Real talk: I’m not here to tell you how to get “the best dating profile photo ever.” You already know you’d look awesome standing on the edge of a mountain. Or toasting Elon Musk.
I could give you tips for taking an off-the-charts picture, but they’d be complicated and hard. They would involve other people and/or putting yourself in a vulnerable situation. As a consequence, you would not take my advice. You’d end up snapping a selfie in your bathroom mirror like everyone else.
That’s why I’m not here to tell you how to take “the best dating photo ever.” Rather, I’m here to teach you how to get above-average pictures easily, without leaving home. These are pictures that are flattering and effective (i.e. the opposite of a creepy bathroom selfie).
Sound good? Great! Simply follow this 5-step method.
Step 1: Create a scene across from a window
For a moment, think of your picture like a movie scene. Filmmakers don’t leave anything to chance. Everything visible in the shot was placed there with purpose, to help create a feeling.
The scene you are creating is this: you were hanging out at your place with at least one other person, and they took a photo of you being good-looking and normal.
This could look like you holding your guitar while smiling at your friend; just sitting there confidently with a smile on your face, your elbow brushing against a side table with your favorite book on it; holding a coffee mug; playing with your dog. All while your unseen friend looks on and takes a picture. (You do NOT actually need to have a friend present, let me remind you. We’re just pretending you’re not by yourself in your apartment.)
As for where this scene should take place… a living room is better than a bedroom. (Bedrooms read as presumptuous at best; predatory at worst.) The most important element, however, is lighting.
To create the most attractive lighting (literally — according to ratings on our site), you want to be directly across from a window during the daytime. If you need to move your couch to accomplish this, move your couch! It’s worth it. Also, choose a time when the sun is not in immediate view (i.e. indirect sunlight).
Step 2: Set up a tripod to hold your smartphone
So, as we established, we’re trying to create the illusion that someone else took these pictures of you. In order to do that, you can’t use your arm to take the photos. Selfies distort the proportions of your face, making your forehead or nose look larger than it is. While subtle, this effect tips people off to the fact that your photo is a selfie. That’s why you can tell a photo is a selfie even when the photo-taking arm has been cropped out.
To fake the look that someone else is taking your picture, we’re going to use a tripod.
If you don’t want to buy a tripod, a table stacked with books and a Kleenex box may temporarily suffice. Or even something like this can work. The goal is to get your camera a few feet away from you at about eye level.
Step 3: Use your timer to take pictures
Once you’ve got your phone in place, turn on your camera’s timer setting.
If you’re using an iPhone, you’ll simply open up your camera app and tap the clock icon:
Once your timer is set, you simply press the button to take a picture, and it gives you a few seconds to get in place.
With your setup down-pat, go ahead and take lots photos to ensure you’ve got a few good shots in the bunch. Feel free to experiment as well with different setups, props, outfits, poses, you name it.
[Note: While you ought to experiment with different looks, making eye contact with the camera lens and smiling is the safest bet: a) because most people prefer this, and b) because it accurately reflects what you’d actually be doing if someone else was taking your picture.]
Step 4: Edit your favorites
If you followed the steps above, you should have a whole bunch of pictures that look something like this.
Once you’ve uploaded the shots to your computer (by plugging your phone into your computer using a USB cable or using your Dropbox app or what have you), you’ll want to use a free online photo editor to make some easy tweaks.
Here’s an edited version of the photo above:
Because the lighting and coloring was already solid, all we did was crop the picture to a square. If your pics didn’t turn out quite as well, however, there’s plenty of small tweaks you can make: rotating the picture slightly to straighten up your posture, editing the color balance to be slightly less green or red, and so on.
I suggest you go ahead and edit several different photos to give you some options to work with in the next step.
Step 5: Get feedback to choose the right photos
Finally, you’ll want to take the handful of shots you just edited and put them on Photofeeler for some free, easy feedback.
Here are the results we got on our demonstrator’s first test (from females, all ages):
So, the first pic did awesome! It scored way higher than any of the pictures he had tested before this shoot.
Here’s how a few more tests from this shoot went, to show you the variation in the scores:
Anyway, that wraps up all you need to know to get started! Are your current OkCupid or Tinder pics holding you back from landing dates? Want to adjust your picture based on Photofeeler feedback? Simply rinse and repeat. I hope you found this method simple enough to use again and again.
And if you know someone who could use this info, be sure to spread the word. They’ll thank you later.