What Women Think of Your Dating Profile Photos

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So on Monday I told you how to look better in photos, especially for use in your online dating profiles. But hey… sometimes it’s good to test my advice against the real world. After all, it’s all well and good for me to sit here and make proclamations from on high, but hey! I could just be some keyboard jockey pulling ideas out of thin air.

So what better way to test things than by abusing the trust of with the help of some of my obliging readers?

After I put out the call on Twitter and and the Dr. NerdLove Facebook page, several of my readers kindly sent in photos of themselves from various dating sites for commentary and criticism. Now, I’d have no problem giving my thoughts about the matter, but where would that get us? So instead, I’ve rounded up a few of my good friends to share their thoughts on the photos.

How well does my advice stack up? Am I completely off my rocker about not looking at the camera? Should you include photos of you with an attractive woman? Let’s find out, shall we?

How It Works

All of the pictures chosen were submitted by readers of this blog. With the exception of some resizing, they have been untouched by me. Occasionally a reader submitted more than one photo; in those cases, I picked two or three in order to showcase the different opinions between poses. I zipped ‘em up and sent them along to the judges without commentary.

Gentlemen: Meet Your Judges

I reached out to several women of my acquaintance in order to gain a spectrum of ages and occupations; after all, if you want to meet women in their late 20s to early 30s, it hardly helps to get the opinion of an 18 year old, no? So without further ado, I give you your judges:

Amanda - 24, Production Assistant

Jennifer – 32, Web Tech

Catherine – 35, Librarian

Emily – 28, Interactive Development Manager

Caroline – 31, Teacher

Kelly – 26, Massage Therapist

So enough rambling from me. Take it away, ladies.


#1: The Man In The Mirror

Amanda: The bathroom cellphone pictures always remind me of girls on Facebook. It’s a little lazy and so over done that it’s a joke on the internet. If this were the first photo or the only photo I saw on a dating profile I don’t think I would stay on that page for long.

Jennifer:  I can not stand bathroom mirror pictures for dating profiles. Bathroom lights are not designed to make you look good.  They are designed to show you every flaw before you walk out into the world. His shirt may be brand new and freshly cleaned, but it looks worn out and dirty.  If the classic bathroom mirror pose is honestly the only picture you can get of yourself, at least be classy enough to remove the tampon bags from the background.

Caroline: Here we have a slanted photo taken by a guy who is clearly unable to pry himself away from his electronics enough to take the ear bud out of his ear. He has (his sister’s?) maxi pads in the back of the photo (unless those are diapers) and some sort of cleaning product. Sexy pictures are not taken in bathrooms– dumps are taken in bathrooms. And his mirror is dirty, which makes him look like he soiled his shirt. His facial expression does not get me excited either; he looks really, really bored. The shirt tells me nothing about his style, and I can’t get much of a sense of his body shape. Again, I would pass on this.

#2: Me and Johnny McGee

Catherine: I’d prefer if the photo weren’t rotated 45 degrees. He doesn’t seem happy. He’s not smiling. He looks like he’s waiting for the bus and forgot to bring something to keep him occupied… He looks like an attractive guy, but he also looks bored. I might respond to a message he sent, but I probably wouldn’t message him.

Kelly: To be fair, there’s nothing inherently wrong with this photo, but the first thing that came to mind the second I saw it was “pretentious high school senior photography” I can hear someone behind the camera saying “ok now look longingly off into the distance, as if you’re gazing into your future…or waiting for a cab”.

Jennifer:  I like this photo, but only if it was just one of the photos #2 had to offer.

Emily:Like Jennifer, I hope this isn’t the only picture #2 is offering. Having come from a long dating history of artsy, angsty nerds this photo sets off a few red flags for me. A shot that is probably supposed to come off as soulful and deep to me reads “brooding and bitter.” When I was 18 I thought “brooding” meant “mysterious, deep, and misunderstood”. At 28 I tend to think it means “unaddressed depression”.  As one shot of several it could be okay, if the others showed that he was a happy and fun person. This strikes me as the sort of shot someone includes because every other picture they have shows them in shorts and an old video game t-shirt. Its good to show you clean up nice but do yourself and favor and grab your nice shirt and a friend with a good camera and get some smiling shots.

#3 – A vs. B: The Metro

 Emily: I would say this is a pretty good pic. It’d be better if he was smiling, but he’s in a kitchen, he looks friendly, the lighting is warm, over all it gives a good vibe. The only thing that would give me pause is the fact that the seriousish look + buttoned-up shirt + gleaming kitchen appliances in the background make me think he’s way too type A for me. I know my “throw my purse wherever it lands when I walk in the door habit” would drive him nuts. If he’s not a type A personality, the pic could be improved with a smile and a glass of wine in his hand or something that makes him look just a tad mussed up. If he is a type A then this picture is perfect for the type of girls he wants to attract.

Amanda: This picture shows what an attractive guy he is, but nothing else. It’s a little boring.But I gotta say he has a pretty sweet kitchen.

