DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I have a brief question. I’m in my early 30s and am ready to start online dating. I have no prior dating experience, but I have a solid profile written up, vetted, and ready to go. My challenge is that I don’t have a bank of photos to choose from for my profile before hitting the launch button. I’m not a big selfie person, there are no recent family pictures, I don’t have a lot of friends, and even when I go to events I simply don’t take a lot of pictures. Whereas I assume peers in my age group seem to be recording every minute of their lives, I simply find it uncomfortable.
I’ve considered hiring a professional photographer for a session in my favorite city spot — something that would represent my taste and what I enjoy — but online dating advice suggests that it’s the equivalent of trying too hard. I really just need someone to hold a camera and shoot a pic or two, but I’d like to save the embarrassment and work with someone who understands poses and what best flatters me. Something is obviously better than nothing, but what’s the best thing to do in this situation to get the best outcome?
DEAR PICTURELESS: There’re a couple things you can do, Pictureless. First, yes, you can certainly hire a professional photographer. In fact, this is something I actually recommend. Photos are a vital part of dating app profiles; what you look like is important information, and you want to present yourself to your best effect. Bad photos can make even the most conventionally attractive people look bad. Great photos, on the other hand, make everyone look good.
But what makes a good photo is surprisingly complex. It’s a combination of lighting, posing, even the type of camera you use, the camera’s lens and your distance from the camera. Photos, after all, are a 2d representation of a 3D object, which means that things will get distorted. Similarly, all photos are the result of light through convex lenses, and the distance of the lens from the sensor or film. That also can introduce distortions and transform how somebody looks. A professional photographer can account and control for all of these things and help show you off to your best effect.
Don’t worry about being too “try hard”. First of all, there’re many photographers who specialize in photos for dating apps and are great at taking photos that look candid and natural. Second, you’re on dating apps because you’re looking for a relationship of one sort or another. Why wouldn’t you put in the effort to maximize your chances of finding someone who’s right for you? Screw this disaffected-I-don’t-care-or-take-this-seriously bullshit; if it’s meaningful or important to you then own that shit. It’s 2020; everyone’s on dating apps and nobody’s “too cool” to be there.
That being said, I don’t recommend that your profile should be all pro pictures. While your primary photo should be your best solo picture, it’s good to have a mix of pro and candid pics. I generally recommend one or two pro or pro-quality ones — ideally at least one that shows you at least from the waist up — and two or three candids that illustrate who you are as a person. This may be pics of you and your friends, or it could be pictures of you doing things you enjoy. Your pictures should tell a story and that story is “this is who I am, this is what I love and this is what life with me is like”.
I know you said that you don’t have many pics at events with friends or many selfies. I’d suggest that you try changing this. Not only to get photos for your dating profiles, but because it’s good to have memories and mementos of good times with your friends. Looking through old photos and remembering the fun you had is almost as emotionally rewarding as the events themselves. This doesn’t mean that you need to record every aspect of your life or do it all for the ‘gram, but getting with your friends and snapping a couple quick pics — or having the friend who DOES take pics like that send you copies — is simple, quick and easy.
(Plus, if you get physical copies, then you’re doing future historians a huge, huge favor. Historians LOVE photo albums and diaries; they provide so much more information about the era that they come from than dry documents and records.)
The benefit of taking selfies is that they help you start to learn your angles. We’re all asymmetric to greater or lesser degrees, and so that whole “get your good side” is an actual thing. Selfies help you learn what poses, angles and lighting make you look your best, which helps you look good even when someone else is taking those photos. Part of what makes Tom Cruise so successful as an actor is he is incredibly aware of how he looks on camera and is able to adjust himself to maximize the effect he needs. The more you understand what works for you, the more confidence you’ll have in front of the camera, regardless of who’s taking the pictures and when.
Now I know you said you don’t have a lot of friends and right now, with the pandemic, it’s a little hard to get together with folks. So I’m going to let you in on a sneaky secret: there’re ways you can take great selfies that don’t look like selfies. All you need is a tripod or a gimbal like the DJI OM4 and a bluetooth trigger. You can set up the tripod or gimbal, move yourself into position and use the trigger to set off the shutter. Boom, instant selfie that looks like a photo someone else took. Take several at once and you can pick the one that looks the best. As a bonus, if you have a compatible smartwatch (like an Apple Watch with an iPhone or a Samsung Galaxy with Android phones) you can not only use that as the trigger but double check how you look before you take the picture.
If you go this route, then I suggest two things that will help you take better, more striking photos. First, use “portrait” mode on your smartphone; this will change the focal length of your camera and give you a lovely soft-focus background that will make the subject (you) pop. Second, turn on the grid feature on your phone so that you can use the “rule of thirds” to compose your photos. People’s eyes naturally go to the points of intersection on the grid, rather than the center of the photo. By placing the point of interest (again, you) at the intersections, you create more dynamic, more striking photos that help you stand out in a sea of so-far-away-that-you-can’t-see-a-thing and all-too-close-to-the-camera pics.
Doing this will get you the pics you need to get your profile up and running. But don’t just set it and forget it; as you get new (and/or better) pics, swap your old ones. Not only does this keep things fresh and give potential suitors an accurate and current idea of what you look like, but it’ll help ping the algorithms and keep your profile coming up in the timelines of folks who are looking for someone just like you.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org