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Why Your Dating Profile Pictures Matter (And How to Make Them Better)

We’ve talked before about the various ways in which you can screw up your online dating profile, but that was mainly focused on what you should say (or not say) in your profile.

And yes, it’s true that writing a good, accurate and engaging description of yourself can be the difference between someone being interested and moving onto the next person. But in order for someone to even give you a look, they need to be drawn to you right away, which is why the pictures you use are the most important parts of your profile. Trust me, nothing sinks an online dating profile quicker than bad pictures (he said bitterly).

Here’s what you can do to ensure that you’re showing people the best possible version of yourself.

Have at least three pictures

When you have only one or two pictures in your profile, two things happen. First, you’re only giving people one or two opportunities to decide whether or not they find you attractive. And second, you’re also sending an implicit message that those were the only two good pictures of you.

In the days before smartphones, people could get away with only having one or two pictures of themselves, but that excuse doesn’t hold water anymore. Hell, you can open a camera right now and take a picture of yourself. As a result, people aren’t going to see a profile with one picture and think “Oh, they must not take a lot of pictures – that’s okay!” They’re going to “Oh, they must be gross.”

So make sure you have at least three (3) pictures in your profile: a close-up of you, one that shows you from head to toe, and a third one of your choice. The more pictures you have, the better your odds that the person viewing your profile will like what they see.

And if you’re not sure what pictures of you look good, you can use services like PhotoFeeler to get anonymous feedback. In fact, I’d recommend that regardless: sometimes we’re not the best judges of how we look in pictures, and a picture we hate might be everyone else’s favorite.


If you have teeth and cheek muscles, you should smile in (most of) your pictures. Those “artsy” black-and-white photos where you’re staring sternly into the distance might make you feel cool, but if that’s all people see when they look at your profile, they’ll probably think you take yourself too seriously. Nobody wants to go on a date with someone who looks like they’re about to receive a manslaughter sentence.

Some people don’t smile because they don’t like their smile; maybe it’s crooked, or maybe it just looks forced and awkward. And to be fair, that’s true: having a weird smile can kinda ruin a picture. If you’re worried about looking weird when you smile, here’s a trick: right before the picture is taken, act like you’re chuckling at a joke (teeth slightly apart, exhaling as you’re smiling). It looks more natural, and by doing it right as the picture is taken, you don’t have time to worry about how your smile looks, which means it won’t turn from natural to “forced and weird.”

Smiling makes you look friendly and inviting. And if you’re thinking to yourself “But I’m not friendly and inviting and I don’t want to let anyone in,” then how come you’re on a dating site, dummy? Didn’t think of that, did you? Checkmate.

Make eye contact with the camera

Imagine going on a date with someone who didn’t look you in the eyes once. You’d probably think they’re either rude as hell or socially awkward. Either way, it’s not the kind of impression you want to make. For some odd reason, though, a lot of people do this in their profile pictures.

By doing this, your body language is saying one of three things: “I think I’m way too cool for this whole scene,” “I just want to make, like, art, maaaaaaan,” or “I can’t be trusted to behave myself in public.” It’s fine to have a couple pictures of you facing slightly away from the camera (don’t use any that are just pictures of the back of your head), but you need a couple looking directly at the camera too.

Use A Good Camera (Or Good Editing Apps)

You know what’s not sexy? Pictures of people that look like they were taken in some sort of underground sex dungeon. What’s also not sexy are grainy, pixelated images that look like they were taken with the world’s first camera. Unless they suffer from astigmatism, people shouldn’t have to squint to figure out what’s happening in your profile pictures.

That said, you don’t need a professional photographer to take glamour shots of you in the woods like you’re posing for a high-school yearbook. (Although, not gonna lie, I’d definitely swipe right on someone who did that, because that would be hilarious.) Cell phone cameras are capable of taking high-quality pictures, and there are also a TON of apps you can use to edit your photos to make them look their best.

Don’t Use Flash

Don’t use the flash on your camera. Unless you’re in a dark bar (or the aforementioned underground sex dungeon), flash serves no purpose except to make you look bad. Plus, with flash, you not only have to worry about red-eye, but you also end up with pictures that highlight blemishes or wrinkles.

There are exceptions to this rule, of course: if you happen to have access to professional-grade photography equipment and are carrying it around, then flash can work wonders for you. But if you’re the kind of person who brings professional-grade photography equipment when you hit the town, then you’re probably not reading this because you’re already drowning in sex juice.

Try to take pictures in as much natural light as you can. Even on a cloudy day, natural light helps hide any skin imperfections, and the lighting makes for a more appealing image; in fact, cloudy or overcast days are great options for pictures, because you don’t have to worry about squinting in the sunlight. Taking pictures outdoors also shows that you’re up on the latest millennial trend: “Leaving your home.” Two birds, one stone.

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