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7 Things A Guy Needs to Know About Picking An Online Dating Profile Picture

I’m an veteran.  Been doing it on and off for almost 9 years.  A lot of things have changed over time.  Back in the olden days, very few people posted their pictures online.  We actually had to read through everyone’s profiles and decide who we were interested in without having any idea what they looked like.

Nowadays, a profile without a picture doesn’t get much action.  And a profile with a bad picture, well, a bad picture is almost worse than no picture at all.

It’s remarkable to me that some people don’t get this.  They just toss a pic up there and assume it’ll be OK.  But the truth is, a bad picture will mean no dates for you (this is true for both men and women, btw).  It’s not so much about what you actually look like, but rather showing some good judgment when you select the pictures you upload to your profile.

With that in mind, here are a few things that I think every guy should know before he hits that upload button.

  1. It’s best to have more than one picture.  Two is enough, 8 is too many.  At least one of them should show your face in close up.
  2. Use recent pictures.   Women want to know what you look like now, not 2 years ago.
  3. Remember to .  I won’t reply to a guy if he’s not smiling in at least one of his pics.
  4. The pictures that guys take in front of the mirror are usually pretty creepy.  Don’t do it.  It’s easy enough to take a picture of yourself w/o the mirror.  Better yet, ask a female friend to take a picture of you.  She’ll make sure you look your best.
  5. It’s not a good idea to include a picture of yourself without your shirt on (even if you have a hot bod) unless you’re seeking a strictly sexual relationship.
  6. Take off your freakin sunglasses.  We know you’re cool.  The headshots with the sunglasses are anything but.
  7. Show a little restraint – don’t use a “boy with toy*” shot.

*boy with toy shots are the ones with guys in sportscars, or skydiving, scuba diving, sailing, flying a small plane etc.


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31 to “7 Things A Guy Needs to Know About Picking An Online Dating Profile Picture”


  1. onedatewonder says:

    I would also like to add that you should take a pass on any pictures with you and another woman. Even if she really is your sister, or your bestest friend you’ve never seen naked. We don’t know that, and it makes us wonder.

  2. Singlegal says:

    BRAVO! (sending this post to a male friend of mine).

  3. lostplum says:

    as well pictures with kids! It’s nice that you like them, but guys think this will reel us girls in (it works sometimes…but still!)

  4. CHFBrian says:

    I’ve been told that too many of my pictures depict me with champagne. This is likely a valid complaint.

  5. Jan @ Struck by Serendipity says:

    Adding to your list…

    Don’t be holding alchol in every single picture. One – ok. All 12 – I think you’re trying to tell me you have a problem.

    It’s better to pose with a dog than a child because a lot of women will assume the child is yours (unless of course you have children…then it’s okay).

    I actually like the “boy toy” shots. It shows what you’re interested in. A picture of me golfing or snorkling tells more about me than a picture of me sitting at a table.

    I agree with the shots in the mirror – weird. Especially when the veins are popping out of the forehead from straining to flex your muscles.

  6. damiella says:

    I don’t think not smiling in pics is a big deal, unless it’s to hide some seriously scary teeth. Also, one of the pics (for guys and girls) should be full-length to get an idea of body type.

    My friend and I always complain about guys who only post pictures of themselves wearing hats because they are balding. Sooner or later the truth will come out, so why not be upfront about it at the start? And two years isn’t so bad; I had a guy post a photo of himself that was TEN years old *and* had a full head of hair. I mean, that’s beyond sneaky.

    To be fair, girls have their own tricks, too (biggest complaint from guys seems to be photos that make the woman appear considerably thinner than she is). A guy once told me that in the same way that the guy-on-vacation photo is a big cliche, so it the girl-at-a-wedding pic. No more bridesmaids photos!

  7. SINgleGIRL says:

    -onedatewonder
    The pictures with women is a good one to add. Thx. I have to say, it doesn’t bother me that much, but I can see how it would be a good thing to avoid.
    -Singlegal
    Thx sweetie. Please share. This was actually my homework assignment for the Better Blog thing I’m doing and now I’m supposed to be promoting it. Like I have time for that…
    -lostplum
    Another excellent one. I just had a guy email me a pic with a kid and while it was adorable it was a little too much like bait.
    -CHFBrian
    Everything in moderation darling:-)
    -Jan@Struck
    Welcome to the blog and thanks for your additions. Yes, I like the pet shots too. And stay away from the guys with too many party shots. Maybe the boy with toy shot is my thing. I think they come off as the visual equavilent of “hey, look at my hot car” or “look at my expensive hobby”. And they’re usually bad picture where you can’t really see a guy’s face well.
    -Damiella
    I completely agree about the hats. Also the body type. I should’ve made a longer list. I’m planning one for women next week, btw. We have our own special issues (I think). Preview – deep cleavage, really? and you say you want a LTR?

