My friend Marc — a single dad my age — and I like to share dating war stories.
Recently, he giddily kept me posted on the pre-first-date chemistry he shared with a woman he met online.
“Extremely promising,” he texted me. “We talk every night on the phone and it is frightening how much we have in common. I hope I don’t screw it up.”
Fast forward a few days: “She was much larger in person than her online pics lead on. Not gonna happen.”
Because he’s a nice guy, Marc’s telling of the scenario was polite. I’ve heard the same story — usually not as kindly — from lots and lots of guys.
Then there is the issue of whether or not the pics are actually real. eharmony stands out among dating apps because each dating profile is verified as real, with real profile pics. Read more in our eharmony review.
Ready to create your dating profile? Get my tips:
- Photos not to post for online dating
- Photos you should include in your online dating profile
- How to chose the best online dating photos
- What your online dating pics say about you
- What to write about yourself on a dating site
Photos not to post for online dating
These are no-nos:
- Yourself with other men. Especially really hot men.
- Yourself with a bunch of women. Especially really hot women.
- Yourself and a bunch of people — which one is you? Hard to tell, confusing.
- Yourself and the baby tiger. Everyone does it, but you should not.
- Yourself and babies that are not your own. Wishful thinking, perhaps, but also seems manipulative.
- No car shots. Skip the pic taken lounging on your Honda — or even your Porsche.
You don't want to make someone's red-flag list!
Photos you should include in your online dating profile
Online dating site Zoosk conducted some research about what kind of pics attract the most attention from men.
- A closeup.
- A full-body shot.
- Natural — opposed to professional — shots.
- Sports (keep reading for more details).
How to choose the best online dating photos
Ask your friends.
Ask members of the gender you are seeking to date.
Follow these guidelines!
Tips for taking good online dating profile pictures
- Full body shots. Include at least one.
- Wide, open, natural smiles!
- No hats. Both men and women were less likely to be attracted to others wearing headwear. Same with shades: no sunglasses. In other words, don’t hide — let him see you!
- Sports, apparently. Zoosk: “People wearing a jersey, t-shirt of their favorite team, or sports outfit in their photos get 32% more incoming messages and 17% more responses.”
- Vacation shots are good. Softball for a conversation starter, plus you look fun and probably relaxed.
- Natural snapshots. Maybe you want to include a professionally taken headshot that you love, but be sure to also include a more natural snapshot that shows you as you are.
- Get a closeup: In a recent survey, 53% of men said that the first thing they notice about a woman’s profile picture is her eyes. Then, 32% of men said they notice a woman’s body, 12% said her hair, and 3% said they notice a woman’s lips.
- At least 4 pics. More photos = more responses and longer conversations, per Zoosk.
- Get the gear: Step up your photo game with good lighting (like this ring light I actually swear by) and this clip-on lens to give your iPhone camera that professional edge.
How to take good selfies for your dating profile
You don’t need someone else to take a pic of you for your dating profile. Here, learn how to take good selfies for your dating profile:
Tilt your head. Taking a photo of your face straight-on can make it look wider than it really is. Try tilting your head slightly, keeping your chin down and your camera up. A selfie stick can make this much easier.
Be yourself. The more natural your selfie looks, the better. A smile goes a long way toward making you look warm and easy-to-talk-to.
Find the right backdrop. Outdoor backdrops are a lot more compelling than indoor shots, so pass on the bathroom selfie. Instead, head outside and photograph yourself in nature or in front of some beautiful architecture.
Step into the light. Bye, bye, dark, grainy selfies. This clip-on selfie ring light, compatible with most smartphones, has a variety of flash options to help enhance selfies. It also has a wide-angle lens so you can capture your background, whether it’s a cityscape or natural landscape.
Use filters sparingly. Remember: You want to look like yourself, so don’t go overboard with filters and editing. That said, the Afterlight app allows you to lightly edit pics and add soft filters for a dreamy yet still natural-looking effect.
Upgrade your camera. The perfect selfie starts with the right equipment. The newest iPhones and Androids have great cameras that make taking high-quality selfies a cinch. Check out the iPhone 12 and Google Pixel 5.
