Online dating is a misnomer – dating sites are merely tools for introductions. Online dating should be no different than 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.
As an online dating photographer and profile coach here in the San Francisco Bay Area, 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
How many photos should I use in my dating profile?
Definitely at least 4 photos but no more than 6. Anything about that, 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.
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.
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.
BIO / ABOUT ME SECTION
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. Additionally I advise clients on how to spot ghostwriters on dating apps/sites. Check out this recent Vice story on one such service. They used a fake dog, outfit, photoshopped images, to mislead women – even the reporter felt guilty. The women quickly shared their disgust. Don’t do it. Be yourself but be yourself on a good day.
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.
I have kids, is it ok to use photos with 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.
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.
What are the demographics for Hinge, Match.com, Bumble, Coffee Meets Bagel and other dating apps?
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. They are used to provide loose directional advice and should be taken with a grain of salt. During/after our photo session, I will provide specific guidance on what I recommend for you based on age, location, personality etc.
What is the best dating site, service or app?
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
Are paid dating apps better than free dating sites?
Not necessarily. Only Match.com 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 be beneficial.
How do I setup 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.
MATCHING & MESSAGING ETIQUETTE
Is there such a thing as being overly eager and aggressive when it comes to messaging and swiping?
Yes, 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.
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.
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. An oldie but goodie is a Ted Talk by Amy Webb: How To Hack Online Dating. This article from 2013 is one of my favorites after all these years: The Atlantic’s – A Psychologist’s Guide To Online Dating
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What is an ELO score? What about 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 of 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!
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 with online 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 will lift your spirits, you will be severely disappointed. You are not ready to date someone if you are not happy with yourself.
Contact me today to discuss any questions you have around dating apps, photos, bios and messages. Also check out this guide on keeping yourself safe when using dating apps. My Online Dating Safety Tips. For the latest info on app strategies, product releases, photo and bio tips as well as other industry news, be sure to check out my blog.