  8. jenmata says:

    I couldn’t agree more. A picture makes it or breaks it in my book. I make my initial decisions by what I see, so if I don’t like it, there’s nothing else to do.

  9. Shannia says:

    I hate it when people post a picture where you can also see the whole surroundings, how can i find you attractive if i cant even see your face,,lol
    love the list, good laughs this morning.

  10. queenieNYC says:

    I am SO on board with the weird mirror pictures. For some reason, they never fail to make the subject look like a subterranean freak who’s rather hang out in their bathroom than interact with the rest of humanity.

  11. queenieNYC says:

    Er, who’D. Ahem.

  12. CHFBrian says:

    Moderation has never really been my strong suit.

  13. starangel82 says:

    “Take off your freakin sunglasses. We know you’re cool. The headshots with the sunglasses are anything but.”
    Amen.

    I’d also like to add: don’t put a picture of you with another woman in your pics. I don’t care if she’s just a friend or your mom or your sister. We really don’t need to see you with another woman.

  14. iamalejandra says:

    What about the guys who take pictures of themselves laying in bed? What’s up with that?!?!
    And the WORST one I ever saw that actually made me sick to my stomach was the surgeon guy who posted a picture of himself in the OR covered in blood!! Blood in his face!! WTF?!?!

  15. BadenLink says:

    So I guess the picture where you can tell I am hugging someone, but it has been edited so you can see who I am hugging while wearing sunglasses is not a good idea? :-)

  16. Veka says:

    BadenLink, definitely not, lol. I agree–cropping pictures just leaves us wondering who it was and why they were cropped out. SG, profile pictures really do say a lot about a person, thanks for the post!

  17. SINgleGIRL says:

    -jenmata
    Yep. It’s like the first step in a mulit stage process of elimination.
    -Shannia
    That’s another good one. It’s like, ‘what a pretty hill – but what do you look like?”
    -queenieNYC
    Hopefully we can put a stop to those. Just need to get the word out.
    -CHFBrian
    Nor mine. But it’s never too late to change.
    -starangel82
    OK , so the no other women thing seems to be a big deal. I should’ve included it. I’ll make a revised version sometime in the future.
    - iamalejandra
    All right – those are just creepy and weird. I’ve never seen a guy do either. Yuck!
    -BadenLink
    Never ever edit someone out of a pic and then post it. Worse then just including them in the photo IMO.
    -Veka
    I’m glad people are finding this helpful (now all I need to do is spread the word).

  18. starangel82 says:

    I missed onedatewonder’s comment. Oh well. This is what I get for trying to speed read. :) I like lostplum’s suggestion too. I always see guy’s pic holding a baby or a kid and I have to wonder if it’s his.

    You are totally right though. Men and women are both guilty of bad pics. Sometimes no pic would be better than just any pic. I know a lot of dating sites recommend having professional pictures done, but I am not sure how I feel about that. I can see how it would provide a good picture, but it doesn’t really show you. Maybe have a professional photo with some ‘real’ photos if you choose to go that route? What is your take?

  19. SINgleGIRL says:

    -When I first got back into online dating a few yrs ago, after a hiatus (for relationships & stuff) and realized that everyone was posting pics now, I did what I considered semi-pro pics. I had a friend who was an amazing amateur photographer take some photos of me. They didn’t look “professional” but they looked good. Not I’m more comfortable (more CONFIDENT) with the whole thing. My main pic is one I took with my cell phone – NOT in the mirror. I don’t like the obviously pro headshots. I won’t hold them against someone. But I prefer the more mellow, taken by a friend, or at a party, whatever variety.

  20. CHFBrian says:

    I don’t want to change!

  21. SINgleGIRL says:

    -CHFBrian
    Hey, I don’t tell anyone else what they SHOULD do. You should do what makes you happy.

  22. niceguy says:

    many profile photos are fake make sure you see the person on web cam before you get to invloved

  23. nicegal says:

    good advice i have been caught a few times http://101today.com/?page_id=27

  24. SINgleGIRL says:

    -niceguy/nicegal (you seem to be the same?)
    Welcome to the blog. I might just hold a record for online dating. I’ve been on at least 150 dates with guys I’ve met online. Maybe 2x that. No, I’m not bragging. I think it’s kind of sad. Anyway, in all of that time I’ve only been on one date where the picture was an out and out fake (a picture of someone other than the guy). I have been on dozens and dozens of dates where it was an old picture and the guy had gained some weight or lost some hair. So what? You go, you spend a little time. Maybe he’ a great guy anyway. I would NEVER ask to see someone on webcam before we met and if someone asked me to do that I’d end the conversation immediately. That’s a level of paranoia that I just can’t deal with. Not to mention being completely shallow.

