8 DIY Steps to Create Your Online Dating Photo

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8 DIY Steps to create your Online Dating Photo

#1 Introduction

If your serious about finding a partner using an online dating service then you need to have a set of good photos, well at least one good photo. All the dating websites tell you this. What they don’t tell you, but you probably already know is that the typical examples most people put on their profiles are just not good enough. Most people try to make do with what is available, typical examples that we have all seen are:-

· The self portrait shot complete with the contents of your kitchen / bathroom / bedroom. All the background mess is there for the world to see. The picture is fussy and the colour is completely out, its either totally red, or the person looks like they have a bad dose of yellow jaundice

· One the guys are particular prone to is a mug shot taken by a friend using their mobile phone camera at the pub. They probably had one too many, and it shows in the picture. The pictures is either too dark, because there is not much light in the pub, or its taking with the camera flash in which case they look like they have just been scared witless.

· One for the girls is the holiday beach shot, your trying to portray the idea that they are a serious professional girl, looking for a long term relationship. The problem is the guy’s attention and eyes have gone south. The two things they are not looking at are the eyes. Whatever they might write in their profile is pointless, they have already made an impression, but not the one you wanted.

· Another for the guys is the picture with the shirt off. They are not Mr Universe and even if they have one of these physics that has been crafted from hundreds of hours in the gym they really need good lighting to make it look good. It reality it just looks cheap.

· The do it yourself close up headshot that has been taken with the mobile phone, about 45 degrees off to the right, if they are right handed. Super detail every single scratch, pimple and imperfection beautifully highlighted. All you can really see is their nose and their eyes.

· Lets not forgot the holiday gem, taken at some well know location. Great shot of the places, and the person is the little dot in the centre.

Your probably thinking that I’m going to tell you that you need to get pictures done by a professional portrait photographer, well yes and no. Yes that will certainly get you some great pictures that will really enhance your dating profile.

However to start with just to get your dating profile off the ground you can create a good photo yourself. To help you do this I’ve written the following self help / do it yourself guide. For some people this is possibly all you need particularly if you’re lucky enough to be photogenic. For those who want to stand out from the crowd, and the dating sites are very competitive, then it may be worth investing in a professional photo shoot.

#2 What’s in a Photo

To start with lets think about what a photo for you dating profile should consist of, or not consist of. Your photo / portrait tells other people a great deal about you, or at least subjectively they feel it does. People want to see your face. When people look at your photo they want to connect with you, typically this means they want to see your eyes, so eye contact in a portrait is important. So that holiday snap shot of you on the beach wearing designer sun glasses might feel to you like a great picture, you look cool sophisticated etc. Actually it pretty pointless, might as well put the sunglasses on a coconut and put a photo of that on your dating profile. Sunglasses make it look like you have something to hide, and tends to infer that your insecure.

People perceive that your portrait is a reflection of your lifestyle, and your life story. In reality we know that is not the case, but none the less that is how our perception works. So from your photo they want to get an impression of your life values, your quality of life, what is important to you, whether they can relate to you. So things like hairstyle, complexion, cloths, jewellery, posture all add to the impression.

By now you might be thinking you don’t want any photo of yourself on a dating website if people are going to read all that into one tiny picture. The bottom line is that all your photo needs to achieve is to get the person you are looking for to read your profile, and with that and your picture(s) get in contact you.

How to create that photo

Three ingredients to getting that picture you want.

1 Camera

2 Light

3 Composition ( you )

#3 Camera

I’m going to work on the premise that you don’t have a expensive digital camera, in fact the only camera to might have is the one in your mobile phone. Well to get you going this will be adequate. A bit of techies boring stuff :- your mobile phone camera is probably about 1.4 Mega pixels, might be 2 Mega pixels or more. Some of the new phones have 8 mega pixels cameras, and that is better then some professional cameras where not so long ago. A 1.4 Mega pixel camera produces a picture that will fill most of a web page. When you upload pictures to the dating website they will reduce the picture’s size. So your basic mobile phone camera is good enough for the job.

