Dating Profile Photos: How to Pick and Take Them

A guy standing against a pink background dating dating profile photos for his dating profile.

Dating profile photos—a phrase that usually elicits a collective sigh from all single people in earshot. We all know that photos are the most important element of a successful online dating profile, yet we still leave our profiles feeling like we could’ve done better. If you’re looking for ways to improve your profile photos, this guide won’t have you strutting your stuff on the next season of America’s Next Top Model, but, at the cost of a little extra effort, it’ll help anyone take flattering, attractive photos that get noticed by more people on online dating apps.

What Makes a Good Photo

People are visual creatures. We all know a good photo when we see one, even if we can’t place a finger on just what makes it so appealing. Nobody’s asking you to be the next Ansel Adams—you’re shooting for a dating profile—but knowing some photography basics can go a long way in improving your online dating game.

Here are a few small components that can improve your photos dramatically:

1. Smiling
First, in every photo the subject should be you smiling. Photo data from the online dating site and app Zoosk, shows that people smiling receive almost four times as many messages and those who don’t. If you think you’re less attractive smiling, then take our word for it: you’re not. Ok, so you may be thinking that people can tell when a smile is canned for a photo. You’re right. So how do you get around that? The key is to smile with your eyes. Crinkled eyes are the main way people can tell a genuine smile from a fake. So just take a moment to remember that time your best friend spilled spaghetti all down their white shirt before you say cheese.

2. Framing
Next, I want to touch on framing, or what’s in the shot. Are you in the stands at a football game with 10,000 other spectators, or is it a selfie with your hair cropped out? Framing determines not only what makes it into the shot, but what our eyes are drawn to. The Rule of Thirds is a quick photography technique to help you with your framing. Take your photo frame and draw two lines lengthwise and heightwise, cutting the frame into thirds each way. There should be four intersections where the length lines and height lines meet. This is where our eyes tend to focus in a photo. Make sure that your face hits these focal points in your photos. That’s the basics of the Rule of Thirds.

3. Lighting
Lastly, let’s talk briefly about lighting and resolution. When taking dating photos, you want to make sure that the light is bright enough to let us see the details of your photo, but not so bright that we’re blinded. If the shot is a little too bright, you can usually apply a filter from your phone to dim the brightness. With photos that are too dark, fixes aren’t so easy. Resolution is pretty simple—just make sure your photos are high quality and in focus. These days, even lower end smartphones can snap very nice photos, so there’s no excuse for grainy specks floating around!

How to Make a Photo Interesting

If you’re like me, you probably just took a few selfies and called it a day. Unfortunately, six selfies against your kitchen wall will get old pretty quick. Now that we know the qualities that make a good photo from a technical standpoint, we need to spice them up.

Add photos of yourself doing things you love.
A dating profile is an opportunity for other daters to get a feel for your personality, so let them! Start by including some photos that show off your interests. Whether you’re hiking Half Dome or jumping 10 stairs on a skateboard, action shots make for more interesting photos than you tucked behind the desk of your home office. Hobbies and interests can serve as common ground to get you and other daters talking.

Vacation photos are always a good idea.
Have any beachside memories from your last Hawaii trip? Don’t hesitate to throw a photo of onto your profile. Zoosk data shows that vacation photos net profiles way more messages. Colorful and exotic locations are a good way to draw in the eyes of daters that would otherwise wander to other profiles.

Use group photos sparingly.
Next up: group photos. OK, this is a controversial one. If you’ve dated online before, you’ve probably come across a photo of 32 people that reads, “I’m the one in the middle.” If someone has to spend time to identify who in the photo the profile belongs to, chances are, they’ll move onto the next profile. I usually like to use a group shot as one of my last photos, because it can show me having fun with friends at a party or event in the way reading at a coffee shop can’t. Still, if you have any doubts, leave out the group shots. Definitely not required.

Balance it out.
You’re profile should tell a cohesive story through your photos, not a life history. Picking photos is a balancing act of showing who you are and showing off how you look. Your profile doesn’t need to prompt a proposal. If you’re not sure what vibe you should be going for, it should always be two words: attractive and interesting.

Profile Tips and Tricks

Once you’ve settled on a few photos, you’re almost on your way. Here are a couple extra tips to help you optimize your efforts:

1. Your first photo is the most important and should always be your most photogenic. Make sure you’re wearing your best smile for this one.

2. Always have at least one full-body shot. Having two or three good shots is probably best, but Zoosk data shows that profiles with at least one body shot get over twice as many incoming messages. Physical attraction is an important quality for many in deciding who they would date, so don’t hide who you are.

3. Make sure your clothes fit well and are location appropriate. Nothing says staged photo like designer jeans on a beach towel.

4. More photos are a good thing. Some apps and services allow up to twenty photos, but our data suggests that having at least five photos will have you getting more messages and longer conversations. Don’t skimp on the number!

5. If you don’t have good photos on hand, don’t hesitate to grab a friend, pack a few outfits, and go out on a shoot. Lunch on you. If you don’t pose for photos often, modeling can be difficult. Using props is a good way to add to the fun factor of a photo and the shoot. Props can be anything from a book to a cup of coffee, anything to keep your hands out of your pockets.

Well, that’s about it. It may sound like a lot and it is. But putting a little more effort into your photos may be the best way to bump your chances.

Alex Bocknek

Alex Bocknek is the senior editor of The Date Mix and works at Zoosk, the online dating service. He’s also a recovering music critic and an aspiring fiction writer (probably lost) on the way to an independent bookstore near you. He can be found occasionally musing about politics, philosophy, and love in the modern world.

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