As an online dating photographer and dating consultant, I have worked with countless folks here in the San Francisco Bay Area as well as across the country and world to improve their profiles through curating existing photos, providing guidance on which photos will help their profile as well as take natural, candid photos of them in everyday settings. 

The recent explosion in online dating has caught many off guard with little to no etiquette to follow. Unflattering, cringeworthy photos can hurt your chances of meeting that special someone online. If you have spent any time browsing profiles you will notice a plethora of cringeworthy, weird, creepy photos scattered on many profiles. Many folks have no idea what their photos signal nor do they understand how their facial expressions, body posture, lighting, outfits and people in their photos can affect how people view them.

Photos make up over 90% of the decision-making process on whether someone skips your profile or reviews in more detail. Most guys and girls are judged on their first photo alone and never have their other photos viewed. 

These are my quick and easy tips for what makes a good photo and what makes a bad photo. Remember that photos are not viewed in isolation but also in the context of your bio, prompts and other photos – there are always exceptions to the rules. Also, keep in mind that different apps and sites (like Hinge and Tinder) will have different photo recommendations.

Limited Time Special On Dating Profile Critiques!!!

To read up on more detailed information about all things dating photos including what to wear, how to poses, photo order, should you hire a professional photographer, should you use photos of your kids in them, photo dimensions, how to look more attractive in your dating photos, read these other posts in my blog.

Top 10 Worst Dating Photo Examples To Avoid In Your Profile For Guys & Girls

1 – Do not post photos with exes. Obvious, but you would be surprised how many people post photos with exes or possible cropped out exes or unlabeled photos of people who can be taken for an ex or current significant other.
2 – Stay away from selfies. Especially gym, car and bathroom selfies. Unless you have an epic selfie on top of a mountain peak, ski lift, or with a celebrity, don’t use them.
3  Hold off on photos of your kids. It is great you love your children but simply listing you have children in your profile is enough for now. However, if you have a pet, make sure you have a photo of your furry friend.
4 – Avoid profile photos with sunglasses and hats. People want to see your eyes and face. If you must, use one only. Use too many or one as your main profile photo and people might assume you have something to hide.
5 – Avoid group shots unless you specifically mark who you are in the lineup. People don’t want surprises nor switch-a-roo. Definitely don’t use a group photo as your main profile photo.I
6 – No duck-faces nor Snapchat filters (no explanation needednor shirtless photos. It’s one thing to capture a photo in the pool at the beach but photos should be candid and natural not staged, obvious nor modeling-esque. Keep it classy, not tacky otherwise you will come off as self-absorbed, desperate, thirsty, narcissistic and gross.
7 – Stay away from photos without you in the photo! This is a dating website, not your portfolio gallery. Photos of a pet, painting, sunset or view offer nothing to suitors.
8 – Avoid staged portrait photos and corporate headshots. These are often stiff, lifeless and are easily identifiable as being staged. People will look you up on LinkedIn to get a better look at you so save that photo for something more candid, natural.
9 – Avoid tiny, distant, blurry and dark photos. People want to see you and how you look like, not a silhouette. These photos suggest you are trying to hide something. It’s ok to have one photo like this but keep it to a minimum.
10 – Avoid looking too intense in photos – Not smiling, focusing too hard, looking constipated, bloated looks, creepy angles can all signal an uncomfortable feeling to users. Use bright, warm inviting photos. Read this guide for more info on looking too intense.

There are always exceptions to the guidelines above. Using one or two of the above photos will not ruin your chances for success but if most of your photos fall into one of the categories above well you will have a harder time getting people to look past your photos. You want photos that put you in the best light and that represent who you are.

Photos that are understated, silly, slightly self-deprecating, candid and invite conversation are recommended. If you still need help with your profile, I offer dating profile critiques for remote clients. You can read more about that here.

10 Best Photo Tips To Post For Online Dating, Men & Women

1- Photos of you smiling or laughing . Candid and embarrassing photos are great. It shows you know how to let go, poke fun of yourself and have fun! Authenticity conveys confidence.
2 – Photos of you doing what you love — do you love dancing? Hiking? Dressing up? Show it! Action shots are great even if they are not super clear photos of you.
3 – Ask someone to take a photo of you. It is easier to ask a stranger to take a photo of you while on vacation / touristy place of interest. Additionally, selfies and close proximity photos can distort photos making them wider.
4 – Look for photos online. If there is an event you attended recently (sporting, professional, social etc.), see if you can find a copy online.
5 – Use a variety of shots. 4–6 total photos are ideal (6 are required on dating apps like Hinge) – 1 up close-up, 1 action, 1+ travel and 1 candid photo can round out your profile.
6 – Use photos that will engage suitors, invite them to inquire about the backstory behind the photo. Where is that view of? What event was this photo taken at?
7 – Label photos with a caption as needed i.e. friends, occasion, location etc. Is that your child? Who is your hot friend? Is that your ex? Your ability to write a captivating caption vs. stating mundane can help make you more interesting.
8 – Include at least 1 full body photo and show your face. If all your photos are headshots, 1/4 body or from the side, people might assume you have something to hide. Remove doubt by showing your entire body and not just chest up photos.
9 – Make sure all photos are recent i.e. 2-3 years old. You should be proud of who you are today and how you look today. If you changed your appearance (lost weight, cut your hair, colored your hair, grown facial hair etc. you might need to update your photos even more quickly than this stated range). You should appear as you would on a first date – keep the surprises to a minimum.
10 – Would you be ok showing these photos to friends, family members or colleagues? Not a perfect test but if you are too shy or embarrassed by your photos to show people around you, what makes you think you should show it to strangers?

Golden Rules of Dating App Photos: Make sure each photo in your profile offers something different, unique, flattering, and interesting to your profile vs the previous photos and you are only as attractive as your worst photo.

MEN: For additional details and insight on how to take better photos for your profile check out this post. Read this post to how to get more matches on dating apps through your photos, prompts, answers, photo captions and more.

What is an online dating headshot?

Online dating headshots are typically the main or first photo in a user’s dating profile. It’s more casual than a business headshot and is typically cropped from other photos similar to that of other headshots cropped slightly above the head and just below the shoulders.

With the growth of online dating, individuals are hiring professional photographers to help with their dating profiles. It’s important to know that portrait photographers make for bad dating profile photos.

How many photos should you post to your dating profile?

A minimum of 4 photos are recommended regardless of the maximum allow on dating apps. 6 is generally better and usually the max on apps like Hinge but for dating sites like, never post more than 6. Most people post awful photos and the old saying is true: “You are only attractive as your worst photo”.

Retouching / Photo-Editing Etiquette

Photos should reflect how you would appear on a first date to your match.

Yes – lightening, cropping, reducing shadows, saturation (lightly), temporary blemishes (pimple, scratch)

No – softening skin, removing wrinkles, filters, permanent redness skin, moles, birthmarks

To learn more about why you shouldn’t trust your friends with advice on your dating profile, Read Why You Shouldn’t Ask Friends For Help With Your Online Dating Photos.

For tips on posing, lighting, angles, smiles, facial expressions and how to take your own dating photos, read this post on ways to improve composition of photos.

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. Contact me today!

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.

More Online Dating Tips On My Blog

Online Dating Frequently Asked Questions – Photos, App Choice, Wardrobe, Messaging, Bios and More: 

Online Dating Safety Tips – Communication, photos, privacy, dates & more.

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