Real stories about dating and relationships in New York City. Truth is more interesting than fiction.

A Picture is Worth…

A friend sent me a picture of myself, dancing with dear mutual friend of ours, from a long ago party.  It was so thoughtful of her, as it brought back such sweet memories.  But my first reaction was to cringe.  I look dreadful.  Beyond dreadful.  Hideous.  I almost always do in photographs.  I’m really unphotogenic.

I don’t think there’s a decent picture taken of me between the ages of 3 and 33.  No matter what the occasion or what I was wearing (or what I actually weighed) I always seem to look like I have 3 chins and glassy eyes and a forced .  And because of that I became one of those people who’d freak out anytime anyone came near me with a camera.  You know the type.  The girls who put their hands over their faces when people are roaming the room taking candid shots.  Some people think it’s a ploy for attention.  Well, I can’t speak for anyone else, I can only speak for myself.  In my case, it was the knowledge that sooner or later those pictures would be developed and I’d see them.  And I’d be sick to my stomach.  Seriously.  Nothing could hurt my self-esteem more than a look through a friend’s photo album.

Then, a few years ago I decided I wanted to give another whirl and realized that in order to do that I’d need at least one good picture of myself (I was an early adapter to the world of and gave it a try back when very few people were posting pics.  I used it and met someone online that I liked w/o either of us having a concrete idea what the other looked like until the first date.  We dated for a while and then things fell apart for reasons that should’ve been obvious to me from day one.  That’s so another post.).  I was in a panic about the picture for months.  No, I’m not joking.  I even looked into professional photographers who have services specifically for photos (gotta love NYC, you need it – you can buy it here).   And then finally a guy I worked with overheard me talking about it with someone at work and he offered his services.  It turned out that he’s an awesome photographer.  So one weekend afternoon I went to his apartment and we took some photos.  And they came out great.  He knew how to tell me to smile and angle my head properly and all that stuff.  I wasn’t wearing anything special, just normal clothes and make-up.  But just the fact that I knew how to look or not look at the camera made all the difference in the world.

You can guess what happened next.  I used those pics on my online profile and thus started doing a lot of online dating.  And then I met someone and had a relationship.  And then that ended and after some time to chill I decided I wanted to try online dating again.  I realized by then that those pics were old and wanted new ones.  OK, I’m not going to give you a play by play of every photo that every friend has taken for me over the years for online dating sites.  That’s not the point here.  After that first successful time I got over my issues with having my picture taken and now it’s just not that big of a deal.  I still sometimes come out with a couple of extra chins.  But not usually.  Now I know the tricks.

Here’s the thing – not everyone is photogenic.  I don’t know the stats on this, it’s a pretty subjective thing, anyway.  But not every attractive person looks attractive in pictures.  And some people look better in photos than they do in real life.  And who really cares why?

In the world of online dating, your pics matter a lot.  I’ve written about this before, and advocate for simple, up-to-date, lo-glam pics.  You will not get responses if your photos are from 50 yards away or fuzzy or show you in a group and it’s hard to tell which one is you.  For women they matter a lot more than men.  Men frequently complain that the ratios on online sites are unfair, that there are so many more men than women.  That is absolutely true.  However, guys with mediocre-crappy pics still have a shot online, whereas a woman with mediocre-crappy pics may as well not bother logging on.  They’re never going to get a hit.  We all know it’s true.  Guys are just way more visual than women and so if a girl wants a shot of success at online dating she has got to look good.

That doesn’t mean photoshop or trying to look like someone you’re not.  Just you – as good as you can look in a photograph.  I waited for months (!) back then when I was trying to figure out the picture thing because I knew how important is was going to be.  As much as I wanted to get back into the game, I didn’t want to do it half-assed.  And my patience and tenacity paid off.

BTW, the reason I decided to write about this today is because I’ve been getting a lot of private messages and DMs (on ) from people asking for my advice as they embark on online dating.  Advice isn’t really my thing (not usually).  I’m more of a story teller.  I thought this was an applicable story.


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6 to “A Picture is Worth…”


  1. bobbyjensen says:

    I agree with a lot of what you said. It’s actually a turn off for me to come across a photoshopped picture or way too much makeup. Then again, I’m more attracted to a natural look, or very little makeup. Like I posted recently, I’m also about sexy a lot more than looks anyway. Thanks for the insight SG!

  2. le romantique says:

    I look better in pictures than in real life! Hahaha.. you can’t see a persons mannerisms and expressions in pictures… I know so many people that look NOTHING like the pictures they post online… at all.. I look like mine, but i just look better in them then I think I do when I look in the mirror…. its sad how people photoshop the crap out of pics these days.

  3. SINgleGIRL says:

    -bobbyjensen
    Honestly, I think the guys who like the heavily made up look are in the minority. Well, maybe not nationally or worldwide but in my little world. I don’t get any more attention from men when I pile on the makeup (which I do rarely).
    -le romantique
    Yes. The majority of people I know (and dated) don’t look much like their pics. And yet – it is what most men use to decide whether or not they’re going to contact a woman. Shallow and pathetic, but true.

  4. cjw666 says:

    The fact is that most women who look attractive and sexy in their pictures (if not Photoshopped) do so because they ARE sexy and attractive AND they know the tricks (consciously or not) to present it in a photo. You may regard men seeing that as important as shallow and pathetic, but we all start out wanting what we want and why go for something you don’t like in case she/he turns out to be better in real life? Who’s got so much time to waste?

    Incidentally, we could all regard another’s important criteria as shallow if we wanted to be less than generous. First impressions count and, particularly in the field of online dating (which has at least some similarities with speed dating in this area). As you’ve pointed out before, if a guy can’t bother to work on his profile, then why would you bother with him?

  5. derek7272 says:

    Yeah. I mean, even after I screen for various stuff my search on nerve is stil going to show me maybe 200 women. Am I going to read all those profiles? No way; I’m going to read maybe 10 at best with attractive photos and email the ones who strike me as interesting.

  6. SINgleGIRL says:

    -cjw666
    Yes, we could all regard each other’s criteria as shallow. But I disagree with you – not every one who looks attractive is. As le romantique pointed out, there are a lot of people who look nothing like their pics – for lots of reasons. When it comes to online dating pictures I just don’t think there’s much truth in advertising for most people. Which is why I think it’s especially shallow to use them as your main guide.
    -derek7272
    Well, like I said, it’s one of the ways that women and men are different. I get 5x that many men in my search group. But I don’t click on the ones with the best pics – but rather the ones with the best/most interesting headlines whose pictures don’t turn me off (pics can turn me off for lots of reasons- going shirtless, posing on car, skydiving shots, being too arty…). I don’t think I’m unusual in this way, for a chick. And I don’t think you’re unusual for a guy.