    And, I’d like to add, spreading that kind of paranoia is what gives online dating such a bad name. We’re just a bunch of normal people trying to meet other normal people with a few losers thrown in. Why say things to try to make people afraid of it?

  25. singlegirlie says:

    SO with you on the “boy with toy” shots. If you’ve got a pic with your motorcycle or souped up car, you are basically shouting “I have a small penis.” But then, if they include a shot like that I guess it helps me weed them out.

    I also wish guys would not post pictures of these scenery shots in which they look like an ant (unless the profile also has other good face/body photos). The point of the pics is to show us what you look like, I could Google the freakin Grand Canyon if I wanted to see what it looks like!

    Thanks for posting Simone, every guy dating online should read!

  26. V J says:

    Enjoying the site as I’ve just discovered it. My take on the question is that there’s really very few ways to come out ‘winning’ but to go in with moderate & low expectations.

    7 (or more) Things A Guy/gal Needs to Know About Picking An Online Dating Profile Picture:

    1.) Please. Pretty Please, make it a ‘recent’ photo. This decade perhaps?

    2.) And taken from a ‘normal reference angle’ so that we might be able to discern some volume perhaps? Yes, you CAN hide Shamu with enough clever tricks & photoshopping.

    3.) Again, Please don’t do anything to try and disguise who you are. If you’re really a 4’10 wrasslin’ wonder, step up and be proud of who you are. Don’t have someone photograph you from your shoelaces up so you look like a giant.

    4.) We know you’re a big tough guy. Please, No props to try and bolster your ego here. No Vettes/Porches/tricked out Escalades. No pics of you and your wonderful gun/knife collection. Or your great yacht/fishing boat. Or latest hunting/fishing trophy. We know it might make you happy, but mostly? It’s just distracting the audience needlessly. Ditto for pretty women women at weddings/bridal showers/beauty contests/modeling shows.

    5.) Please no explicit pics, just yet. Yes, we know how justly proud you are of ‘zippy the wonder snake’ or ‘the twins’, and how they’ve won you splendid favors & accolades down through the years. Amusing though they may be to see, (yes, even painted or ‘dressed’ funny), it really should wait until more intimate times with a more dedicated partner. Really.

    6.) No, at the moment, we do not care to see how the rest of the family came out. Or what the family reunion of last year looked like. No matter how ‘bitchin’ you looked then.

    7.) Yes, there’s no way to win the ‘missing person in the photo contest’. An Ex? The family felon? The missing wife/hubby featured on AMW? We can only imagine.

    8.) No pics from the BOP (bop.gov) or from your felony indictment/conviction/line up.

    9.) No hospital pics, unless absolutely necessary. (Returning wounded Vets, excepted).

    10.) No hazy webcam pics unless absolutely necessary, or it’s your natural working environment.

    Just a few more thoughts here. Cheers & Good Luck, ‘VJ’

  27. Jennifer-from-NY says:

    Pics with your male friends. Half the time I think one of the other guys is cuter. Not a great strategy.
    Great post though!

  28. Sebastyne says:

    Jennifer – LOL, I had a rule; Always check out the friends and brothers before getting too involved. XD (Not really, I just wish I had, as many, many times I found the best friend/brother to be to die for…)

    I agree with most points brought up, but I don’t mind boys toys, as long as the toy isn’t the one they *all* have in their pants. My brother and my dad are complete petrol heads, and I totally get their fascination with cars. There is two ways to take the toy photos though. One is showing an interest, and the other is showing fortune. Showing interest is good, showing fortune is bad. It’s safest not to do either, but a cheeky photo hugging a motorcycle would be a total winner with me.

  29. Anonymous says:

    I’d like to weigh in on cutting guys a little more slack. As long as there are at least a couple of photos that show what he really looks like, I can get a sense of whether he’s someone I’d pick out on the street or not. To really know whether someone’s attractive to me, it’s all about in person.

    As for the “boys with toys” photos, I think it does give a nice “picture worth more than a thousand words” shorthand for whether we’d have anything in common. If a guy is really into his tricked out Escalade, he should find a woman who thinks that’s really hot. That wouldn’t be me, so on to the next profile I go.

    Definitely draw the line at unclothed body shots. I once started emailing with a guy from online and only later realized that his full naked backside was reflected in a mirror behind him in one of his photos. Nice bod, but ew. Creeped me out.

  30. Ski Austin says:

    #7 makes sense. I agree! However, I’m an avid water skier. Do pics of me skiing (& barefooting) appear I’m bragging or just depicting me doing something I love (as is the case)?

  31. Dating forum says:

    I second that notion!