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This week: What are the best pictures for dating apps like Tinder, Hinge, Bumble and OKCupid? And how can guys look more photogenic and get more matches?
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Hey everyone, Harris O’Malley from doctornerdlove.com and this is Ask Dr. NerdLove, made possible by my generous patrons at patreon.com/DrNerdLove, and I am here today to YOUR questions about love, sex, dating and self-improvement. If you’ve got a short dating advice question you’d like to have answered, share it in the comments and maybe you’ll see YOUR question featured on here.
This week’s question comes from Hari Narayan Khasla who asks “How do you approach taking photos for a dating app?”
This is an interesting one because it ties into a LOT of issues guys have with dating apps — usually in the context of why women aren’t responding to their Tinder profiles.
A lot of guys tend to blame that on women being too picky or having all the power or the rather thoroughly debunked 80/20 horseshit, but aside from the different ways that men and women use swiping apps like Tinder — something we talked about in a previous episode; I’ve linked to it in the description — is that a lot of guys treat online dating as a sort of slop-and-go situation. They bang out the account without really thinking about it, grab a few photos they liked from their Facebook account — especially since that’s usually the only ones they have — and then call it a day.
Oh sure, they say they’ll get back around to revising things. But let’s be real, you never have, have you.
The problem with this approach is two-fold. The first is that it makes your profile look sloppy at best, or begrudging at worst, like you can’t believe you have to lower yourself to be here.
And honestly, it’s 2020, it’s time to stop pretending you’re too good to be on OKCupid.
But the bigger problem is that this creates a poor picture of who you are. Your dating app profile is how you’re introducing yourself to literally thousands of strangers and while some of the photos you posted to Facebook may be good for you and your friends, they tend to make a really poor first impression for people you want to date.
And if we’re being real here, dating apps, even more profile-forward ones, are primarily a visual medium. People are gonna look at your pictures first and then check your text, so you want to make sure you’re putting your best face forward. You want your photos, especially the first couple that a potential match sees to be SHARP.
Now this usually leads to a lot of folks complaining about how this means most guys are shit out of luck and we’re back to the whole 80/20 thing again. But the truth is that most of what we consider “good looks” is honestly just presentation; all you have to do is look up pictures of Brad Pitt between movies. Does he look like the guy who defined sexiness for decades or the guy who tried to snake your spot at the bar at Chuy’s. Take a goddam step back Steve, you SAW that I’ve been waiting for that couple to vacate those seats. This isn’t Nam, there’re RULES>
Knowing how to take a good photo — and the right strategy for which photos you want to include on your dating profile — is key. So here’re 5 tips for better dating app photos.
Tip #1. This is important: know your cameras. Different cameras are going to give you different results. A photo is a 2D representation of a 3D object transferred through a series of refractive lenses, which is part of why you look different in the mirror than you do in photographs.
It’s NOT a perfect replica of what you actually look like. There’s always going to be some distortion involved. How much and what’s being distorted is going to depend on a number of of issues, including the size of the lens, the distance from the sensor, the focal length and the distance of the lens from the subject. The closer the subject is to the lens, the more distorted things will be. This is why you look like a freakish mutant when you accidentally activate the selfie cam on your smartphone when you’re trying to take a photo; you weren’t expecting to use it so you’re closer than you would be normally.
Most of the photos on dating apps these days are taken with smartphones. It’s understandable — we all have a photo studio in our pockets at all times and the cameras are getting pretty good. But there’s going to be a notable difference between a smartphone, a fixed-lens camera — the kind folks used to carry around for party pics — and a proper DSLR. And frankly, you’ll get the best results from a DSLR and someone who knows how to use it.
This, incidentally, is why I’m a fan of getting a professional photographer to shoot at least a couple pics for your dating app; there’re plenty who actually specialize in photos for dating apps these days.
But failing that, if you’ve got a friend who’s a shutterbug and actually knows how to do decent portraiture or headshots, buy ‘em a beer or two in exchange for a couple pics and some candids — more on that in a second.
Tip #2: Lighting can be your best friend… or your worst enemy. The position and the quality of the light when you get your photo taken can make or break a photo. Depending where the major light source is coming from, you can have a photo that makes you look like an angel or like someone who really wants to lick the inside of a stranger’s ribcage.
