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How to Judge an Online Dating Profile Photo

handsome man smiling outdoors

One of the downsides of online dating is that it’s highly visual. When you meet someone in person, there are a handful of non-visual cues that help you determine whether you’re attracted to them – eye-contact, timber of voice, smell, personality. However, when it comes to online dating, until you meet in person, all you have to go on is literally what’s on the page in front of you – and sometimes, it’s not much. We’re visual creatures. So, when trying to determine whether you’re interested in dating someone, it’s easy to fall back on a person’s profile photos.

Although physical attraction is hugely important, I’m here to tell you: profile photos don’t always tell the full story. I’ve seen quite a few guys online who had very ho-hum photos, only to discover that we had great chemistry in person.

Not convinced? Here are a few reasons why it’s important to look behind the profile picture.

Not everyone is photogenic or knows how to take good photos.

I know what you’re probably thinking. “This sounds like a big, fat excuse!” Well, think about it: not everyone is naturally photogenic. I’m sure if Mario Testino was in charge of taking all of our online dating photos, we’d all come out looking like celebrities – but that’s just not realistic.

The reality is a lot of people might be photogenic, but don’t know how to take a good picture or don’t even know what qualifies as a flattering photo. In the words of Tyra Banks, not all of us know our good “angles.” I have friends whose default personal photography style consists of un-smiling selfies taken at slightly awkward angles. However, in person they’re 100 percent more gorgeous and approachable than in their photos. This is why you can never judge a potential date completely by the photos they choose to include in their profile.

Not everyone takes a lot of photos – period.

The feedback I’ve received from men in my life is that most guys just don’t take as many photos as women – period. From our daily adventures to nights out with friends and good hair days, as women, we tend to be more camera happy.

Regardless of your gender, if you take a lot of photos, you have a lot more to choose from. When asked why they chose the photos they did, a lot of men I talked to simply said, “These are the only semi-current photos of myself that I have.” Some people are just working with what they’ve got. Yet another reason why profile photos alone don’t tell the whole story.

If you’ve found someone online that you might be interested in, but you’re on the fence because of their photos, here are a few questions you need to ask yourself.

  • Do you have common interests?

This is when their profile bio becomes your best friend. Read through it all. What jumps out? Are they well-spoken? Do you have anything in common? There have been several occasions where I’ve been lukewarm on someone’s photos, only to be completely won over by something in their profile. Whether it’s someone’s intentional approach to healthy living or their love of the band Cut Copy, there needs to be something about their profile that speaks to you.

On the other hand, maybe you don’t share any specific interests, but they just seem like a friendly, approachable person. This is also a good sign. Either way, keep in mind that, if you do meet up with this person, you’re going to have to sit across from each other and actually have a conversation. So, is this someone you’d actually want to have coffee or grab a beer with?

  • Is there something you find attractive about this person?

Maybe their profile photos aren’t the best. Is there something you find attractive about this person? Everyone has something that makes them attractive to someone else. For example, maybe you can tell they have a friendly smile or their eyes really catch your attention. One guy I met online had extremely limited profile photos, but I liked his sandy brown hair and how it fell on his face. It sounds like a small detail, but it was enough to make me message him. After exchanging a few messages, we developed a rapport. The end result: he was much more charming and handsome in person than in his photos.

  • Do you feel comfortable with this person?

Are you on the fence about this person because their photos aren’t the greatest or because there is something in their profile that legitimately makes you uncomfortable? For example, I tend to avoid messaging guys where the majority of their photos are shirtless muscle shots – it’s just not my thing. If something about their photos actually offends you – if they’re making a lewd gesture, guns and/or alcohol are prominently featured, or they’re wearing a racist Halloween costume (true story) – it’s ok to let this person go. You’re the master of your own dating destiny and it’s up to you to decide whether this is just a case of bad lighting and sub-par photos or whether this person is legitimately wrong for you.


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