get 200% more attention online than close-up shots. (Disclaimer: I can’t find the source to this stat so maybe you don’t want to believe it but I think it’s worthwhile to heed it because if you only use close-up photos people will assume you are hiding something. Own it. Same goes for height, balding or any other physical uniqueness you may have and worry people will hold against you. It’s their loss if they consider your uniqueness a flaw.)

DON’T forget to have a straight back in your photos. Hunching over is unattractive and communicates lack of confidence.

DO stand at an angle to the camera. Turn your feet and shoulders to a slight angle to the camera and turn your face back towards the lens. (Click on the link for photos of how this is done.)

DON’T use Snapchat filters. I know they make us look so beautiful but they actually decrease the chance of a like by 90%.

DO take photos that look candid.

DON’T post beach photos. Women are 47% less likely to receive a like on a beach photo and men are 80% less likely. 

However, DO use sports photos. Women are 166% more likely to receive a like and men are 45% more likely.

DON’T dismiss black & white photos. They get you more than double the attention!!

DO get photos taken from above if you are a woman and from below if you are a man. 

DON’T forget you have to look physically appealing. Treat the photo shoot like a first date — wear your best outfit, show off your best assets, use hair product, if you’re a woman wear a little make up (a little eye liner & mascara goes a long way), and whatever your gender make sure you practice smizing so you’re a pro.

Check yourself before you wreck yourself (and your chances)
People are way too harsh when re: looks when they’re swiping. In fact, I’d say they are merciless. We all need to lose the attitude.

My suggestion to clients is to look at a profile in its entirety and not focus solely on looks. Easier said than done but you need to try at least.

But if you’re just going to focus on the photo, consider my ‘2 points’ suggestion.

If you think she’s a five in the photo, she’ll probably be a seven in real life. (Of course if it’s evident Photoshop was used liberally you may have to deduct two points instead.) By the same token, strangers won’t think you’re as good looking (online) as you think you are (or your friends think you are) so subtract two points from yourself (e.g. If you think you’re an eight then people who have only seen your profile and never met you will probably think you’re a six).

There are several reasons I say this:

  1. Online we only have as many reference points as we have photos. A handful of photos online isn’t enough to really understand someone.
  2. People get better looking the more we understand them. It’s by learning about someone’s struggles, challenges, and how they overcame those challenges that you will fall for them.
  3. Sadly most of us are not photogenic and our inner beauty rarely gets reflected in photos.
  4. We make terrible choices when we choose photos for our online dating profiles because we’re not objective enough and not looking at them from a stranger’s point of view.

Need help?
If you want a second opinion you can send me a batch of pics and I’ll tell you what’s good and what’s not. But if they’re not high quality and/or follow the above dos & don’ts and/or don’t answer the three questions at the top, you probably already know my answer.

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