Take advantage of portrait mode. Newer iPhone models have portrait mode, which is very useful for selfies. Here’s how to take the best selfies in portrait mode:
- Head outside. Portrait mode doesn’t work that great in areas without a lot of light. So go outside for best results.
- Stand back. To use portrait mode, you must be two to eight feet away from the camera. Use a selfie stick to find the right distance from your camera.
- Choose the Studio Light setting. Portrait mode comes with six lighting options. Studio Light is the best for selfies because it brightly lights your face and slightly blurs busy backgrounds. That means all the focus is on you.
- Edit the photo. Once you’ve taken a selfie you’re happy with, it’s time to edit. Hit the edit button in the top right-hand corner of your photo to adjust the background blur (you can make it stronger or weaker), then you’re good to go.
Practice, practice, practice. One of the best ways to get the perfect selfie for your dating profile? Take tons of photos. The more you practice taking selfies, the better you’ll get at it.
What your online dating pics say about you (and why you should post honest photos)
Pics posted online depicting a woman who is much smaller than the one who walks — shockingly, 30 lbs heavier — into a bar.
She’s a great girl, really nice, but, uh … well … yeah. Not so much.
Related: Elite Singles dating app review
On the one hand, what are you thinking? Of course people lie in their online dating profiles every day of the week: Men say they’re younger and richer.
Omissions of children and spouses — not to mention STDs and bad breath.
But suggesting you are much smaller than you actually are is the dumbest lie in the world — the jig is up the second you walk into the Starbucks.
I know exactly what you tell yourself:
a) “Those pictures really are me, so it’s not a lie.”
b) “Dating profiles are advertising, and advertising always shines the most flattering light on a product.”
c) “He just gets to know me and then he’ll fall for the real me — which has nothing to do with how I look.”
a), b) and c) … all lies you’re telling yourself, sweetie.
A pic from 5 years ago is a lie, no matter what.
Yes, you should depict yourself in the best possible light, but the SEC has laws against misleading advertising for a reason.
Re: c), He’ll learn to love the real me. My soul.
Real life: your looks have everything to do with how a guy feels about you.
I don’t make these rules. Men are far more visually driven than women for all kinds of anthropological, biological and cultural reasons.
Just accept that. Yes, there are times when men fall in love with a woman who is completely not his physical type because her beautiful soul shined so brightly that it blinded him to her overt physical shortcomings.
But that is not likely to happen when his first impression is that you are a liar who wasted his perfectly good happy hour with your manipulation.
All this is reason enough to keep things real.
But wait! There’s even more!
Post honest dating pics for feminism
Yeah, men can be pigs. Check out this online message a 35-year-old software developer (with cute pics) sent me:
Your profile is awesome, but I don’t think I’m at a point in my life where I can get involved with someone who has kids. I hesitated to write this, since I could have just said nothing, but decided to write you as encouragement. You’re foxy, and your profile is foxy, too.
He then offered to give me a guy’s POV on my profile, to which I gladly accepted.
You look slim and in good shape, but aren’t showing your body at all. Crass, I know, but even dudes who are down with kids want to know you’ve still got it, so show it off.
‘Nuff said. [I then added a couple full-body shots to my profile, and thanked him for the tip. Radio silence. Maybe he found me too big to bother to reply?]
Now, I get that you’re not feeling good in your body.
You’re lonely and you know very well that few men like very heavy women.
I sympathize with women who find it hard to meet men — even online — for this reason.
If you live in a big market like I do — New York City — there are so many people, and so many classically beautiful people.
How can you connect with a guy in person when they won’t even click on your profile pic?
Misleading a guy into dating you isn’t the solution.
In fact, posting misleading pics only perpetuates the societal message that only thin chicks are datable.
While there are so many unrealistic expectations of women to maintain a certain body type, lying about your real body type only sets the movement backward.
Post honest pics to be honest with yourself
The second you start lying, you shame yourself and block your ability to find love.
When you post selfies from eight, pre-baby years ago, your opening line is: “I am ashamed of who I am. I am unlovable.” When you market yourself with shame, you deny your ability to be vulnerable — and connect with a man in a real and intimate way.
The more you are true to yourself, the more likely you will find someone who loves you just the way you are.
Very cliche, and also very true: There is someone out there for everyone.
