Profile pictures: your essential guide to getting it right … and wrong


Have you agonised for hours over how best to describe your sense of humour or rock-climbing hobby in a dating profile? It’s probably been wasted time, because the unvarnished truth of online dating is that Shakespeare-level writing talent won’t come to the rescue of bad profile pictures.

Whether on swiping apps or more serious sites such as eharmony, the rules change little: if your pictures don’t make a good first impression, it’s thanks-but-no-thanks. So why do so, so many people make a mess of profile pics?

Drunken group shots, badly lit bathroom selfies, images in which the subject is a tiny speck in the background: we’ve all seen them countless times. It shouldn’t be so hard to get a simple, in-focus and (hopefully) flattering image of yourself in front of potential partners, yet the evidence is clear that many of you don’t know where to start. 

But help is at hand for the photographically challenged: here is eharmony’s step-by-step guide to a decent, varied and, yes, bound-to-be-successful set of profile pictures.

1 Nailing that selfie

profile pictures

‘I really think my chin is my most attractive feature,’ said absolutely no-one, ever. So why point a camera straight at it? Even if you do love your chin, the sensation of looking up at someone three feet taller is rarely a winner. Same goes for holding the camera too high, peering straight down your top (girls) or highlighting that impending bald patch (boys, and don’t pretend it doesn’t exist).

The solution is barkingly simple: hold the camera at forehead-height, at a slight angle and the length of your shoulder to your elbow from your face. Just like below.

profile pics

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2 Group shots. Just don’t 

profile picture

Just who are these cheeky chappies? What a jolly little bunch of drunken tearaways they seem! And which one is you, by the way? 

Look, we get that you might not want people to think of you as the sort of loner who spends his evenings in a darkened room agonising over dating profile pics (hi Mum!). But this is your profile, not that of your lairy mates and apart from the general awfulness of these shots, why run the risk of anyone looking wondering if your friends are better looking than you? Just say no to group shots, and the same to that selfie you snagged with the stupider bloke from Geordie Shore on a night out. No one will think better of you for once harassing a D-list celeb.

3 Poor light = bad news

dating profile picture

Yes, most people look better in forgiving lighting. But that’s in real life, not photos. And if this is your best bet at standing out from the crowd, you could be in for a long wait. Having said that, neither should ideal lighting for profile pictures be too harsh – avoid those kitchen striplights and above all (see below), the dreaded bathroom selfie. Just make sure your face is illuminated in a soft but clear way and, for pity’s sake, get your hair out of your eyes.

4 No wizards need apply

dating profile pic

So you love Harry Potter? Well, how very unusual, I don’t think I every met anyone quite like that, do you also like food, money and oxygen? All snark aside, some hobbies and obsessions (see also manga, cosplay, boybands, Star Wars, the goddamn Spice Girls) are best left for first-date (scratch that, fifth date) conversations. It’s fine to like such stuff, of course. Within limits. But shoehorning it into profile pics is just off-putting for the probable majority of viewers who don’t feel the same way.

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5 But not all hobbies are bad

profile picture

There is an entirely rational point of view that cooking is no more a hobby than walking, watching TV or taking afternoon naps, in that just about everyone does it to some extent. But some, undoubtedly, are a lot better than others and it would be a rare individual who didn’t appreciate some level of culinary aptitude in a partner. So go for it, in this instance: flip those pancakes, toss the wok, chop the celery like a ninja.

6 Oh, do put some clothes on

profile pics

Gentlemen, we need to talk. So you like to keep fit and have been to the gym – all well and good. But what is it about you that thinks this fine, sculpted physique might not be equally obvious beneath, say, a tight-ish t-shirt or a well-fitting pullover? Is the sight of your nipples really worth sacrificing all sense of taste and decorum? Dressing sexy, for those who clearly don’t understand it, is about revealing just enough to activate the imagination and no more.

7 Animal instinct

dating profile pics

This is a tricky one. Research suggests most people respond well to cute dogs but ‘CAT LADY . . . Nooooooooooooooooooooo’ is also a typical reaction. Judge this for yourself, but if you are going to press-gang a schnauzer into your search for a (human) snuggle or two, follow some rules: (a) don’t hold the mutt in front of your face – no-one wants to date your dog – and, (b), don’t choose a shot that looks like it might result in a house call from the RSPCA.

8 Kill the filters with fire

dating profile pictures

Awwww … look at me with my cute fwuffy bunny nose, aren’t I just the funnest thing you ever did see? Wouldn’t you just love to go out with someone who thinks Snapchat is a substitute for a personality? No. You wouldn’t. End of.

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9 And finally, some good ‘uns

So the below aren’t exactly rocket science but neither is a well-framed, properly lit, non-distracting image of how you look at your best. So don’t let your profile go public without at least a few of these in your gallery.

profile pictures

It’s obvious, but smile rather than pout. Try using your arms to create visual texture. And wear neutral, block colours that flatter your skin type, whatever it may be.

profile pics

Experiment with framing and distance – the above, three-quarter length shot should always be in your repertoire. And try varying the camera angle to catch your best side (we’ve all got one).

If this article gave you the confidence to find your match, try eharmony today!

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