Frequently Asked Questions, Tips & Introduction Guide: App Choice, Bio Optimization, Photos + Prompts To Use For Online Dating Apps. How To Write A Dating Profile. Intro To Dating Sites.

It’s very tempting to jump into the deep end and immerse yourself with dating apps. Dating apps are addictive and seemingly simple and straightforward to use. With that said, there is plenty of self-sabotage and mistakes people make when creating a profile.

You only get one change at a first impression and with online dating that couldn’t be more true, so I created this FAQ page to help you navigate the online dating waters. As an online dating photographer and consultant based in San Francisco, I have gather years of research to put together this guide to help folks who are brand new or have struggled with dating apps over the years.

Online dating is a misnomer – dating sites are merely tools for introductions. Online dating should be no different from meeting people offline. With that said, anonymity encourages bad etiquette, check-boxes create unhealthy expectations, upfront information creates a false sense of security, easy profile setup creates lazy behavior, people read too much into matches (not a good KPI), access to numerous profiles provides opportunity for temptation or unwillingness to settle down.

I have helped numerous people optimize their profiles while maintaining authenticity, approachability and a touch of candidness. Below are some tips to navigate the online dating waters (I provide more detailed, customized advice for clients). Click through a few frequently asked questions about dating apps, photos, bios, swiping strategy and more below.

For studies, articles, surveys and more about online dating, check out my Online Dating Resource Guide.

Follow me on Instagram for travel updates to see when I am in your town. 

Limited Time Special On Dating Profile Critiques!


How many photos should I use in a dating profile?

You want to use at least 4 pictures but no more than 6 for a dating profile. The more photos you post the more harshly you will be judged i.e. you are only as good looking as your worst photo. With that said, some dating apps like Hinge require you to have exactly 6 photos.

Do looks matter?

Unfortunately looks do matter. A photo is the first thing a person sees on your profile. First impressions carry the most weight with dating apps. Furthermore, it doesn’t matter how you look in person if you don’t photograph decently. Plenty of people look better in person than in their photos which doesn’t help their case on dating apps.

Is it ok to use memes in your dating photos?

Some people who are attractive can get away with it but largely you should not do this. It’s immature, tacky and generally used to distract others from your sub-par photos.

What should you wear in your online dating photos?

You want versatility in your photos to highlight environments, situations, fashion sense and lifestyle. Dressing for the person you want to attract is what you should aim for (instead of dressing for comfort). Read more about attire here:

What are the photo app dimensions required by dating apps?

They vary by app, some more restrictive than others. Best bet is to aim for square photos just like Instagram but there is some flexibility when it comes to cropping, borders and such.Read this guide for help on specific dating apps like Hinge, Match, Bumble, OkCupid, Coffee Meets Bagel and Tinder:

How old should your online dating photos be?

The rule of thumb is that you should use photos as long as they depict how you would appear on a first date (in terms of weight, style, hair cut, hair color, wrinkles, facial hair etc.). If you make material changes to your appearance you should update your photos. For most people, photos should be taken within the last 2-3 years. Some people can get away with photos beyond that timeframe but most can’t or at least should not.

Should I look away my dating photos? Should I smile in my dating photos?

No! While those photos might solicit likes, they don’t necessarily result in quality dates. Be yourself, be candid. Smile naturally, don’t force it. Look at the camera, look interested and present not self-absorbed nor shy. Looking away might signal insecurity, hiding something or general shyness. Read this for additional insight.  For advice on photos, check out this photo intro.

What are the best photos to use for a dating app profile?

That depends on your demographics, lifestyle, and how you want to market yourself. Most people think modeling, portrait and professional headshots are best but these are often staged, airbrushed and lifeless. Most people today can detect such bland and forced photos. If you want to get the most out of your photos, get some that reveal a side of you that is flattering, insightful, candid and even self-deprecating. For additional advice on photos, check out this photo intro.​ For the most cliche photos on dating app these days, check out this dating app photo bingo card.

What size should my photos be for my dating profile?

Requirements will vary by apps but if you maintain square profiles or close to it but you can view exact dimensions here:

Do you offer photo editing services for dating app photos?