Post honest photos to be honest with your date
I’m not immune from this pickle.
Before any particularly promising first date with someone I meet online there is always at least a glimmer of: “I hope he’s not disappointed when he meets me in real life.”
When I first started dating in earnest five years ago, I was headed out on one such date with a hot movie executive who spent his vacations traveling around the world surfing with his kids — and also seemed super-cool and smart.
Pre-date flirting was high, and before I headed out, I fussed in front of the mirror. “I think he’s out of my league,” I fretted to the babysitter, a friend.
Early in the evening, as I rose from the table to head for the bathroom, I was sure he disappointingly checked out my thighs, squeezed into a pair of black jeans.
Was this all in my head? Maybe. Maybe not.
But had I posted a swimsuit pic of myself when I was 27 and in top shape, well, then I could know for certain that he was scrutinizing my sqeezy thighs, scratching his head and wondering: What was she thinking? Because that would have been the normal thing to do — since I am not 27 and in top shape.
Which is exactly what Marc thought. After all, he met a girl online and she looked nothing like her pictures. Online dating for both men and women find that the other person is often fatter than they are in person.
Start the date off right by being an honest mirror of the picture online. It is extremely hard to overcome an initial shock and feeling of deceit when the person and the picture do not align.
What to write about yourself on a dating site
Gah! This can be so overwhelming. Worse than a resume or LinkedIn profile. Here’s what our experts say about dating profile decorum:
“Keep it short,” says Sandra Schwartz, founder of HerNorm.com, which helps women understand men. “If you put everything about you on your profile, there might not be anything interesting left to say when you decide to talk to each other personally. Just highlight the important things.”
As eharmony advises: “Never lie. Ever. Don’t lie about your height, age or weight: you’ll be found out soon enough. Don’t pretend to have a better job than you do, or that you’re more prepared for long-term commitment than you currently are.”
The site also warns against saying disparaging things about online dating: “Insulting the method — or the people using the method — of finding love that you’re currently giving a try is a huge turn-off,” eharmony says. “You’ll come across as condescending and judgmental. Don’t bite the hand that might be feeding you your soulmate.”
Also, make sure to let them know what you are looking for, says certified sex educator Suzannah Weiss. “You want a line about what you’re looking for so that you can weed out people who aren’t looking for the same thing,” Weiss says. “It doesn’t have to be as direct as looking for a relationship, though it can be. But try painting a picture of the kind of relationship you want — for example, looking for someone who will go hiking with me then snuggle under the covers afterward or looking for someone to co-parent a cat with. You can also make it easy for people to ask you out by suggesting a date activity in your bio.”
How do I make my dating profile stand out?
Margot Starbuck, author of Grown Woman’s Guide to Online Dating, says just being yourself makes you stand out. “Too many women write in their profiles that they love their dog, and the beach, and pumpkin spice latte. Nope! That vanilla profile sounds exactly like every other profile men are reading,” Starbuck says. “The very best thing you can share in your profile is what makes you uniquely you. That’s the big win. Do you march for environmental issues? Have you been one of Beyonce’s backup dancers? Did you dress up like Wonder Woman for Halloween? Do you paint murals on buildings? Did you knit a sweater for Shaquille O’Neal? It doesn’t have to be flashy, it just has to be different than what thousands of other women are saying.”
Schwartz suggests getting dating site users’ attention with action photos: You playing a sport, in a unique travel destination, or playing a musical instrument. “That can be a great conversation starter,” she says.
Examples of what to write about yourself on a dating site
Says Schwartz: “The shorter introduction the better as it leaves your reader more curious about you. For instance, you can say:
“Founder of a website. Yoga enthusiast. Loves traveling to different and far away places. What’s your story?”
Relationship coach Michelle Devani agrees and offers this sample dating profile:
Four things I couldn’t live without:
My iPhone, my face mask and shield, my best friend, and of course cocktails.
What do my friends say about me?
Romantic, caring, passionate, creative, and friendly.
The three things I’m most thankful for:
1) Getting to travel to countries I love visiting.
2) My great friends and loving family.
3) Doing a job that I love.
