When In Doubt, Smile – What Your Online Dating Photos Say About You.

Whenever I get new one-on-one dating coaching clients, the first thing I do is pay for professional online dating photos. Believe me, nobody’s more of a profile snob than yours truly, and I’ll be the first to acknowledge that if people don’t find you attractive, it doesn’t matter if you write like Shakespeare.

When I work with companies like LookBetterOnline and DatingHeadshots, I do my best to ensure that in taking pro photos, they come out really naturally. Nobody wants to see your Star Search photo shoot, with your chin in your hand, or your 3 piece suit, or your blue marbled background. We want to see YOU.

Which is why this article, forwarded to me by superstar intern Cat, was so validating. People are finally learning to put their best foot forward, according to an OkCupid study.

Your photos tell your story. Interesting. Happy. Smiling. Active.

You don’t want to see the polished version of someone, airbrushed in flattering light. You want to see what he/she really looks like. When I was dating online, my primary photo was a professional shot (which looked like just a great natural snapshot), and the rest of my photos were from “real life”: a picture of me and my Mom dressed up in the back of a limo, a picture of my sister and friends out at the beach in the Hamptons, a picture of me, standing outside the Boathouse in Central Park, a picture of me and a buddy dressed up for Halloween. A cross-section of my life.

And in every single photo, I had a big, broad, smile. You couldn’t look at any of my photos and say “this one is better than this one.” They all showed me having fun, looking happy, spending time with a variety of people. This is what’s attractive to others. This is what’s attractive to YOU.

So today, check out your own online dating photos. Are there any photos where you’re not smiling? Toss ’em. Any photos where you’re not in them because you’ve featured your cat, dog, ocean or mountain view? Toss ’em. Any photos where it’s hard to see your face because you’re in a crowd of friends? Toss ’em. Any photos where your friends are appreciably better looking than you? Toss ’em. Any photos where you don’t look as good as you do in your main one? Toss ’em.

Your photos tell your story. Interesting. Happy. Smiling. Active. Consistent.

Get ’em in the door with a natural looking pro shot, seal the deal with a natural sounding one-of-a-kind profile, and you’ll be AMAZED at how much more fun online dating will become for you.

Join our conversation (14 Comments).
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  1. 1

    I have seen some crazy profile pics. The craziest one? A guy in a wheelchair getting a lap dance. Of course, nothing wrong with the wheelchair but the lap dance? Or, my favorite, the one with the ‘ex’ blacked out. The one I hate the most? People standing in the mirror taking a picture with their phone, I mean…don’t people have friends? Can’t you find anyone, even some random person on the street to take a picture of you? Please no more pictures on cell phones or the pictures of you throwing back a cold one.

  2. 2


    Some people are REALLY uncomfortable in front of the camera when other people are taking the pics- but are extremely good photographers themselves. So, the cell phone pic is perfect for these people. THey know how to take a good shot without making it obvious that it’s a cell phone shot.

  3. 3

    I purposely posted less photos so I’d have fewer garbage emails to wade through.    It becomes too overwhelming and frustrating when  all I get is two-word messages from men who obviously didn’t read my profile –  just looked at the pictures.   Am I the only one who feels this way?  

  4. 4

    #1 online dating photo peeve:   People who post pictures of themselves wearing SUNGLASSES, dark shades, anything that covers your eyes.   it doesn’t look cool…how can they not know this???
    Never ceases to amaze.

  5. 5

    I’ve put several photos of me on the dating site I’m with, but its no good me paying to get profesional photos done.
    You would need to be magician to make my mug look good.

  6. 6

    Any suggestions if you REALLY do look at lot better in real life than in pictures? Everyone tells me that this is true. Even people who eventually meet me in real life after seeing the pics? I feel like I’m missing out on a higher ranking of men because of this. ( I know, I know, this sounds shallow).

  7. 7

    @Jane –

    There is not much you can do if you (like me) just plain and simple “don’t photograph well”, except invest time and money in professional photo’s. Or if you’re lucky enough to have a friend who is a pro or highly skilled amateur photographer, ask them if they’d consider doing your pics in return for dinner/babysitting/some non-cash reimbursement.

    I’ve sucked it up and spent hundreds of dollars over the past  years on 2 different sets of professional photo’s so that I at least have a few photo’s where I look decent and accurately represent my looks.
    Evan’s advice to get candid/action photo’s taken by friends unfortunately just does not work for me – about once  in 10 years I’ll  look OK  in a candid pic; the rest of the time I pretty much look like hell in most  candid pics.

    I still don’t get much attention online, but at least I’ve done about the best I can in the “recent and accurate photo” department. My advertising is truthful! Which is not the case in many online profiles in my experience.

    The one thing I haven’t tried is professional “boudoir” photography – as fun as it sounds (I have friends who’ve done it)  I have the feeling  that using those pics online  may attract the exact people I would prefer to avoid… 😉

    If you do present better “in person” than “virtually”, then do as much socializing “in person” as you can – don’t rely on online dating sites as your sole or major method of meeting people. And if you happen to get some good “smiling & having fun” pics taken while you’re socializing IRL, then add them to your online profile.

    And make sure that the text of your profile totally rocks, so that if some one does like your pics enough to read further, they will be entertained/inspired by what they see.

  8. 8

    RE: Jane’s #6
    If you really feel as though you’re not looking your best in your photos and that it’s costing you men, then I’d follow Evan’s advice and pay a professional photographer.   If they’re good then they should make you look wonderful and natural.   And this is coming from someone who’s not a big fan of professional photos on dating websites.

  9. 9
    Katarina Phang

    Yup, the first things that men always said when emailing me was how beautiful my smile -and my eyes- were and entertaining and funny -or one of the best- my profile was.   Photos and prose (2 Ps) are vital for anyone to get quality potential dates.   Your prose should reflect your personality and couple it with dashing smiley pictures, you won’t be able to keep up with all those emails.
    It always works for me.   That was how my husband found me (he always told everyone then how my profile was so intriguing he just had to write me -and 3 times until I responded to him because I had too many to keep up with-…it pays to be a writer 🙂 ).

  10. 10
    Jack @ I Love Your Accent

    @Princess — totally agree…I see this all the time and just don’t understand how anyone can think that covering up your eyes on an ONLINE dating profile would be a good idea.

  11. 11

    Seems kinda extreme to go to a professional for an online dating site.   Granted there are some really bad pics out there which I have no idea why people would use them, but getting professional pics is over the top.   natural, but good pics are ONLY what you should use.

  12. 12

    I don’t get the shirtless pictures. Or the shirtless pictures, of a guy standing in what is clearly his bathroom looking at himself in the mirror.

  13. 13
    Sara Malamud

    I don’t agree with ”getting professional pictures is over the top”. Some people are camera shy and need some advice. It may not be honest the photo shop to erase lines and make eyes more blue or more green, but having a professional taking good shots is a great idea.
    Sara Malamud

  14. 14


    I had professional photos taken. I look like a model in the photos and not very many people message me because I am not smiling. I’m going to try again with smiling pics even though I look average when I am smiling. Happy and fun  will probably get a better response.



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