However, one of the first issues you will have to deal with is who is going to operate the camera? If you can enlist the help of someone you know that would be great, it would make things much simpler. However, this does lead to those awkward questions, what do you want the pictures for?, oh your not on one of those dating websites are you?. If you do have someone to operate the camera, make sure it is someone you can relax with. A stranger off the street, “can you take a picture of me standing by whatever it is” that’s just not going to work !!. Someone you can really relax with is going to make a world of difference. Imagine what it would be like to ask you mother to take the pictures of you for your dating profile, I don’t know about you, but that’s scary!!

OK so there is nobody to operate the camera, however most cameras, including the ones on mobile phones have a delayed timer mode of operation. This does mean looking though those camera option menus on the phone, but its worth it. If you can’t find how it works yourself, pop into your local mobile phone shop and they will find it for you, and they won’t ask you what you want the pictures for. The delayed timer could be your best friend in this situation, if it has a 10 second delay your made !!

So its either grab a friend or use a timer delay, but don’t ask someone from the street.

#4 Lighting

In photography amateur photographers think about equipment, professional photographers think about money, and art photographers think about the light. You’re going to become and art photographer, well one small step in that direction. To get a good picture you don’t need flash lights, reflectors, a studio etc etc, all you need is the great big light blub in the sky. Its the best light source there is, but you have to use it the right way, here are some simple rules :-

Take your pictures outside or if indoors by a large window.

Avoid direct bright sunlight, it will highlight the wrinkles and pimples etc

Best time of day is about mid to late afternoon, not the middle of the day. Sunlight a couple of hours before sunset produces a warmer set of colours.

What you want is a bright overcast day, plenty of light but nicely defused by the clouds, this makes the skin look softer. If it’s a bright clear day you will need to be in the shade. Bottom line is a location where you do not cast a shadow, if you cast a shadow so does your nose and every imperfection on your face. The object of the exercise is to create a good photo, not an award winning work of art, the end result from a photographer’s point of view might seem a bit flat, but for your purpose this is fine.

#5 Composition

This is about you, and the location where you are going to take your picture, both require a little preparation.

Location and background. The photo you are creating is about you, not your living room, not your kitchen, not some tourist attraction, not you at the pub. So what we are looking for is something very plain and simple. A plain brick wall is good, a garden fence, green shrubbery. In other words what we are looking for is a featureless background of one simple colour, not the sky its too bright. Top choice is a white or gray wall. Look at some of the fashion pictures in some magazines, eg Hugo Boss, great pictures with a grey concrete wall as the backdrop. The net result is that the only feature of interest in the photo is you. So you need to do a little research, find one or two suitable locations.

Now lets talk about you, as you’re the subject of the photo. We are going to aim to take a half body picture of you, ie head, shoulders and chest. The head because it shows your face and hair, shoulders and chest gives an indication of physic. When it comes to taking your photo you want to feel good and look good, so some tips :-

Guys make sure you have a shave before, even if you’re taking the picture in the middle of the afternoon. Unless you look like Brad Pitt or David Beckham etc, designer stubble does not look good. It will make you look older and greyer, it is unlikely to make you look sexy.

Hair, make sure its neat, so you might want to avoid doing this on a windy day. For the girls hair blowing in the wind is a nice relaxed but dynamic look, but you ready need to leave this for a more professional photographic session. Otherwise you can end up looking like you have a bird’s nest on your head.

Girls as regards makeup, keep it simple, imagine your going for a job interview.

Cloths, Its your face we are really interested in, so again keep it simple, so nothing too flashy or bright. No bright bold patterns, no big strips. That said wear something that you feel good in and reflects you. Guys unless you really feel its part and parcel of what you wear each day, no tie. For the guys a pain shirt works well, its crisp, clean and smart. Girls, unless you ready feel its part of your character nothing too low cut, for mainstream dating websites you ready want the guys to focus on your face.

Girls, the picture of you in the Little Black Dress, evening makeup, nice ear rings etc is a real winner, but get yourself a good photographer because the lighting composition and pose will make a big difference.

Guys, if you’re into sports or some other action activity, pictures of this can make you look like you have a life. But again get yourself a professional photographer, probably with a long lens and a high speed camera.

Accessories, if you usually wear items of jewellery, or a scarf of something like that then try it is the picture. Take some pictures with and some without, and decide afterwards.

