Pictures are by far the most important part of your online dating profile. And it’s not just for Tinder, where you swipe left or right on pictures that you see. Even more “conservative” online dating websites like eHarmony or Elite Singles recommend getting good professional images. The easiest thing would be to hire a professional portrait photographer, but here are a few tips you can use to improve your images even when they are taken by your friend with a phone.
When I shoot men for their online dating profiles, I only really have 1 rule that I follow. Make them look cool. First of all, what does it even mean?
Wikipedia defines coolness as an aesthetic of attitude, behavior, appearance, and style which is generally admired. Easier said than done? Actually, it’s not that hard. The following are tips I give all my male customers before and during our online dating photo session.
Tips for online dating photos
Stand up straight and smile! A typical grandmother’s advice… No! I think standing straight makes us look stiff and that’s the opposite of cool. Sure, we can shoot a man standing straight, wearing a leather jacket and Aviator Ray-Bans. Especially from a lower position, making them look larger than life. But, I’d leave this pose to Tom Cruise, for the rest of us, a comfortable stance is much more appropriate.
Put your weight on one foot. Left or right, doesn’t matter, whichever feels more comfortable. This will cause your body to slump a little and create a nice curve, and a curve is much more pleasing to the eye than a straight line. Another option is to cross legs, especially when leaning against something like a tree or a side of a building.
During my sessions, I will direct my male clients to swap the legs they are standing on and capture the in-between poses. To get the most variety of the standing poses, I will direct them to stand facing me, as well as standing at a 45 deg angle, both left and right.
What to do with the hands
Hands are very difficult to pose, so I don’t pose them at all. If a man is comfortable being photographed, his hands would just hang next to his body and look slightly curved. This can be good for a few images, however, in most cases, their fingers would be straight, which indicates tension. And that looks stiff to me. To avoid that, I either hide their hands or give them something to do.
In a typical male pose, I would ask them to just put their hands in their pockets. Nice and easy and it actually looks good. Back pockets are also great to hide the hands.
We don’t want to hide the hands in every photo. So, I give them something to do. Holding onto their jacket is one option. Holding a cup of coffee is another. Holding a prop they brought, like a book or a football is also great. Fixing their shirt sleeves… There are tons of things we can ask them to do, and when their hands are doing something, they will look very natural.
Confidence and approachability. I don’t remember where I heard it first, but that is how I like to direct my clients during the shoot. I want them to look confident, without overdoing it. And I want them to look approachable. Meaning, people should not be scared of approaching or talking to them. How to achieve that? Easy… 🙂
Confidence comes from the eyes, and approachability comes from the mouth. How? Like this. Squinting your eyes very slightly will make you look more confident. When your eyes are wide open, it shows that you are either scared or unsure. That’s not confidence. By squinting them slightly, you show that you are very calm, and very comfortable exactly where you are. Try it in front of a mirror. Then check out some of the celebrities or movie actors. You will see that most of them have their eyes slightly squinted.
Approachability, on the other hand, comes from your mouth. Make sure you have at least a tiny smile on your face. No need to show teeth and a slight smirk works as well. What it tells the viewer is that you are a friendly person, and if they come over to talk to you, you will not bite their head off.
To smile or not to smile
Smile, by all means, but not in every photograph. A man who doesn’t smile at all takes himself way too seriously and a man who smiles in every picture could look like a clown. I think most images in an online dating profile should show a man with a nice friendly smile, but I’d use 1 or 2 photos that show a more serious, or more mature facial expression.
The smile should obviously be natural. Telling someone to smile will not get a natural expression, in most cases. What I do is try to tell a joke, and have my camera ready just in case they find it funny. I don’t have many jokes, so I need to be prepared, and also, a natural smile lasts for only a fraction of a second. So I have to capture it quickly before it becomes stale.
Look into the camera or away
I shoot online dating portraits to look like they were taken by a person very close to the subject. I want there to be a good connection between the subject and the photographer. This makes the pictures look authentic. Now, how can I show a great connection to someone I just met? Well, my friendly personality helps, but I also want them to interact with the camera. I want that piercing look in their eyes as if they were listening to a great story. I want them to look at me(the lens), not through me. This is the main difference between a modeling shot and a portrait.
When a person I’m shooting is looking into the camera I want their eyes to be engaged, but I also shoot a few pictures with my subject looking away from the lens. This serves 2 purposes. One is simply the fact that they look a little like a model. And that can make them look a little more attractive. Another reason is to allow the female viewer to get a good look at him.
What do I mean by that? If a man has this piercing, engaged look in his eyes, it’s almost intimidating to look at him. When he is looking away from the camera, a woman can then properly check them out. It’s what I’ve been told by some of my female customers, and it makes sense.
You can check out my portfolio on the online dating photography page here on this website.