Catherine: This isn’t my favorite of the two. It makes him look a little bit short, and the lighting on his face isn’t that great. It does show, however, that he’s comfortable in social situations, though the lady standing next to him seems as though she might think she has “dibs.”

Jennifer: She reads as someone who might not be as friendly to a new lady friend as he would like to imply.

Caroline: This picture is too far away.  He looks clean cut and pulled together, but this picture does not show off his body so much, and he looks short next to the girl.

#4: The Great Outdoors

Kelly: I’ve been on OKCupid for probably 8 years now, and there seems to be this unspoken contest between all the men on who has the manliest outdoorsy photo. There are so many of them that eventually I feel like I’m being yelled at. “THIS IS WHAT IM GOING TO MAKE YOU DO ON OUR FIRST DATE WHEN YOU SHOW UP WEARING HEELS!” It may not be what you intend, but just be aware that it is not terribly original. If you want to do an outdoorsy pic, I’d suggest either a really cool one that everyone says “oh wow” to, or one that means a lot to you that has a good story. Good stories make for good ice breakers.

Caroline: This is a nice photo in that it shows something about the guy’s interests. I wish he was looking straight at the camera so I could get more of a sense of his body. He looks really, really calm. I am guessing this guy is pretty quiet. It’s not off-putting but it’s not grabbing me either. I think that’s probably because he’s not my type.

Amanda: This picture is one that would catch my interest right away. It shows off an interest in the outdoors, his good looks and a charming smile. You can’t go wrong with this.

#5: The Crop

Jennifer: Props for choosing a photo that shows off his style.  Negs for choosing a photo where he had to cut out the girl he had his arm around.  I’m the type of person who immediately assumes that any girl who gets cut out of a photo is an ex.  Show me that it’s a shot of your and your friend, or pick a different picture.  Even so, I’d probably drop Steve a line, just to see if purple shirts are a regular thing for him. I’m a sucker for a purple shirt.

Emily: Seriously, don’t awkwardly crop out other girls. We will always assume they are exes and you have Issues with them still. Either stick to solo shots or group shots with context.

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Comments

  1. Hm, sorry I missed that call. It would have been interesting to get criticism on my current photo. Not really using it for dating right now, but it'd still be useful info.

  2. HA!!! They used mine,lol! I'll just learn from it. I actually got a pretty cute girl from it.

    The more you know *rainbow*

  3. Very cool to see real data points and how it compares with previous advice. Thanks for the input, y'all!

  4. Trisha Lynn says:

    Awesome kitchens were a deal closer for me back in my dating heyday. I agree with the comments about the athletic pictures, too; those would be breakers for me because I'm not very athletic.

  5. (#10) Yeahhhh, I needed to hear that. Now I just need to find an actually good picture of mine somewhere. To the Facebook!

  6. So, basically, have an updated kitchen, be as bland as possible, don't express hobbies (if geeky, if sporty, have at it), hire a photographer (or be lucky enough to know one who will do it for free), and look like you have a certain job (finance, or own your own company). The rest should not apply it seems.

    • Dr. NerdLove says:

      I see we have reached the "deliberately missing the point" part of the program.

      • I get the point of the article, but I see where he's coming from. These women seem so nitpicky. I guess online dating is tough for this reason. If the first impression is just a picture, I guess it has to be perfect for whoever is looking at it. Unfortunately you can't tell what someone is actually like by just looking at a photo of them, no matter what they are doing, what they have in the background, how artsy the photo is, or how professional/unprofessional it looks.

      • That's kind of the vibe I got from the responses, too. Honestly, it seems like good advice: show that you're physically fit and have it together. Wouldn't pretty much anyone say that those are good things?

        Be like Mr. Clean. ;)

    • Try "Have a background that appeals to the sort of woman you are interested in attracting, express hobbies that you want to share with your potential date, pick a decent photo, and look like you have your shit together."

      The guy with the guitar would have gotten higher marks in my book if the photo were more recent and he wasn't slouching back into a couch. As a LARPer myself I can understand the desire to include a picture of yourself looking like a cooler, more powerful version of yourself, #10 just didn't put in the *right* photo. Hell, my own profile has a couple of pictures of me in Steampunk and Victorian clothes because I wanted to showcase something that was important to me.

      • A guy looking put together in Steampunk clothes would knock it out of the park for me.

        Also, Squirrel has it right. The women seemed nit picky because it's a post that's entirely about offering constructive criticism. The key really is to express the part of yourself you want to use to connect with women, while still show casing what you look like in a positive light.

        • Dr. NerdLove says:

          Also worth noting: you can't please everyone. You'll only drive yourself mad if you try. Like Squirrel says, you need to target the sort of woman you want, not just "all women ever".