State of mind, this is really important. If your fed up, or feeling down when you take your picture, it will come across. So get yourself into a great state of mind, feel good, be happy, taking your picture for your dating profile is going to be fun. It’s going to make a big difference to finding the person you want in your life.

So far so good

So just to recap :-

Camera sorted, mobile phone camera, with or without a friend.

Lighting sorted, middle of the afternoon on a bright overcast day.

Location sorted, pain single colour wall, white or gray if possible.

You sorted, hair, makeup, cloths, state of mind, you’re really to have some photo fun.

#6 The photo shoot.

Wow all that stuff to think about before taking a single picture? Yeah those glossy photos you see in magazines take hours to prepare.

If your using the camera delay timer set up the camera in front of your chosen background. You want the camera at about your eye level, not below eye height, and at a distance such that it captures just your head and chest, with you standing about a meter in front of your background. This might take a couple of shots to get the framing right. If you have someone to help you all the better, same thing applies, camera at eye level, your head and chest in the frame.

With the delay timer you will need to press the shutter button on the phone / camera then move into position and wait for the camera to take the picture, that is why a 10 second delay is good, plenty of time to get into position but not too long.

Position / pose, with the greatest of respect your not a model, so keep it simple. Back to the background looking at the camera is OK, but a little stiff, but worth doing a couple of shots like this.

However, try a position where your back is at 45 degrees to the background, your face is still looking at the camera, first with the right shoulder nearest the camera, then another shot with the left shot nearest the camera.

Important with all the shots, look at the camera, eyes open, don’t think of it as a camera, think of it as the person you really want to meet, oh and smile!! What sometimes helps in these situations is to think of something funny or odd that has happened to you, bring back some fond memories. Just relax and have fun. If you have someone taking the pictures for you have a fun conversation with them that is why doing this with a stranger does not work. Take a number of pictures, not just one or two.

A good professional portrait photographer will engage with you, will talk to you, and find out all about you and your life, will get you to relax, and get you to feel that a photo shot is great fun. In so doing they will get you to come out of yourself, and photograph the real you. One of the things that makes a big difference between a technically OK photographer and a really good portrait photographer is the ability to engage with the subject.

#7 After the shoot

After your photo shot upload the pictures to your computer, and leave them for a day or two. Why ? because you need to come back to select the best one, but you have to do this objectively, and doing that straight after the shoot is not the best time. After a couple days you can be much more objective about which is the best picture.

Look at all the pictures you took, and select the one that you feel best represents you. Imagine that you are someone else, which picture do you consider you are connecting with the viewer the best.

So now upload the picture to your dating profile, and see what sort of difference you will get in response.

#8 What Next?

Well that gets you a single picture on your dating profile. Reality is the dating websites are a very competitive environment, and you really need a cracking eye catching first picture to make that attention grabbing impression, plus a number of follow up pictures on your profile. The follow up pictures should not be more of the same as your first picture. That tells someone looking at your profile nothing new. What your need is four or five great looking pictures of you in difference cloths and different surroundings. Pictures that show different aspects of you, the life you lead, and your personal style etc. If your using one of the up market dating websites, those catering for professionals and / or the wealthy then a professional set of pictures are a must, it’s the only way your going to get the results that you deserve, otherwise you are going to appear cheap and not seriously committed.

On the flip side if you see someone with a great set of pictures and you think you’re a good match, you can contact them knowing that you’re going to make a good impression. However, if you have that old tired naff picture of you on holiday wearing the sun glasses….. forget it, its not going to happen. Someone with a quality set of picture is going to attract someone just right for them, and you are going to be in a position to be much more selective.


When I started doing portrait photography for people using dating sites I will be honest and say that I considered it just a variation of the portrait business. However there is one thing I noticed with a number of clients. Quite often the people who came to my photo shoots had either been using online dating for a while without much success, or where just starting out, but had come from a relationship that had just ended.

I would say that a reasonable number did not have a great deal of confidence about their image, and felt that they where not particularly photogenic. However, once they saw a set of professionally produced pictures of themselves it gave them a big confidence boost.

write by phillips


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