Online dating photos are important, The Haze, but you know that already. You know that a profile with an image gets opened 8x more than one without. You know that an email with a photo attached gets read first.
There’s no question about those things anymore; that’s old news. What I really want you to understand is the power of having a GREAT photo. Everyone has photos these days, but fortunately, most people still use bad photos. A bad image can make you look terrible, no matter how hot you are in real life. A great picture will attract people, no matter what you look like. Amongst the adventures I’ve had in life, one of them was working as a professional photographer. I now shoot only for sport but am happy to share with you some rules of having a great photo for online dating.
Rule 1: Be well lit
A well-lit face jumps out of the picture, a look in shadows hides from the viewer. Believe it or not, this has a huge difference in how people interpret your character. If you post a photo of yourself taken in a dark basement without using a flash, you’ll come across as a low energy/low-value person. If you are well lit and bright, you’ll come across as high energy/high value (read: FUN) person. No one looks good when they are so underexposed you can’t even see their eyes. TIP: Use a photo taken outside with natural light, but force your camera flash on (called fill flash) so that it fills out any shadows on your face made by the sun.
Rule 2: Use a real camera
A common trend I see in younger online daters is self-portraits taken with cell phone cameras in front of bathroom mirrors and “at my computer” shots taken with webcams. There are two problems. One is that these settings usually aren’t well lit. The other is that cell phone cameras and webcams produce terrible picture quality. They are grainy noisy pictures that, in general, make you look bad. To someone who reads between the lines, they make you look too cheap to get a real camera.
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TIP: If you don’t own a real digital camera, you have a friend that does. Tell them you need some photos; most people are happy to play amateur photographers with their toys.
Rule 3: Pay attention to the background
People look at everything in your photo, not just you. If your house is a mess, it reflects poorly on you. Women especially notice details, so pay attention, guys. If you’ve got a couple of empty bottles of vodka in the background, it looks like your party too much. If there are other people in your photo, who they are is going to reflect on you. For women, this means that you might want to reconsider posting photos with your scantily clad girlfriends. You might want to review posting photos of you and any girl who looks like a girlfriend for guys. TIP: Since people read into every detail in your image, you can increase your value using a photo taken somewhere interesting or cultural. Photos in museums make you look cultured, photos in exotic locations make you look adventurous.
Rule 4: Dress well!
This rule is hugely overlooked. Your appearance judges you, and that includes your clothes. Plus, the fact that the right clothes can make someone look considerably more attractive, while improperly fitting or poorly matched clothes will make you look worse. Remember, keep some congruence with who you are. If you never wear a suit in real life, you might not want to represent yourself as a suit-wearing guy. Girls, if you don’t want guys to think you are promiscuous and easy, don’t post-party photos of you wearing revealing clothes.
TIP: Dress to impress. You basically can’t overdress (within good taste) and the better dressed you are, the higher value you will appear.
Rule 5: Eye Contact
Regardless of the setting, you must be doing in your picture making eye contact with the viewer. If you are getting your image taken specifically for online dating, look directly into the camera lens every time (unless for artistic reasons, the photo absolutely demands otherwise). You’ve heard this before, and it’s definitely cliché, but… your eyes are a window into your soul… even over the internet. People need to make that connection with you to be attracted to you. When they can’t see your eyes, there will be a level of intimacy lacking in your picture, which is crucial for building attraction.
TIP: Make sure your eyes are visible and not in the shadows. See Rule 1.
TIP: Take off the sunglasses for your photos. You aren’t Bono or Jennifer Lopez, and as much as you believe it does, it doesn’t make you look cool or famous. At best, it blocks that critical eye connection; at worst, it makes you look insecure.
Rule 6: Smile!
The human smile is one of the most excellent communicative tools we have. It conveys our intentions, our sincerity, and our passion. It is absolutely key whether you are looking to make new friends or lovers. So why do I scan through so many pages of online dating profiles and see so few smiles? Maybe it’s because we think we look so cool, so dangerous when we give our best badass pose. That’s my excuse anyway… However, when someone sees you scowling, frowning, or pouting, they don’t think, “wow, he’s cool!” They think, “ugh, he looks miserable.” Someone who has nothing to smile about isn’t a person most people want to date! So smile! Let people see how fun and friendly you are! You will be surprised at how quickly and deeply people will become attracted to someone who is smiling and sharing their joy… even through a photo.
TIP: A sincere smile is hard to fake for a camera, and people subconsciously can tell the difference. Instead, when you get your picture taken, try to laugh at the camera. Get whoever is taking it to tell a dirty joke or otherwise contact you to crack up. When the photo is taken, it will freeze a moment of you, displaying a great, wide, sincere smile.
Rule 7: Include Your Photos
Despite how common it is, we are all still a little afraid of being recognized internet dating, and thus we never want to send our photos out first. But the people who let all see their pictures get the best responses. When you don’t send an image, the only thing you get is ignored! One of the most common things people write in their profiles is “no pic, no reply,” yet they haven’t even posted a photo of themselves first!
You are going to have to get over this if you are serious about meeting people. Really, what’s the worst that can happen? If someone is emailing you, they are looking for the same thing you are and aren’t likely in a position to talk about it to anyone themselves! TIP: Why send one photo? If you have several (make sure they have been shrunk down to manageable file sizes), then send them! The more photos someone has to look at, the better image they will have in their head of you and your life, and that’s a good thing!
Rule 8: Hire A Photographer
This isn’t a rule, but consider it a powerful suggestion. If you are serious about meeting people online, nothing beats hiring a professional photographer. A good photographer can make you look thinner, sexier, classically handsome, and friendlier, just with the right lighting and right pose.
If you can’t afford a professional (and arguably you don’t need a high-end portrait photographer for this), look for a serious amateur or photography student looking for practice. It may cost you a quarter of what a professional will charge, or they may do it for free, only for the experience and the addition to their portfolio. Please make sure you tell them what you want it for. If you explain that you need an interesting photo that will stand out from the competition or a sexy headshot that will grab people’s attention, they will most likely jump at the challenge. Before you choose one, look at their portfolio or previous work to see if it is in line with a style that suits you.
TIP: Great places to find serious amateur or student photographers cheap:
- -Craigslist, under the Services – Creative category, or by placing an ad
- -Ask at the local camera store, see if they have a message board
- -Email the photography department of the local college
- -Find a local camera club on the internet
And that brings us to our conclusion. With those rules in mind, go through all your current online dating photos and toss the ones that break the rules. You may find yourself starting from scratch, but the effort you put into it will pay off for years to come... or until you meet that dream girl.