Sure shot: How to nail that dating profile photo with just your smartphone

Show off your best self in your dating app profile with some smartphone photography tips from experts.


One-tenth of a second is all you’ve got. Researchers at Princeton found that’s all the time people need to make their minds up about someone. It’s as true for political candidates as for potential partners. And with better photos shown to get 400% more likes on Tinder, it’s worth asking: would your dating photos pass the 100 millisecond test?

No pressure, then.

To help you put your best face forward, we've spoken to dating coaches and professional photographers for advice on how to take great photos with your smartphone.

First things first: selfies are out. “They do nothing for you. You want to brand yourself as fun, exciting, friendly, kind and selfies do none of that,” says dating coach Frances Kelleher.

Instead, there are plenty of ways to take a good photo of yourself using the phone you’ve got. “The thing with a smartphone is, it’s a very natural, easy method of taking photos,” says professional photographer Viv van der Holst. “If you’re out and about, you could stand the phone on a table. Your phone has a self-timer, either two seconds or 10 seconds, and it does a burst mode for you. It’ll take between five and 10 shots, so you can pick favourite one if you blink. That’s a cost-free way of doing it.”

For a small outlay, a tripod or smartphone stand costs as little as €20 and will give you stable and well-composed shots. A Bluetooth remote shutter control costs just a couple of euro and lets you take photos without needing someone else to snap the picture.

Second, don’t use filters. “The number one thing people look for on online is honesty. When the person meets you they see the real you anyway, so the filters are only putting you in a bad light then. You are good enough without one,” says Kelleher.

Third: put yourself in the best light – literally. Avoid direct sunlight for dating photos, because it casts a harsh light and strong shadows – exactly the opposite effect of what you’re looking for.

“Use window light, preferably north facing which is softer and kinder,” says portrait photographer Therese Aherne. Professional photographer Conor McCabe says: “Turn and face the window when taking a photo of yourself, and never stand your back to the window using a phone camera. Use a shady area outdoors, for example under a tree or in the shadow of a building.”

Instead of using the default camera setting on your phone, use the portrait mode instead. “This allows the background to be blurred and gives a soft focus which can be very flattering,” McCabe adds.

Another way to put you in the best light is by showing your interests. Athletic activity gets more likes on dating profiles. “The pictures should project a full, happy life so if you like cycling, have a picture of you cycling. I would keep them as natural as possible and not have them staged-looking, as people want to see the true you to see if you have common ground,” Kelleher advises.

Don’t just use photos where you’re standing with drinks in bars, van der Holst suggests. “That can be off-putting for some people. Show other sides to you, that’s what people want to see.”

But he cautions: don’t overdo the company when uploading photos to a dating app. “Sometimes people only upload photos of themselves in groups, so you need to make it quite obvious which one is you, and that this is your profile.”

That’s also why you should choose a variety of shots, poses, clothes and activities: don’t pin your hopes on that one shot to do all the work. “Five to six pictures is enough as you don’t want to overwhelm people, but one is not enough to sell yourself as a good partner that will enhance someone's life,” says Kelleher.

And last, always remember to smile. “This is huge, as people don’t always do it – especially men. The number one thing women look for in men is trustworthiness,” she adds.

Want more tips about online dating, and to find out what research says about choosing strong photos for your profile? See our online dating masterclass with cyberpsychologist Dr Nicola Fox Hamilton.

Gordon Smith
Gordon Smith is a journalist and copywriter who has been working from home before it was cool. Husband of one and father of two, he loves music (playing and listening) and football (playing and watching). His vices are coffee, craft beer and dad jokes.

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