What Do Your Dating App Photos & Profile Suggest About Lifestyle, Personality, Priorities, Energy, Ambition, Passion, Friends, Values & Effort: Decoding Photos and Bios.
Dating profile photos are the most important thing when it comes to online dating. First impressions are all about the reaction and the way people take in your main profile photo and if you manage to keep their interest, the rest of the photos in your profile. They reveal more about you through a dating app given that it’s aimed at strangers with little time.
It’s not uncommon for people to make a decision to swipe left on you based on your main / first dating profile photo so it’s important you put your best foot forward to avoid the automatic left swipes that can result from using unflattering photos.
What Your Dating Profile Picture Says About You?
People can interpret one photo slightly differently than they do a collection of photos in a profile. Even photo order is crucial. There are always exceptions to the rules but when users are presented the option of swiping left or right in a few seconds, it’s important to understand how everything is analyzed, critique and filtered. Consider this your personal photo analyzer.
What Should You Not Put On A Dating Profile
The way you or your friends view your photos are different from how others, strangers take them in. Others do not have the context about what is going in a photo, don’t always give the benefit of the doubt beyond the main profile or what your bio/answers say if your photos seem questionable or give pause. You are looking to market yourself to strangers not yourself or your friends who know you.
For those seeking profile critiques and photo analysis, check out my services here.
Here are some ways people interpret and extrapolate thoughts based on what’s presented on their screen.
Please note: Having one of these photos may not hurt your chances for success online but the more you draw from these buckets of photos and the more you push them to your main profile photo (the first photo people see) the more likely it can self-sabotage your efforts.
Selfies – Should You Use Selfies In Dating Profiles: Photo Analyzer
Generally one selfie is not going to make or break you but multiple selfies or a selfie in the main profile photo could suggest you lack friends, have distrust about how others take photos, or demand you have total control about how you present yourself to the world.
Additionally, selfies typically are close up photos that distort the face (make you look wider) and limit the backgrounds/environments making it harder to identify and comment on as a conversation starter. The worst kinds of selfies are in the car seat, bedroom, laying on the couch or being lazy.
There is nothing wrong with being an introvert or shy but generally people prefer to surround themselves with others who have good energy, make them feel good, can teach them something or help them to be better people.
Tip: Check your match’s IG or Facebook feed to see how often they post selfies. Excessive selfies suggests lack of friends, insecurity with letting others take your photo or need to validate your life to others.
Exception to the rule: Epic selfies while traveling, photos in remote areas or tight spaces or photos with friends huddled together.
Narcissistic Photos: Glamour, Modeling, Portrait & Blurred Background Photos
These photos suggest a level on insecurity or narcissism like no other. Professional headshots or photos taken in studios or in stale environments signal that the user has doubts about their appearance and rely on professional photos to make them look better.
The first thing that comes to mind is how much photoshop and filters were applied. Is this a catfishing situation. Ultra crisp and stiff photos lack character, vulnerability, candidness, approachability and energy. The can easily smell of narcissism. If the photos take too much time to capture or look staged, you can come off as a pain in the ass to be around in social settings.
Exception to the rule: A LinkedIn headshot that is organic and not stiff and that clearly shows your face in natural lighting.
Neutral, Low-Energy, Low Effort Photos
These photos often appear to lack effort, enthusiasm or character. They can be accompanied by captions like “If you can’t handle me at my worst you don’t deserve me at my best.” (this phrase makes me want to vomit btw).
Some folks just show up to the photo and hastily create a profile because they want to either appear like they are not overdoing things or seem too eager or because they are trying to weed out people who might be too demanding. In the first case, it can be to minimize hurt from rejection if they poured themselves into their profile vs. quickly putting something together (softens the blow).
Some people take bad photos but there is a fine line between making an effort and not being photogenic.
Exception to the rule: If your lack of expression or energy is juxtaposed against the background and environment of your photo i.e. thrill ride where everyone is screaming and you are indifferent or if you spill a drink in your lap and have that oh well look.
Dogfishing Photos, Dogtraits
Photos with pets are great but when they are done organically and candidly. When you dog or puppy is the main focus, is not yours, or you hide behind it too much, it might suggest that you are hoping your dog offsets other aspects of your photos and profile.
Accompanying sayings like: must like my dog or my dog must like you is a rather defensive stance to take. Obviously your pet is important but there are other more subtle and less confrontational ways to communicate this on a profile or in person when you meet.