This is from Starbuck’s own dating profile:
I love love love my work as a collaborative writer, helping others tell
their amazing stories. Seriously, best job ever. (Athletes, entertainers,
overcomers…) I’m grateful for my beautiful community (ask me!) & I have a lot of energy for life. I love being active outside for a few hours each day—walking, skating, swimming. Have I done standup? Yeah … I have. Was I recently recruited to do roller derby? Also yes. (Still deliberating this one … because not being injured is my favorite.) I try to love folks on the world’s margins the way Jesus did. Wall of heroes in our kitchen includes Jesus, MLK Jr., Oscar Romero, Bree Newsome, and Colin Kaepernick. I’m looking for character and for someone who’s giving back. And he’ll be a man of faith.
Why you should include your income in your dating profile
While we’re being honest, be open about your income, too.
After a divorce, I’ve been single for five years, actively dating for four. When I first ventured out into the new-again world romance, I omitted my income on dating apps.
Well, for all the usual reasons: It is considered impolite to talk about money. I didn’t want to come across as being obsessed about a guy’s income. And, because my income is high, I didn’t want to scare off potential suitors.
But some months into my dating venture I found that I wasn’t meeting guys I really dug — and that includes many qualities, including that they are professionally ambitious.
I am 38 years old, and usually, date men my age and older. And in middle age, if you aren’t established or very well on your way in your career, the likelihood that is going to do an about-face is slim.
I’m not looking for a guy with many millions of dollars, and in fact prefer to date someone with a similar financial picture as my own, as I find we have more in common (see below).
My career is important to me, and I identify best with men who feel the same. Being financially stable usually comes with professional accomplishment, even if the guy may earn less than me.
And so in the right-hand column of my OKCupid profile that highlights the key personal details, I changed my status from blank, to my six-figure income. Almost immediately I started meeting very interesting men. Lots of them.
This last point was of interest to my friend Farnoosh Torabi, the financial expert and author of the fascinating When She Makes More: The Truth About Navigating Love and Life for a New Generation of Women (the paperback of which was recently released).
Torabi advocates for high-earning women to disclose their finances early in a relationship, in an act of transparency that allows for any resentment to be worked through early in the courtship.
After all, the chances of divorce in couples where the women earn more than their husbands is double that when the inverse is true.
Why high-income women should include their salaries on dating sites:
1. Sharing openly about my income says a whole lot about me — including that I’m not in the market for a sugar daddy. Torabi writes:
Emma Johnson disclosed her income in her online dating profile after not finding guys she was interested in to date. As soon as she disclosed her six-figure income, quality men started to contact her. “I’m a single mom and freelance writer,” she told me. “If that doesn’t scream poverty, I don’t know what does.”
2. Successful middle-aged men are usually divorced, paying alimony, and really, really upset about it (including the very progressive, feminist ones I hang out with). I told Torabi:
“The divorced guys I date love the fact that I’m financially independent because they’re so angry that their ex-wives stayed at home, so angry they’re paying alimony. In their opinion they think, ‘She was lazy. I wanted her to get a job. I didn’t want her to stay at home.’ ”
3. Take shame out of the equation. You are professionally successful, so why hide it? Of course, if a guy is threatened by your success …. I don’t even need to finish that sentence.
4. If you’re passionate about your career, you want to discuss business with your partner. The man I’m dating now is also independently employed. One of the main things we connect on is business, which I find incredibly hot.
6. Take one for the team. Yes, there is still a contingent of successful men who are truly intimidated by high-earning women, and openly seek a homemaker with a low IQ they can manipulate. More commonly, I find, are men who are quite progressive and respect women of all incomes, and are perhaps unconsciously influenced by centuries of socializing that makes them squirm at the notion they may be the lesser earner in a relationship.
In the spirit of pushing the tide forward, I say: Ladies, include in your profile your real income. Do not hesitate to share your professional success. Do it for yourself. And do it for women everywhere.What is your experience? Does being specific about your income help or hurt your online dating prospects? Do you run a background check on people you meet online? Share in the comments!
Keep it short, says Sandra Schwartz, founder of HerNorm.com, which helps women understand men. If you put everything about you on your profile, there might not be anything interesting left to say when you decide to talk to each other personally. Just highlight the important things.
The very best thing you can share in your profile is what makes you uniquely you. That's the big win.