Whether you’re actively using the online dating sites or not during this time of self-isolation (though video dates are still a valid option), it’s at least a good time to review your profile to make sure it’s ready to go when the time is right.
For better or for worse, we know that people often judge a book by its cover. But we’re not talking about the next historical fiction work; we’re talking about people. Specifically you. For that reason, it’s important to know the five rules of thumb for your online dating profile pictures.
1. Get a nice head shot … and say cheese!
This point is the key. It’s the first — and often last — thing people look at. If you don’t have at least one clear shot of your face (in other words, not blurry or too far away) as your main profile picture, your profile may suggest that you’re either hiding something or couldn’t find a friend to snap a quick shot! Make sure people can see what you look like from the get-go. And show a warm and inviting smile.
2. Don’t overshare.
Some online dating sites allow six photos, some 12, and some a whopping 26! (I challenge you to figure out which one allows 26.) While I’m sure your last ski trip to Vail was a powdery delight, your online dating profile is not the place to show the whole album. Leave that to Instagram … and even then, don’t connect that account to your online dating profile!
Let’s say I have nine photos of myself on Tinder. In four of them, I look attractive to someone; in two, I look just OK; and in the remaining three, for one reason or another, I just don’t look as good to people. Someone looking at my profile may be attracted to the first several pictures, but by the time he gets to No. 9, he’s already dismissed me, thinking that those three mediocre pictures reflect what I actually look like. The ideal number is five. Just five. (Hinge requires six photos, but it also allows you to post a short video of yourself, which I’d recommend. Not one of you saying, “Hi, I’m Erika. Date me” but rather you in your element doing something interesting. For example, in old profiles, I used to share a short segment of myself competing in a pun competition … yes, you read that correctly.)
3. It’s best to be alone.
People choose photos with others for many reasons: They want to show that they’re social and have friends; they want to show that they spend time with attractive people; they want to showcase someone they believe is in their “league.” (You may laugh, but it’s true.)
You’re already being compared to others on the site, so don’t give someone the chance to compare you to the other people in your own profile … or not even figure out which person you are in the photo. (No one takes the time to do that.) And if you’re social, simply name some activities you like to do.
4. Do something interesting.
Maybe you play the banjo. Maybe you’re the next Julia Child. Or maybe you have a thing for stomping on grapes to make wine a la Lucy. Whatever it is, showing someone a unique or interesting photo of you gives people the “in” they need to strike up a conversation.
5. Tell the truth.
It’s better to have someone meet you and think, “He/she is much better looking in person,” not, “Wow — those photos were taken 15 years ago!” Unfortunately, it happens all too often that you’ll meet your date, and the person looks nothing like his or her photos had indicated. For that reason, in addition to No. 1 above, I also recommend a full-body shot to give someone a sense of your physique in addition to your face. Basically, don’t lie about your looks … you’ll always get caught in the end.
If someone goes to the “online dating bookstore,” make sure your cover is appealing and accurate. If someone still doesn’t want to pick it up, perhaps they’re simply looking for another genre. In the end, at least you’ll know you put your best foot forward for when you’re ready to get out there.
Erika Ettin is the founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps others navigate the often intimidating world of online dating.