Exception to the rule: playing with your dog in a candid manner as to suggest there was a reason to take it rather than the only explanation was that you are forced the photo to get brownie points with people on dating apps.
Boring, Generic Photos: Hallway, Apartment, Indoor Photos
Similar to selfies, these can be done in reflective half or full-body mirrors but usually taken in white/beige walls and backgrounds. Usually accompanied by bad lighting or hiding behind the phone. These photos suggest you are a homebody or don’t get out much. Again, nothing wrong with that but typically people want to hang out with others with some energy, outgoing behavior (even other introverts).
Exception to the rule: Group photos, costume parties.
Mysterious Photos: Dark, Blurry or Distant Photos
Photos like this suggest you are hiding something i.e. blemish, appearance, or something more. People want to see what you look like, what you like to do and how those things make you feel. You might lose out on sharing your joy, smiles if the photos are hard to see you.
Sometimes folks purposefully use these photos as to not easily be recognized by others in their community. If you can’t put yourself out there then you probably shouldn’t be on dating apps in the first place. Using dating apps require a leap of faith and some Vulnerability.
Exception to the rule: Epic photo where background/environment is interesting, flattering but ask yourself if you can crop the photo more without losing essence of the image.
Faced Turned To The Side, Profile Photos, Looking Away In Photos
A number of photos are surfacing whereby the subject is turning their face unnaturally to the side beyond what is generally recommended for natural poses. It’s true, people do turn to the side for headshots but ever so slightly (usually 5-15 degrees to the right to slightly expose the left side of the face) but anymore that this and it gives pause – what are you hiding? More on looking away in dating photos here.
Tip: Same logic, assumptions can be applied to black and white photos.
Exception to the rule: If you use one photo and it’s not your main profile photo and the situation or scene calls for it (not so much if it’s a selfie or headshot).
Grooming, Yellow Teeth, Non-fitted Clothing
Everything in your profile sends a signal: yellow teeth suggests lack of care with your body. Clothing that is too baggy can suggest lack of maturity. Poor hair styling, messy beards can suggest an unrefined lifestyle. There is a fine line when it comes to being your true self but that true self may not be what most people want in their lives.
How Many Photos To Use In Dating Profiles: At Least 4 Photos, No More Than 6 Photos
In a dating profile, apps vary in recommendations but typically 4-6 unique photos (outfits/environments) are needed for a profile. Anything less and people might not be able to get a good glimpse about who you are what you are about especially if you lack decent writing skills in your captions, bio and answers to prompts.
Using more than 6 photos particularly on sites like Match.com can hurt you as people are typically judged by their worst photo. Similarly, using similar photos of backgrounds and outfits suggest you hired someone to take photos (not a bad thing but most professional photos take stiff modeling photos, very few specialize in natural, candid dating photo.
Exception to the rule: You are attractive and you have enough quality likes, matches, conversations and dates.
Photos with Sunglasses, Hatfishing Photos
Protection from the sun is great, shows you care about yourself but it takes less than 2 seconds to remove your hat and sunglasses. If most or all your photos feature a hat or sunglasses then people will assume you are hiding your face, eyes or balding (aka hatfishing). If the only close up photo of you features a hat or sunglasses, then people will assume something it up. People want to see you and your eyes. If you don’t show them you, others will.
Exception to the rule: Using 1 photo out in the sun (again, as long as it is not your main profile photo).
Ambiguous Group Photos, Social Photos On Dating Apps
Group shots are great, they convey social friendships, desire to surround yourself with others and can make it easier to smile and act natural. However, excessive group shots or ambiguous group shots can make it hard to play guess who. Also, your friends signal lifestyle and how you spend your time. If your friends are immature or doing something unflattering, you will be judged by whom you surround yourself with.
Excessive group photos or social photos can suggsest a lack of confidence and comfort with being alone at times. The need to be at social functions, events 24/7 can be seen as shallowness or insecurity with being alone or missing out (FOMO). These photos often detract from interpersonal skills, what you are passionate about, what you stand for and what kind of person you are when no one is around.
Exception to the rule: limiting to 1-2 photos max and making sure the other people are not significantly taller than you (men) or better looking (men and women)
High-Angled Photos: Photos That Mislead Others About Your Weight, Size
High angle photos taken above eye level usually are done to make yourself appear slimmer. They are typically associated with catfishing and deception. These misleading dating profile photos can actually get you banned from certain dating apps if you are reported enough times.
