Thanks to the bazillion dating apps and websites on the market, you can now find potential love interests based on the people you cross paths with, your social media friend network, and even your affinity for farming. But one thing holds true across all modern matchmaking platforms—if you want to meet people, you’re gonna need some photos.
Research shows that profiles with photos are nine times more likely to get communication (shocker), and that people who uploaded at least four pics were the most popular. Sure, you could just pull in your album of Facebook profile pictures, but spending a little more time on your image selection can yield different (and exciting!) responses. Ready to start your virtual quest for companionship? Check out these shooting and editing tips for online dating pictures, and get those conversations started.
With the stigma associated with online dating on a steady decline, and 15 percent of American adults using sites and apps to find companionship, it’s not surprising that there’s a whole lotta stuff written about “online dating photo best practices.” We’ve combed through it—the good, the bad, the contradictory—and condensed that info into four tips for getting great shots.
1. Look happy and inviting
People like happy people. So if your objective is to converse with fellow humans, avoid looking angry or sad in your profile pictures. No, you don’t need to coat your teeth in Vaseline before the shutter snaps—aim for a relaxed, inviting expression.
Some studies found that smiling men don’t fare as well as their grinless counterparts, but a mass of dissenting opinions show up in comment sections whenever that point comes up. If you’re naturally smiley, don’t regard that oft-quoted finding as absolute truth.
Another consistently referenced expression is the “flirty face.” If you’re thinking “what the cheese puffs is a flirty face?!” photographer Mindy Stricke has the answer. In an interview on match.com, Stricke says that imagining that you see someone attractive across the room will make you look and feel flirtier in your photos. The flirty facial expression varies person to person, but common components include a slight smile, smizing (smiling with your eyes), and slightly raising one eyebrow.
Try out a number of facial expressions, and—above all—try to have fun. Nothing beats a look of genuine enjoyment and enthusiasm.
2. Showcase your (real) hobbies and interests
Sure, lookin’ good isn’t a bad thing. But more “conversation worthy” shots—meaning photos in which you’re doing something interesting, like traveling or playing an instrument—have been found to lead to more meaningful interactions than those strictly “sexy” shots. That’s likely because it helps people get to know you, and gives them something to talk to you about.
However, don’t post all of your synchronised swimming photos. While it’s great to show that you can be social, people don’t have time to find you in a group shot. Match.com dating expert Kate Taylor notes that rolling plus-five in your profile pics is “the equivalent of bringing your mates along on a first date.” If you are going to post a photo with your buddies, limit it to one or two other people. And make sure to have plenty of solo shots in the mix.
3. Don’t hide
A sunglass or fedora shot isn’t the worst thing in the online dating world, but ultimately people want to see you, not your sense of style. Big patterns and bold accessories can detract from your stunning self, and bland neutrals can prevent you from really popping on the screen. Choose outfits you’re comfortable in, and colors that complement your features.
Consider composition as well. Extreme close-ups and far, far away shots typically perform poorly. Full body shots are also essential (one Zoosk study found that including these boosts your number of messages by 203 percent), because a lack thereof makes others think you’re hiding something—possibly a raccoon tail or really ugly shoes.
4. Don’t go it alone
Taking photos of yourself that aren’t up-close selfies or mirror pics is a lot like eating cereal with a fork—worth a shot, but it’s probably not going to yield the best results. Describing yourself online can also be difficult, which is why 22 percent of online daters have asked for help with their profiles.
Consider enlisting a friend with some photography skills, a selfie stick, or shell out a few bucks for a little time with a professional. Just make sure your pics don’t look overly posed or too “high school senior.”
Once you’ve rounded up some photos that put your best self on display, spend a little time making sure they look jjuuusstt right.
Pretty much every photo can benefit from four simple edits. Cropping tops the list because it can do a lot of things—like improve composition, change your photo’s orientation (eHarmony found that landscape shots are favorites) or put greater emphasis on the subject, a.ka. you. If you’re already mentally lining up images to crop your ex out of, let us stop you right there—narrow portrait shots with another person clearly cropped out typically don’t perform well.
Touch-ups and filters
A word of warning when it comes to editing your online dating profile photos: beware the dreaded airbrush face. Small touch ups like brightening your eyes or removing stray hairs emphasize your natural hotness, but removing every fine line from your face can make you look like a department store mannequin. That’s why we’ve built a number of customization options into our touch up effects—you can easily achieve a natural, luminous look by adjusting the brush size, fade, strength, etc. Find all of ‘em in the Touch Up tab of the Editor.
If your photo looks a little blah, too dark, or the focus isn’t on the right spot, consider fixing it with a filter. Some of our go-to filters include Urbane, Intrepid, Focal Soften, and Fancy Focus. They’re all hanging out in the Effects tab, waiting to adorn your images.
According to eHarmony’s study, photos that are poor quality or really small “Completely kill any chances of success,” and yet thousands of people upload sub-par pics. Check out our article on resizing images to win the pixel battle, and if your pictures aren’t looking quite right when you upload them, see if the site or app lists its ideal dimensions in the help section. For example, match.com asks that images be at least 300 x 400.