Tips to Get the Best Dating Profile Photos

Jule Kim Seattle Headshot Photographer

The dating scene can be brutal, especially in Seattle when combined with the Seattle freeze. I’ve had plenty of both male and female friends tell me some horror stories about people they’ve talked to from dating apps like Tinder and Bumble.

I was spending a fun afternoon a few weeks back looking through Tinder with one of my friends, when I quickly noticed several factors in just half an hour.

First, let me backtrack for a minute. When I was just getting started in photography in 2015, I had a handful of friends who asked me to take photos for them for their dating profiles. Fast forward to today, and I get inquiries every single week from people who find me on Google for that same exact purpose.

After scanning Tinder for that half hour, I realized that I’ve been getting so many clients for dating profile photos because it looks like professional dating profile photos have become the minimum bar on dating sites. I’ll just note that even though many of the pictures were taken by professional photographers, I saw many issues that could be improved.

I hope that sharing my insights will help you figure out what you’re looking for. If you’re going to shell out the money to step up your dating photos, then you might as well go into it with a list so that you get the best results possible.

Your Facial Expression is the Most Important Factor for Your Dating Profile Photo

The goal is to look approachable and friendly while staying true to your personality. The general expectation is that you’re going to be putting your best photos on a dating site. People want to be around those who are happy and have positive energy, so a natural smiling photo or genuine laughing will always win hands down.

Even if you prefer a more subtle expression, you’ll still need to learn the art of looking friendly, or smizing, aka smiling with your eyes.

By the way, people can instantly spot a fake smile from a mile away. Fake smiles are when you’re smiling with your lips, but your eyes are too round and aren’t crinkling, which is a dead giveaway.

This means ditch the RBF look. Just don’t do it. Also don’t bother going for moody, pensive, or melancholy. You’ll probably convey the completely wrong message, and might attract the wrong kind of person.

The misconception: You think you look sultry and mysterious.

The reality: You look like you’re trying too hard and it comes off kind of awkward.

If you hired a photographer, they should be working to get the genuine expression out of you so that you get the right kind of dating profile photo. Beware of photographers who don’t give you any feedback on how your expression looks.

Body Language is Next Important

The easiest way to make sure that your dating profile photos look natural is to relax as best you can, and do motions that you normally do all the time.

Example: You’re leaning against the side of the couch with your coffee mug like you always do.

Doing the types of movement you normally do in real life will make you feel very comfortable. I usually try to coach clients through common scenarios (how would you stand if you’re waiting to check out in the grocery line?) to see how they’ll naturally stand or sit, and then I tweak their posture just a little bit.

Things to watch out for:

  • having your shoulders hunched too far forward
  • chicken neck posture (keep your neck aligned nice and tall)
  • closed fists, tense hands
  • feet set in the wrong direction

In general, your photographer should catch most of these issues. Just in case they don’t, practicing selfies or having a friend snap practice pictures of you will help a lot.

Also, if your photographer asks you to strike a pose that makes you feel completely ridiculous, just say no. A good photographer should have a sense of your personality and what kind of mood you want the photos to have.

Your pre-session consultation should have covered the style you want from the photos in detail, with examples discussed as to how you want to be posed or not posed. If you two didn’t hash this out in your consultation, then you should specifically ask about it or maybe find another photographer.

What Does Your Location Say About You?

You have to decide where you’re going to have your photos taken. Will it be out and about, or inside a studio? Unless your photographer is already a good friend who knows you really well, then you’re better off choosing some locations yourself. Your photographer can pick what they like best out of the options you present.

Think about the impression or the story the setting will say about you. If your photo is somewhere other than a studio, then try to pick places that you already go, or places that fit the story of who you are and the kinds of things you like to do.

For example, I hate hiking. I avoid it like the plague. Therefore, it wouldn’t make any sense for me to take photos along a hiking trail, or even in a forest since none of that suits my personality.

Being at a bookstore, a park, or a shopping mall would all fit my personality drastically better, and is consistent with who I am.

What would make hiking style photos even worse is that it not only doesn’t fit who I am and what I like to do, but it would probably attract hiking-minded people. They’d probably feel misled, and for good reason.

Tip: Also watch out for what’s sharing the space with you in the photo, both in the foreground and the background. There’s nothing more irritating than seeing a really good photo ruined by a distracting element right behind your head.

Get Someone to Help You Pick Your Photos

When the photos come back and it’s time to choose which ones to put on the dating sites, you should always have someone help you pick the photos. Ideally, that someone will be of the same gender as who you’re trying to attract.

The main reason you want someone else to help you pick is because people almost never choose the best photos of themselves. Everyone is the same in this. Each person sees themselves through their personal lens of distortion, so they’re focusing on things that no one else even notices.

In doing so, they often fail to recognize the winning attributes of a photo because all they can see are negative characteristics that they’re giving too much weight to.

I’ve seen it time and time again when clients choose their photos. Sometimes I’ll suggest that they go home and ask a couple of other people before making their choices final. When they do, they always come back with a changed list.

I’m no different, by the way. Even though I’m a photographer, I too have my multitude of insecurities and suffer from the same lack of objectivity when it comes to my own photos. The mind is a funny thing! But hey, that’s what friends are for.

Choose Your Photographer Wisely

If you decide to go the route that more and more people are for dating photos, then you should ask the photographer as many questions as you can. Try to get a good sense of their personality, and see if the photographer is also trying to do the same to you.

The right photographer will ask a lot of questions about what kind of photos you want, and will ask for clarification or examples for how you describe photos.

For example: You might say you want the photos to be fun.

The photographer’s answer better not just be, “ok.”

What the heck does “fun” mean? Do you want the photos taken at Six Flags? Should you be doing slapstick comedy? Or is their tickling involved?

I hope you see what I mean. Your photographer should ask you for examples of photos that mean fun to you, or ask you to describe scenarios.

Ideally, you’ll like your photographer enough so that when the time comes for the session you’re able to relax and connect with the camera naturally.

Also, most photographers aren’t super picky on posing, so you should ask about how much direction or guidance they typically give if that’s important to you.

For example, I’m well-known even among other photographers for spending more attention on posing bodies and faces to the most flattering shapes and angles. I get a lot of repeat clients because they appreciate that and trust that I’m going to make them look good.

You’ll have to decide how much guidance you want and whether the photographer’s personality works well with your own.

Best of Luck!

Getting a great photo of yourself can sometimes be difficult if you and the photographer aren’t on the same page, which is why picking the right photographer with a personality that you like and understands your expectations is so important.

Jule Kim

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