How to have a perfect dating profile photo?

Interview with dating photographer Sophia Isabella

No matter if you are a new or an old bird in the online dating world, you know that you need a catchy profile photo to be noticed in a virtual world full of dating possibilities. It looks easy – but it is much more complicated to get the perfect profile photo than you think. 

The Datingroo team researched how to show the best of your personality, humour, sexual attractiveness, kindness and intelligence with just a few photos. We asked someone very experienced in dating photography who made a difference for many people who are actively navigating online dating websites or apps. 

Searching for that person, we crossed paths with Sophia Isabella, a professional dating photographer from Berlin. Incredibly talented, creative, relaxed, with an eye for details and years-long experience in the online dating industry, Sophia gave us the ultimate insight on how to take great dating profile photos.

Sophia owns her own agency, specialized in online dating photos. You can meet her or a dating photographer from her team, walking around the coolest locations all over Berlin, taking dating profile photos of her clients. So far she has photographed hundreds of people of all ages who wanted to change their luck in the online dating world. Many of them found the love of their life or a perfect match thanks to the profile photos Sophia took. 

We asked Sophia everything that anyone who ever made a profile in dating apps should know. 

Good quality vs. bad quality photos

✔️ DO! Sharp and bright photos are more attractive. It portrays the person clearly. 

❌ DON´T! Blurry photos are not as engaging in dating profiles. If the quality is bad, you will look bad too.           

Look natural vs. look posed

✔️ DO! A picture in the moment is something that works well on dating profiles. It looks relaxed and natural. 

❌ DON’T! Unless you are a professional model, don’t pose for the dating profile picture. It looks like you are trying too much to impress

Colourful vs. dreary

✔️ DO! Put some colours in your dating life. Even if you are not really a “colourful clothes” person, add some details to the black or white – a red scarf, a yellow hat or anything with colours.

❌ DON’T Even if you are wearing something colourful on the dating profile pictures, make sure it doesn’t look dreary. Poppy colours are more engaging.

Picture by someone else vs. mirror selfie

✔️ DO! Do not hesitate to ask a friend to take a photo of you. Have some fun together and take some in the moment photos like this one. It will work well on your dating profile. 

❌ DON’T Mirror selfies with bad lightning are the worst choice for an online dating profile photo. They look like you don’t care about it and like you are not making an effort to get a good match.

Smiley face vs. serious 

✔️ DO! Show that you like to laugh. Who doesn’t love that? You are a happy, satisfied, attractive person – show it and meet someone like you in the online dating world. 

❌ DON’T This attitude won’t get many matches, don’t you think? Even if you are a very serious person in general, this is not the way you should portray it. 

Who needs a good profile photo on Tinder?

I would say, everyone. But, the majority of our clients have been men. In my experience, men are having a much harder time on dating apps, in general. Many of them don’t even have any photos of themselves at all. Women, on the other hand, like to go out and do fun photo sessions with their girlfriends. Men don’t do that with their friends. 

Does that mean that men need help in online dating?

They really need help. It can be difficult even for those guys who have some photos on dating apps and who are good looking. Men really care about women’s opinion, and they just want to know what women expect to see in their dating profile. They really appreciate any advice on their dating photos. Women are actually happy as well that I help guys because many women see a lot of bad profiles. 

How many photos are optimal to have on a dating profile? 

Ideal for the dating profile would be 3 – 5 photos. It is good to change the combination of photos after some time to see which photos get the most matches. What is important here is quality over quantity. It is always better to have fewer really good pictures rather than a lot of very bad ones. 

What is an absolute NO! for a dating profile photo?

There are a few things you should avoid when it comes to a dating profile photo:

  1. NO to low-quality photos – If the photo quality is bad, it makes you look bad.
  2. NO to old photos – You don’t want people to show up expecting to see the you of 5 years ago.
  3. NO to photos with ex’s – Photos with your ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend in a dating profile are an absolute no for many reasons.
  4. NO for cutting someone out of the picture – Cutting out another person from the picture is never good.
  5. NO to unflattering selfies, when the angle or lighting is bad. 

Is it ok to use the same photo for a dating app and Linkedin profile?

A LinkedIn photo is more formal, usually taken in the studio and can be pretty posed, so I don’t recommend it for dating apps. A dating profile photo should still be high quality while looking authentic, as if captured by a friend spontaneously at that “perfect” moment. Either indoor or outdoor works, but outdoor tends to work better. 

Is that because of natural light? 

Yes, lighting is very important. We want pictures to be natural, and instead of using some special lighting, we recommend taking photos outside in natural daylight. Just go out on a sunny day with your friend and take some photos. 

Are there differences between profile photos of younger and older people on dating apps?

We have photographed people of all ages, even up to 71 years old. But mostly the clients’ ages are 25-45. Typically, clients of any age are looking for guidance – what to wear, how to sit or where to look. Most people are pretty nervous in the beginning, but by the end they are surprised by how comfortable they feel and how much fun they are having. Some differences between younger and older people is that older people are not as used to the camera as younger people, so they need more guidance.Younger people, however, can be shy so we have to make sure they are comfortable. The comfort level in front of the camera really depends a lot on the individual.

What should someone wear when making dating profile photos? 

I think every person has to be themselves, pictures have to be authentic. If a person has a particular style, I am not gonna ask them to change it. I had one recently, he was more alternative and had  a rocker style with long hair and all-black clothes with a lot of leather. While this might not be for everyone, we embraced his uniqueness. Authenticity is key.

Of course, there are certain outfits that almost always work, so I recommend to bring a selection of clothes including light and dark colours, and something colourful because bright colours are a lot more engaging in photos. Casual shirts or a nice coat work quite well.. In general, stylish casual and well fitting clothes are attractive.

What is the best pose – sitting or standing? Headshots or full-body shots?

Both sitting and standing are fine as long as the angle is flattering.  An upper half body picture is the best choice for the main profile photo because you can be seen very well. However, a good profile includes a mixture of everything, the photos shouldn’t all be upper body.

Smile or be serious?

We mostly take photos when a person is smiling and laughing so they look fun to hang out with. More serious photos work too, especially if you look cool on it. We provide a variety of photos with different facial expressions, so you can test what works best, as it always depends on the individual.

Having a group photo vs. selfie?

No to both. The thing with the group photo is that usually, you can’t recognize the person. If you see a guy with other guys on the photo, you don’t know who’s who. If you do use a group photo, make sure you are in the center of attention. It is hard to get that balance right and that is why I don’t recommend group photos. 

Selfies are also difficult because when people take photos of themselves, the angle can be unflattering. Or the lighting is bad and the picture is taken too close to the face. That is why I don’t recommend it. Especially bathroom selfies are a big No-Go in dating apps. 

Holding a beer or other alcoholic drink on a dating app photo?

It is not really a bad thing but it is about whether or not you look drunk, which you shouldn’t. Holding a beer or a glass of wine is totally fine but you don’t want to look like you are wasted. 

How about a gym, sports or hobby photos?

Generally, I wouldn’t recommend photos from the gym. But if it is a big part of your life, and it is your hobby, then – yes, sure, have them. Other sports photos can be great if they portray your hobby. We encourage showing your hobbies as you will look more interesting.  If, for example, you play the guitar or do rock climbing, definitely use a photo of you engaging in your hobby.

Taking photos with animals?

Photos with pets are likeable and especially women like photos of men with their pet. But it should be their pet. You can’t see the person is not the owner of the pet, but they might ask you later. 


Photo credits: 

Sophia Isabella for Datingroo

Berlin, December 2019
You can find more about Sophia Isabella’s work here: https://datingphotos.net/

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