1. Don't cut someone out of the picture.
In fact, don't have them in the picture at all. Otherwise your admirer will start to wonder more about who that other person is and less about who you are.
2. No bathroom mirror self-portraits.
Same goes for webcam self-portraits. You'll inevitably end up with bad lighting, wide-angle lenses and stern faces. You're much more likely to flash a genuine smile when your friend is behind the camera. Bonus: When you try giving the "sexy stare", your friend will love you enough to tell you to knock it off and be yourself.
3. No on-top-of-a-mountain photos.
Look at me on vacation. I'm on a mountain! Really, really far away! I am the size of an ant!
4. Don't use your professional headshot.
I know this sounds counter-intuitive, especially coming from a professional photographer. You're probably thinking, why shouldn't I use it, I paid for it didn't I? What sells you as a professional isn't the same as what sells you to a potential life partner. That said, professional photos can be great, especially if you go into the photo shoot with a dating portrait in mind.
5. Look at the camera and smile.
Simple, but true. Serious, sarcastic or even shy portraits are hard to connect with. Your admirers are "meeting you" for the first time online. Make eye contact and smile. They'll smile back.
6. Don't have kids in your photos unless they're your kids.
It might seem silly, but it can be confusing. Your admirers will always be subconsciously associating you with the children you are pictured with, so make sure that they matter.
7. Don't show yourself doing something goofy or ironic.
It's hard to translate irony out of context. My sister admitted recently that if she'd met her current guy online, she would have never agreed to a first date. His profile photo was outrageously out-of-character, which was endearing and entertaining for friends and family, but misleading for potential admirers.
Rules of Thumb
- Your face is the first thing people want to see, so post it first.
- Share photos of you doing things you love, but make sure that we can actually see you. (If there are multiple people in the photo, specify which one is you.)
- Share at least one whole body photo and one closeup, both taken within the last three years or since your last major change, i.e. haircut, shave or weight loss.
- Share photos your friends approve of. Chances are, if they think you look great, we will, too.
- Choose photos taken outside. The lighting is almost always better.
- Try multitasking. If you're a single mom getting a family portrait done, ask for a few extra shots of just yourself. If you're a professional paying for a headshot, bring a change of clothes for a more casual look.
- Bring a friend along! Your friends can get you to relax and laugh.
- Get some advice from your photographer about what to wear. They'll probably suggest bringing multiple outfits and accessories to find the one that looks best on camera.
- Be yourself. I know, you'll scoff at the obviousness of this, but sometimes you forget. Your future significant other is going to love you for you, so why pretend to be anyone else?
- Last but not least, don't overdo it with props. Simple is memorable.