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On Life, Love and the Pursuit of Happiness

Building Your Digital Dating Presence Part 3 - Photos and Names

Robert Manni - Thursday, June 23, 2016


Many people, particularly men, scan the online profiles by solely looking at the photos. They will only read the profiles of good-looking singles or profiles with ‘sexy’ pictures and do not bother opening profiles of people they don’t find attractive. So choosing the right photos is critical.

Yes, you need a photo. Rule number one: if you want to succeed at online dating, you must include photos in your profile. No matter how eloquent, clever, or interesting your bio reads, if you do not post at least one photo, your chances of meeting someone are severely hampered. Ask yourself, would you honestly take the time to connect with someone online that did not post a photo?  Wouldn’t you wonder why the person didn’t include a photo? Probably even the most well-meaning of us would assume something was wrong; either the person was unattractive and embarrassed about their appearance or they were hiding something of a possibly negative nature/ So, even if the reason for not posting a picture were benign, it is much better not to stay hidden because most people probably wouldn’t take the chance to find out.

There may be truly exceptional cases, though. For example, once a woman who had not posted her photo contacted me. She told me that she liked what she read about me and that she had not included her photo because she was the CEO of a well-known corporation. However, she offered to email her photo. I don’t think I would have agreed to meet if she hadn’t. But, I understood why she wanted to stay incognito.

How many photos do you need?  When it comes to deciding how many photos and which ones to choose, the old ‘not too few and not too many’ adage comes to mind. Profiles featuring a dozen photos can be a sign of self-confidence, or taken to the extreme, narcissism. Again, a little mystery goes a long way when meeting someone new. A good rule of thumb for posting is three to five photos. You can pour through your current photos, maybe ask a friend to help you choose the best shots, or shoot a fresh set on your own or even professionally. Any method works as long as you keep in mind that the photos, like your profile, are not for you. These photos are sales tools, carefully selected to attract new people into your life.

First, you’ll need a headshot that provides a clear picture of your face. That means a current photo without sunglasses or your favorite hat. If you’re a guy, women want to see your eyes, your teeth, and your hair. A warm smile can go a long way in a headshot. If you want to project a more circumspect, moody vibe, that’s cool, however try including another photo of you smiling. You should also choose a photo of yourself in a social setting. Some good options are of you attending an event, such as a wedding, a family celebration, a conference or an outing, or a dinner. One of the photos should show other people with whom you are having a good time so that people know you are social and have fun and enjoy being in the company of others. Another possibility, if you are athletic, is to include an action shot of you participating in a favorite activity, preferably outdoors. If you’re in good shape, consider having a photo of you at the beach, hiking, or playing a sport showing off your fitness. This can include shots of you boating, skiing, running, or even playing with your dog at the beach. You get the picture. You want the world to see that you’re fit, active, healthy, and fun. If you are not athletically inclined or have body issues, choose a photo of you doing things you are passionate about, possibly playing an instrument, painting, or whatever tells some truths about the authentic you.

Finally, consider a ‘wildcard’ photo with you doing something unexpected like a cultural event or concert, standing in front of the Pyramids, or at a Halloween party where you can show off your bad-girl outfit. If you’re over forty, there’s a good chance that you’ve been married or have kids. If so, consider including a photo with your children if it feels right for you, but only choose photos that give your prospects an authentic sense of who you are.

Do you think I’m sexy? Here’s a word of caution about posting sexy photos, especially when you’re over forty. Let’s start with the guys. Keep your shirts on and no flexing. It’s okay to show a picture of yourself surfing or involved in a physical activity where you normally do not wear a shirt. But, there are not many situations where shirts are not required.

Now for the gals. It’s okay to be proud of your body and to be comfortable showing it off. But, keep in mind that sexy photos usually result in sexual responses. Regardless of age guys are hopelessly visual creatures. Many grown men still go crazy when they see photos of women dressed in lingerie or a Brazilian bikini. So sure, if you are a woman, you’ll get a lot of responses when you post sexy photos. Sex is good and it sells. But, come on, you’ll want quality responses versus the sheer number of hits you’ll get from a hot photo if you are serious about meeting someone to have a meaningful relationship.

The money shot. After honing down the number of pictures to post, you need to choose a primary photo. This is your most important photo because it’s the one people see first. So it should be the photo you are most comfortable with and the one that best communicates your personal brand. For many people, the primary photo is the headshot. Pick the photograph that you like best. Then ask a friend for their input and when you make a decision, stick with your primary photo for while. This way you will also get a sense of how much interest you are garnering before changing it.

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

You might think the first step in creating an engaging online profile is choosing a catchy headline and user name. Actually the best time to come up with those handles is after crafting your bio and selecting the right photos. You want to make sure your user name fits the rest of your profile and isn’t too random or cutesy. Try to come up with something simple, positive, and fun without being too silly and without using your real name. Although my name is Robert, a few of my friends called me Maximum Bob, the name of an Elmore Leonard novel. My birthday is on the twenty-second of the month. So I used Maximum22. It’s not Shakespeare, but it sounds positive and many women playfully referred to me as Max in their correspondence. So it worked for me.

Now, for a headline. Here is where people either try too hard or don’t put any effort into this key component of your profile. Some dating websites and apps do not require a headline, but for the ones that do, again try your best to come up with something short and represents who you are and what you’re looking for. And what works best is to use a short set of words rather than a long multisyllabic words. Once you have some ideas, test them out on a friend. By now, you’re probably buying a nice lunch for all your friends’ help with your profile and photos. But, you should be ready to post your profile and get the party started! And again, don’t sign up for more than three online services at a time. Managing all the responses, particularly if you are an attractive woman or man, takes time. You want to avoid being overwhelmed and overexposed.

You may think that the rules for setting up a successful online profile and presence are not that different when you are over forty. In many ways it’s true. The rules are basically the same, but when you are over forty, you want to show just a tad more class and restraint, at least when posting online. You can always fly your freak flag in person. 

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