Tip: Low angle photos are not advisable because they are unflattering. The area underneath the chin is not the thing you want to highlight in the photos
Exception to the rule: If a high angle is necessary for a single group shot or to capture an environment/background.
Bikini, Beach, Excessive Skin, Stomach/Abs & Shirtless Photos In Dating Profiles
One of the more controversial of the types of photos covered here. Photos showing skin can be great when done tastefully or effortlessly but often people force these shots with neck down photos, modeling poses, bathroom selfies or trashy shots. An intense or self-absorbed expression can make it obvious you are too into yourself.
Exception to the rule: Natural photo of you in a hot tub, pool, playing in the sand, swimming basically having purpose and doing something vs just sitting there and posing.
Gym Photos, Weightlifting Photos In Dating Apps
There is nothing wrong with being in shape but lifting photos are viewed as narcissistic behavior or self-absorbed attitude. There are plenty of ways to illustrate that fitness is important to you i.e. form fitting clothes, diet type in your bio etc.
Inconsistent Hairstyles & Haircolors In Photos
During Covid, expect people to have a Covid haircut photo or something outside their usual look. if you have different facial hair, color in your hair or hairstyles, this will give most people pause. At worst, they might some photos are super old, at worst they might assume you are a bit unbalanced, don’t have a steady life or are a free spirit that is ungrounded (and thus not serious about relationships).
Intense Looking Photos On Dating Profile Photos
Trying to look too hard for the camera is something seen out of gangster movies. Some people hate their smiles or don’t want to reveal wrinkles. Trying to look distinguished, important can come off as being self-absorbed or narcissistic. A light smile even one without showing teeth can be a huge improvement.
Exception to the rule: When the photo is juxtaposed to a lighter, fun situation.
Cropped Out Photos With An Ex, Covered Up Exes
A number of people on dating apps have a photo with an ex in their profile – whether the photo has an emoji over the face, cropped out body or nothing but an arm around the neck. These photos don’t as much signal anything about you but rather leave a feeling of competition or judgment about who you dated last. True photo photos of cropped out people and no photo caption is used i.e. photo with a family member or friend.
Exception to the rule: There is none. Whether you agree with this or not, using such photos will limit your chances for matches, success with dating apps.
Incomplete Profile, Short Bio On Dating App Profiles: Banned From Bumble
There is a fine line between protecting your privacy and being lazy with an incomplete bio. Not listing things about wanting kids, smoking, drinking, religion and politics can be a deal-breaker for many. Omit information and people will assume the worst case scenario because they don’t want to waste time guessing, or they will skip over you with the filters/preferences in place.
Tip: IG handle suggests you are looking for followers. Lazy profiles, one-worded answers to prompts and listing Instagram handle can get you banned from Bumble.
Exception to the rule: Not using your company name or title and instead listing a function and industry i.e. branding at agency, finance at law firm but don’t do entrepreneur at tech or marketing at tech or anything at tech. Not listing your sign or active level is fine. Photos speak louder than checkboxes. If you are fit then your photos will suggest that.
Posting In A Car Or Next To A Car
Typically these photos suggest narcissism or superficiality in your life. It’s one thing to work on engine in cars as a hobby, it’s another thing to pose next to or in a car.
One-Word Prompt Answers In Hinge, Bumble Proflies
Answering prompts with one-worded answers is lazy. 1) It makes it harder to use as a conversation starter, 2) It shows little effort or creativity in communication skills. Choose better prompts or explain your answers with some detail, anecdotes or references but don’t write a novel.
Exception to the rule: Your answer speaks for itself and is a unique one.
Photo Captions In Dating Profile Pictures
Photo captions provide context and insight that might be missing from photos. They can also validate how recent your photos were and provide conversation starter in the event your photo is not obvious. Lack of captions suggest laziness and lack of creativity or hiding details about where you are or who is in your photo.
Exception to the rule: Photo speaks for itself and is open-ended.
Personalized Online Dating Profile Critique
Strategy (App Choice + Timing + First Messages), Photo Critique, Bios + Prompts + Photo Captions, Wardrobe Feedback, Body Language, Smiles & More
Additional Reading: Dating Profile Photo Tips
About Eddie Hernandez
Eddie Hernandez is a dating consultant & professional photographer based in San Francisco, servicing clients in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and beyond as featured in the NYTimes, 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, date planning, screening profiles, ID'ing red flags, offline techniques for meeting people organically, naturally.
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