Overhead lighting, for example— such as your average ceiling light or when the sun is directly above you — will make your eyes look like pits and give an extra shadow to every flaw on your skin. Hope you like the Edward James Olmos look…
Small, direct, harsh light — like the light from your phone’s flash — will also fuck up your pictures and make everything look bright, plastic and overexposed.
The quality of light matters too. Candlelight and firelight can soften things and make it look warm and romantic. Fluorescent lighting, on the other hand, is the goddamn devil. It’s almost perfectly designed to flatten everything out, wash out your skin tone and make you look like a jaundiced corpse while also highlighting every blemish or flaw your skin has and a few you didn’t even know where there.
In an ideal world, you want diffused, natural light. You can get this in a number of ways, such as during the “golden hours” outside or when you can get indirect, diffused sunlight. It’s soft, it evens everything out and it makes all those little imperfections disappear.
And a quick tip if you want to look like a goddamn magician: when someone asks you to take their picture with their phone, at say, a party or the bar, take the picture with THEIR phone but use the lit SCREEN of yours as a light. Hold their phone with one hand, then hold yours up and at a slight angle. The pictures will look a thousand percent better and you will look like a genius.
Tip #3: know your angles. Have you ever wondered why women consistently seem to take better photos than men do? It’s because they taken more photos in general… which means that they know which angles are the most flattering for them.
I know it’s a cliche that’s practically older than steam, but there’s truth to that whole “get my good side” thing. Nobody’s head and face is perfectly proportional — apparently except for Denzel Washington’s, anyway — and some people are even visibly off. The more familiar you are with your face and the way you look in photos, the better you know which angles, directions and poses work best for you.
And the best way to learn? Take a tip from women and start getting comfortable with selfies. The more photos you have of yourself — especially ones where you were in control of the camera — the more you’ll learn which angles or poses help show you in your best light.
And while you’re learning, a little bonus tip: make sure that you give some contrast between your jawline and your neck. Tilting your head down slightly and jutting your chin out JUST A LITTLE — as though an invisible thread were tugging at it — can make your face look stronger and more defined, even if you don’t have a chin like Bruce Campbell.
Tip #4: Use your photos to tell the story of your life. Everyone who’s looking at your dating app profile has one question that MUST be answered: what would my life be like if I were dating this guy?
Your photos should be the answer to this question. That’s why you want more than just one photo from the Sears Portrait center on your Tinder profile; you want a mix of photos that illustrate the different facets of your life. That means having photos of you and your friends out having fun, photos that show more of what you like to do and who you are as a person.
You don’t need to look like you spend all your time partying in Vegas or living your entire life on sun-drenched beaches in the Maldives, but some well composed shots — especially ones where you’re not looking directly at the camera — serve to show people what your life is like and what it might be like if they were dating you.
Some of these can be solo — and you can work with a photographer to get those right — and some should be from being in the moment. And if you and your friends aren’t the “hey, let’s grab a photo” kind of people… well, you might want to be the one to who suggests that everyone get together and take a picture or two to document the occasion.
In fact, getting together with your buds specifically to go hang out some place cool and grab some photos that you can share amongst yourselves and post on your dating apps or your Instagram is actually kinda fun.
Which actually brings me to tip #5: Show your personality. Too many people treat their dating apps like SERIOUS BIZNESS and they need to be the baddest of the bad and the coolest of the cool to get attention from women. And the cold hard truth is: those guys are boring as SHIT.
Don’t be afraid to have some photos that are just funny or silly. Maybe you’re making a weird face, maybe it’s some absurd thing you and your friends decided to do or a bunch of you decided to have fun with a photo booth at the bar or someone’s wedding. These tell your potential matches much more about you than all of those pictures of you standing charismatically on a mountain, posing with the latest goddamn fish or staring broodingly into the middle distance.
The most attractive quality a man can have is to be fun, and having a sense of humor — even whimsy — in your photos can go a long way towards making the difference between someone swiping left… or deciding that you two were a match made in heaven.
So that’s going to do it for this episode. Thanks for tuning in. If you’re digging this, let me know in the comments and be sure to share some of your tips for a perfect dating app photo. Of course, if you’ve got a question you want answered on here, leave that in the comments as well. Who knows, maybe the question I’ll answer next time will be yours.
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