The photos I take during the session are lightly edited for composition, shadows, lighting, cropping and detail. I don’t photoshop images to artificially / cosmetically enhance them. I believe you should be yourself when it comes to photos. Similarly during the review process I will review existing photos and see if there are any worth using and if necessary I will edit them as such at no cost (with any dating photo session). Don’t fall for the trap of thinking everyone photoshops their images, while some do, it is common for folks to not advance past 1st dates because of misrepresentation in photos.

Should I use photos with my dog, cat or pet?

Dog pics on Tinder can work fine but be sure to limit photos to just one photo in your profile, don’t stage the photo, don’t mouth-hug your dog and don’t use it as your main dating profile photo. Cats will reduce your chances for matching but you might connect with someone who feels strongly about cats. Lastly make sure the dog is yours. Dogfishing is not encouraged.

How do I look more attractive in my dating photos?
Should I hire a professional photographer for dating portraits and headshots?

When it comes to professional dating portrait photography, I am a firm no against this. Most photographers are portrait photographers that take corny, staged, stiff, and photoshopped images that do poorly on dating apps.

Should I use plandid photos on my dating profile?

No, these photos are generally too staged, stiff and are obviously fake. They resemble stock photos, are cliche and suggest there is a high level of photoshop involved to make you look better than you actually look. Stick with natural, candid photos.

GUYS: For additional tips on which photos are the best to ones to use on your dating profile click here.


Should I use a dating app ghostwriter to write my bio and send messages for me?

No! I provide clients guidelines on what to focus on in their bios but I do not write bios myself. Character and personality will be lost in translation if you hire someone to do this. Secondly, you deprive yourself of the chance to experience the exploration of getting to know someone through those messages. Some services are known to use a fake dog, outfit, photoshopped images, to mislead women. Don’t do it. Be yourself but be yourself on a good day. Read more on my take about the subject here:

Is it ok to lie about my age or height in my dating site profile?

No! Being truthful is important in online dating. If you lie about age or height right off the bat, what else might you be lying about? Starting off with a lie is a recipe for failure and frustration. It signals insecurity or strong likelihood for lying about other items in your profile. Read more about this here:

I have kids, is it ok to use photos of my children in my dating app photos and profile?

No, I highly recommend you don’t for privacy reasons mostly. People understand kids are the center of your universe (or at least should be) but avoid photos with them. Instead, list how many kids you have and their ages in your bio. Read more about this here:

Is it ok to use a screen name or initials instead of my real name on a dating app profile?

No, it is highly recommended you don’t. Using a screen name is very dated. Even Match is moving people to using their real names. Using a screen name or initial signals insecurity, lacking transparency. If you use a screen name or initial prepare to receives fewer matches, interest. Read this post on usernames: 

How do you write a good dating profile for a man? woman? What are some examples on how to write about yourself?

Passions, stories, curiosities, interests, travels are all good places to start. Being negative or deal-breakers is generally not advised: Read more about it here:

What are some good Hinge and Bumble profile prompts?
What should I avoid in a dating profile headline?

Being too cliche, vague, boring or obscure. Finding a balance between socially aware yet being authentic and interesting is ideal.


What are the demographics for Hinge, Match, Bumble, CMB (monthly average users)?

There is no definitive answer on this but a couple surveys are about right highlighting age and gender splits: SurveyMonkey Intelligence 2016 and International Trends. Every article, survey out there is based on some sample size and don’t necessarily provide the right drivers for success nor accurate expectations. After our photo session, I will provide specific guidance on what I recommend for you based on age, location, personality etc. 

If you are purely interested in apps with the most users, take a look at this survey:

Does height matter on dating apps?

Generally speaking yes. Dating apps lack in person first impressions so people use photos and biographical information to filter folks. Almost all women prefer men their height or taller, most prefer men 3 inches taller than them (to accommodate heel height). Few women prefer guys that are 5-6 inches taller and/or 6 feet tall but this is a small number. Don’t lie about your height.

What are the best photos, profile prompts, conversation starters and bios for Bumble?

Bumble is a great app but it requires effort and knowledge on how to navigate. Read up on my Bumble blog posts for help:

What are the online dating apps for relationships?

