How to Have a Great Dating Profile Photo

The online dating world is a shady place. Anybody can be on there—creeps, perverts, criminals, and people who totally misrepresent themselves. A woman has to come to the field with aggressive filters because if she doesn’t she may easily end up on a bad date, or at worst get raped or kidnapped. Because of these risks many women eschew online dating all together, and those who do it cannot be too careful. This means that everyone is a creep unless proven otherwise, and anything in your profile that seems vaguely fishy will rule you out right away.

Your photo therefore has to instantly convey your trustworthiness and approachability. The photo is the first thing that a potential match sees of you, even before they’ve opened your message or clicked on your profile. If the photo is blurry, unpleasant, or worse—nonexistent—your potential match is going to think the worst of you. Here are common mistakes to avoid:

No picture: This person definitely has something to hide. He is probably married and cheating on his wife, or he’s 100 years old and trying to date women in their twenties. Any way you want to interpret it this person is being dishonest. Pictures that show your body but not your face has the same effect.

Pictures that are dark, blurry, or distorted: You may think that this produces an artistic effect but it really conveys creepiness all around. Selfies taken in the bedroom at night, in a bathroom, or in a dim bar all go into this category. The results are often blurry, hard to make out, and literally and figuratively shady. At best it conveys a lack of confidence. At worst it conveys that you are a creep who deliberately does not want to be seen in the light.

Face obstructed by sunglasses, hats, or other objects: Anything that obstructs the face puts a barrier between you and your potential match when the medium of online dating is already a barrier. A person’s character is revealed through their eyes, so obscuring the eyes makes it seem like you have something to hide. A picture that makes strong eye contact has the ability to assert a magnetic attraction. No eyes means you forfeit your best asset for making a connection.

Not smiling: You may think that a moody image conveys the real you, but in fact all such a picture does is make you completely unapproachable. Would you rather go up to a person at a party who is sitting in the shadows with a scowl or dejected look on their face, or go up to someone who is smiling and making eye contact? The same thing goes for goofy faces, unless you want to be seen as an utter clown.

Nude or risqué pictures: A nice body is an attraction when it is someone you trust and like. When you don’t know anything about that person and their risqué picture is the first thing you are presented with, it conveys sexual aggression and disinterest in anything the woman might offer besides sex. This is the wrong message for 99% of women out there. Women with profile pictures that are blatantly sexual may attract guys who are only interested in sex, but will repel guys who are looking for a relationship. It suggests that you are desperate or have little else to offer.

A profile picture should clearly show your face, make eye contact, be well lit and in focus. The profile picture is very small so I recommend headshots that are shoulder up. Anything farther away and we will not be able to see your face clearly. A great profile picture should possess a natural and animated expression—an inviting smile, light in the eyes, clear skin and neat hair. Natural light is best, but not in direct sun. Flash or indoor light can make your skin color offcast or give you a deer in the headlights look. If you are only looking for casual relationships a casual outfit may be fine, but if you are looking for a serious relationship, you may want to convey that you are a successful individual capable of picking up the bill at a nice restaurant. A nice shirt and haircut do the trick.

If you do not have a good headshot, ask your friend to take one for you in natural light. Even better, splurge on getting a professional photo taken. A professional photographer will help you get your best look not only through lighting and composition but also coax animation and personality out of your expression. A fantastic profile photo will assert a magnetic attraction and lure the viewer to look at you closer and click on your profile. It will make you stand out from the sea of amateur photos. Online dating is all about the image, so investing in a good one pays off.

Most dating sites allow you to post more than one photo, so your additional photos can convey more of your personality. More clear headshots are good, perhaps with different facial expressions or outfits. You can include a full body shot, shots of you doing things that you enjoy or with objects that are meaningful to you. Pictures with children, pets, friends, etc. are ok as additional pictures, but not desirable as the cover photo.

Photo: Art by William Wegman