  7. Two examples that my friend were WTFing over today on Plenty Of Fish. Dude posted a pic of him with a blow up doll and one of four cooked pigs heads. Now, we understand that people do stupid crap at parties and that if there's a blow up doll around and you're drunk…. things happen I guess. I understand fetish and sex toys and I'm ok with people having and using them respectively but that is not a subject you bring up BEFORE date one. And, as a devout meat eater, four dead animal heads is just serial killer-ish. If I think my body has a chance of ending up in a ditch at the end of date OR you're flaunting your objectification on a site where you intend to catch a woman's attention and interest, you're doing it wrong.

    Show what you're interested in unless it's dismemberment and sex with plastic and you're not on a site that's about dismemberment and/or sex with plastic.

  8. I'm #3. I think this is an interesting article, but the comments are mostly based on the photo being the only one they have to make their choice when really you should have several that tell a more complete story. I think the primary one (me in my kitchen) should just give someone a really clear view or your face 'cause it will have to attract someone to click on it from only a 1-inch thumbnail. My other photos included me doing what I like to do – rock climbing, sailing, out with friends, flying airplanes. It's hard to get the whole story across in just 1 photo! Interesting that the panel seemed so threatened by the girl in my second photo. She is just a friend and the other guy in the photo is her live-in boyfriend! But that was a conscious effort on my part to show that I am comfortable around attractive girls and they are comfortable around me.

    • I don't think the panel was so much "threatened" as "saw some potentially bad body language." To put in Dr. Nerdlove's own terms, she's definitely pointing at you. Especially in the hips.

    • Not threatened, per se. But if a girl sees that picture, she's going to think she has competition. When I saw that picture, it made me stop and wonder if that was a picture of you and your ex before the break-up.

      If her body language was pointing more toward her boyfriend, then it would make me think, "Oh, that's just a friend, she's with someone else."

  9. I actually don't mind guys who crop out girls. Even if it is an ex… I just don't feel threatened by that. I've got plenty of exes and sometimes I go out and do fun stuff with them and take great pictures that really capture "me".

    Or maybe I'm just being forgiving because the guy in that pic was by far the hottest of the bunch.

    • Thank you. :) That girl wasn't an ex but I didn't want to put her up on my profile and I liked my look in that photo, so I went for the compromise. I followed the experts' advice and took it down, though. Now the cropping won't be awkward, only I will be!

  10. For those of you guys who seem to be missing the point, I'll lay it out for you to put a halt to the whole "So in short, be bland and clean and have a photographer buddy":

    Take a picture that tells the girl something about you. Let her see you and your face. Let it show that you know how to smile and enjoy doing something. Look relaxed and happy-confident. If you look too serious, depressed, or bored, you're sending us the message that you're pretentious, stiff, or not interested.

    For example, if I were on an online dating site, I'd immediately perk up at a guy with mild dark goth/punk appearance and a confident smirk-smile, a cat rubbing up against him smugly, and something Naruto-centric around him… like a PS3 with Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm in the background and one hand on the controller. That tells me how he looks and dresses; it tells me he owns a pet that clearly likes him (and is a plus for cat-lovers like me), and that he likes Naruto and gaming.

    That doesn't have to be a professional picture. In my mind, that's a picture I'd take of someone through normal social interaction: them just hanging out. They could probably get that picture by asking a sibling, roomie, or a parent to do it. Hell, I asked for my brother to take a picture of me when I got my new spiked collar altered. But I digress: the point is that this hypothetical picture is very casual, and it tells me a lot about the guy's interests– so it catches the attention of someone with similar interests. You're looking to match with someone, not dump a bucket of mystery meat in the water and see what you come up with.

    And furthermore, this hypothetical picture gives me a conversation starter if I want to message him. "Hey, I see you play Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm 3– do you do online multiplayer?" Bam, I just got an icebreaker I can use.

    ('Cause here's a secret– girls are just as afraid of rejection. Give them a way to approach without sounding totally lame. A cute guy who offers me nothing to work with is going to make me scrunch up my face as I ponder how to approach, and then move on.)

  11. RandomGuy47 says:

    This is really useful, well written advice. Provides a funny but meaningful respite from the nonsensical "here's how to pick up chicks" guides that pervade dating culture. I hope everyone who participated writes more.

  12. I agree with the comments about the athletic pictures, too; those would not serve me very well cuz I'm not very athletic.

Trackbacks

  1. […] First: Audit your photos. Most dating sites will send a thumbnail of your primary photo with your message. This can make the difference between her clicking through to check your profile or skipping to the next bachelor on the list. It’s vitally important that you use a photo that makes the right impression. […]

  2. […] First: Audit your photos. Most dating sites will send a thumbnail of your primary photo with your message. This can make the difference between her clicking through to check your profile or skipping to the next bachelor on the list. It’s vitally important that you use a photo that makes the right impression. […]

  3. […] First: Audit your photos. Most dating sites will send a thumbnail of your primary photo with your message. This can make the difference between her clicking through to check your profile or skipping to the next bachelor on the list. It’s vitally important that you use a photo that makes the right impression. […]

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