There is no clear cut answers on this – it really depends on your age, location, background, looks, photos, personality and what you seek. For some it could be Hinge, others Coffee Meets Bagel, Tinder for some and Bumble or the League for others.

When you work with me I will analyze your dating history and experience with apps, tell you how you can improve your bio, photos, messages, app choice and app strategy. Knowing your competition, playing up your strengths and willing to put in the time, effort and patience others will not will go a long way to improving your chances for success.

Read this guide on some general overviews on some of my favorite dating apps:

Are paid dating apps better than free dating sites?

Not necessarily. Only requires you to pay a subscription to send and receive messages. Most other dating sites are free to use but charge you for expediting your application, providing more profiles, undoing accidental swipes, sending a super-like or super-swipe or allowing you to access additional filters and preferences in your search. I typically advise clients to not pay for such bells and whistles when it comes to add-ons but in a few instances it can be beneficial.

How do I set up an account for Facebook dating? Should I use Facebook dating?

It is only available in select markets and even then not everyone will have access right away. You will see a notification banner at the top (main Facebook app) to test out the new feature or you can lookout for the heart icon (top right if/when it becomes available). It will be rather slow in terms of traction early on so I don’t put a lot of weight into using it early on as a serious option. In fact, the Facebook secret crush feature is kind of creepy. For more of my thoughts about the new product from Facebook, click here.

Do dating apps notify matches or profiles of screenshots?

No, they do not. 

Is online dating worth it? Is online dating safe?

This depends on many factors including demographics, what you seek, effort, location, age, priorities in life etc. Please read this detailed post before diving into dating apps.

Nothing is ever completely safe but there are ways to reduce exposure to scams, catfishers etc. Read this:

What are the best photos, prompts and answers for Hinge app?

Hinge is one of the most popular dating apps for relationship minded folks. For help with photos, prompts, captions, bios, conversation starters are more read my Hinge blog posts: 

What are some red flags to be aware of when online dating?

There are no guaranteed red flags nor is this an exhaustive list of red flags but if you notice several of these things surfacing on profiles, messages and behavior then take note.

How do you spot fake accounts and profiles on dating apps?

There are no guaranteed ways to be 100% certain but there are ways through profile analysis, reverse images searches, patience and questions to reduce chances of being scammed. Read this for more info: 

What are the best online dating apps for Jewish singles?

There are a few options to choose from and I go over the pros and cons of each in this article below:

What are the biggest and most common lies people tell on dating apps?
How do I reset my dating profile, account?


What is considered overly eager + aggressive messaging on dating apps?

You should express excitement but avoid appearing stalker-ish. Be direct, timely and transparent. Do not reply immediately but also do not make the person wait. Respond 1-3 days after matching and reply within 24 hours for subsequent messages. It is bad etiquette to swipe right on someone you are not interested in. In fact if you don’t respond or message people you match with it can hurt your ELO score. 

Should you ever super-like or super swipe on Tinder and Bumble?

Super liking and super swiping can be seen as a bit aggressive, eager. How can you tell if you really like someone before meeting or messaging them? Also, people who typically welcome and respond to such behavior are typically shallow, insecure or looking for validation. Be enthusiastic, be prompt but no need to be overly agressive. Would you tell someone you really like them at a bar or cafe within the first 2 minutes of meeting them. How creepy would that be?

What is the etiquette after matching on a dating app?

I personally think you should not swipe right on someone unless you are generally interested in them or are curious to learn more about the person. Casually swiping right without an intention to write them, get to know them or possibly go on a date with them is rude. In terms of conversation starters, check out this guide I put together.

For more detailed info on online dating etiquette, read this exhaustive post: 

What are some good conversation starters for dating apps?

The best conversation starters are ones that are natural, specific and take into consideration photos, bio information, captions or prompts used in profile. Copying and pasting lines is never a good idea. Cliche openers are a sure way of illustrating laziness and lack of creativity. 

For additional tips, check out this post I wrote on conversation starters.

Should you like or message first on dating apps like Hinge and Match?

Always message. Likes are lazy, show no effort and lack sincerity. If you are looking for a hookup and trying to play it cool, perhaps go for the like but most of the advice is geared toward relationship focused, mature adults. Read more about it here: 

Do you have any tips or recommendations on first date etiquette?


Should you date during the coronavirus? Tips for dating apps during Covid-19
What are some podcasts, books and resources I should check out for online dating?

Read Modern Romance  by Aziz Ansari; Maureen O’Connor (New York Magazine’s Sex Lives Podcast)Great Economist article on dating trends. For you introvert’s check out Susan Cain’s Quiet.  

Be sure to check out this resource guide of all blogs, podcasts, studies, articles, ted talks and more about dating culture, online dating and more.

What is an ELO rating system score? What is the Gale-Shapely algorithm?

ELO score is a ‘desirability’ score Tinder’s algorithm uses to rank users. Higher score, more visible your profile is to others. Improve your ELO score with good photos. Similarly Hinge uses the Gale-Shapely algorithm to score profiles to show users.

Do you ever travel to see clients outside the San Francisco Bay Area?

Yes, on occasion. I travel to cities all the time. Follow me on Instagram for updates or get a group of friends to see if they are interested in a photoshoot and I might come to your city. My favorite cities to visit: Los Angeles, New York (Brooklyn), Chicago, Boston, Seattle, Portland. 

Do you offer profile critiques remotely?

Yes, I do! I offer this with photo packages all the time but I now offer them remotely for clients unable to come to me or meet me during my travels. You can read more about the offerings here!

What are some psychological effects of online dating?

Online dating can be an effective tool for meeting people outside your routine and daily life. It can also lead to self-doubt, anxiety, depression and lead people to become isolated from friends and society. Read more about the dangers of online dating here:

What is dating in San Francisco like?

I wrote a pretty exhaustive piece here, take a look:

As for gender ratios, check out this data set I pulled from across various regions in the San Francisco Bay Area, Southern California, Pacific Northwest and Northeast United States. 

Any tips on how to meet people offline, in real life?
Do you offer any matchmaking services?

I am currently only working with photos I meet in person for photos or virtually through profile critiques. With that said, I ask all clients if they would possibly like be introduced with other of my clients who I have screened (usually 2-4 hours or more personally). If that is of interest to you, please contact me for more details.

Why is online dating so hard?

Like all things in life, it requires patience, skills, focused effort as well as good photos, prompts, app choice, answers, communication skills, appearances etc. More details here: 

Do looks matter?

Yes, they do, but there is more to dating app profiles than just looks. Good photos (yes, attractive people can take bad, unflattering, cringe photos), stylish looks (looking lazy or looking like a post from Midtown Uniform is not going to separate you from others), attractive smiles (creepy smiles and intense stares can offset your looks), and flattering poses and enviroments (avoid gym, car, bathroom, bedroom selfies).

Do guys care about height?

They do in the sense that they feel that height will limit their available options given that most women prefer to date guys a few inches taller than them but many guys wouldn’t mind dating a woman their height or a few inches taller.

Can you find a soulmate on a dating app?

Yes, absolutely. A number of friends, family members and clients have met their significant other and spouses on dating apps. Like all good things in life, it’s not easy but I will work with you to find that special someone.

Online dating apps are meant to introduce people – you don’t date online. Exchange a few messages and then take things offline. Dating apps are not a platform where you share every detail of your life nor should you pin all your hopes on one person. Don’t put too much pressure on a first date – “Is this the one?” Ask yourself, “do I want to see this person again?”

Also, do not stop offline dating. You should continue to go to the gym, go to happy hours with friends, join hiking clubs, take cooking classes etc. If you are down and out and hoping meeting someone online will lift your spirits, you will be severely disappointed. You are not ready to date someone if you are not happy with yourself.

About Eddie Hernandez 

Eddie Hernandez is a professional photographer specializing in natural, candid online dating photos. Featured in the SFGate, ABC7News, East Bay Express, Salon; contributor to Good Men Project, Plenty Of Fish and Meddle. In addition to photos, he provides guidance around app choice, bio optimization, messaging techniques, wardrobe advice and date ideas.

Dating Profile Critique

For those of you who are remote or virtual dating help and are looking for an online dating profile critique you can read more about my services here.

For other helpful online dating tips check out my blog for more helpful advice:

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