How To Write The Best Dating Profile EVAH! – Part 2: Photos & Self-Summaries

In the first installment of this series we covered the basics: headline, username, basic details, and search criteria. Now onlinedatingpic4let’s tackle the stuff that people really find tricky.

THE SELF-SUMMARY/ABOUT ME SECTION

At this point in the game, it’s not about who has the most engaging or interesting profile text, it’s about who has the least boring and cliched. Understand this: very few profiles actually stand out. A lot of people, when they decide to put up a profile, end up looking at other user’s profiles and taking cues from them. That’s part of the reason so many profiles sound identical. When it comes to writing your profile, I would suggest you don’t use other people’s profiles as a guide.

Be sure to remember that your self summary is NOT where you talk about your ideal match or who you are looking for. Not until you have sufficiently introduced and described yourself, that is. If you’re only allotted one section to talk about your self and your match, then you should describe yourself first.

Your opening line has to grab people. Dating site users are used to seeing the same repetitive introductions. That’s why that first line of your summary has to stand out. You don’t want to say anything inflammatory, but you can definitely be a little provocative or humorous while still giving people an idea of your personality.

I’m a combination of Sheldon Cooper and Don Draper.

One part Joan Holloway, one part Joan Didion. (That’s the opening line of my profile.)

My most memorable brush with greatness was when Lou Reed said, “Excuse me” on his way to the men’s room.

If I were a character in a scary movie, I’d be the one who (died first/was the comic relief/was the wise sage that helped people defeat the monster.)

When I was twelve I dreamed of being a (insert fantasy occupation.)

Whatever that line is, it has to stray from the now expected, “I’m laid back, outgoing, and fun.” Forget about throwing out a bunch of adjectives to describe yourself. That is completely ineffective at this point. And it’s boring.

Instead, try to tell a story. You want to let people know who you are, what’s important to you, and what makes you tick. Don’t just word vomit a bunch of interests, personality traits, or hobbies.  Before you write anything, open a blank Word Document. Type out any word or interest that applies to you. Don’t think too much. Just type. Underneath each word, write out a specific example of that characteristic or passion.  The point of this exercise is not just to help you effectively describe yourself but to get you writing. When I’m blocked, my coach tells me to just write anything for five minutes. Anything. Maybe it’s a story of how I want to decorate my apartment or about a phone conversation I had. It doesn’t matter. The goal is to write and fill that page with words. One of the most intimidating things about writing anything is sitting there staring at a blank space. That blinking cursor can feel like it’s taunting you. Filling the page with phrases and words is your way of slaying that dragon.

Many people rush through this because they’re anxious to get their profile live. The problem with that is that people will get a few emails despite having a bare bones profile and won’t bother to go back and update their self-summary. Take your time.

The About Me section is where you give people an idea of whether or not you and they have similar lifestyles, personalities,  and interests. That’s why over-used words like laid back or relaxed or outgoing don’t work. They’re too basic and vague, and they’re so over-used that they’ve lost their meaning. This is why you need to be specific. Don’t just say you love to travel. Talk about your favorite trips and what was most memorable about them. Remember, you’re not applying for a job. Nobody cares how organized or detail oriented you are. People want to know what will make you fun to date.  They want to hear about things you like to do in order to tell if you and they will get on.

YOUR IDEAL MATCH/YOU SHOULD MESSAGE ME IF SECTION

My personal opinion is that people shouldn’t bother writing about a description of their ideal match. Instead, they should just say, “Drop me a line if you think we have some things in common.” Pretty much everybody says that they want to meet someone fun, honest, reliable, witty, etc. Derp. Of course. That’s why writing a laundry list of criteria seems pointless to me. Plus, most people go too far and are so specific or use descriptors that are so subjective that they end up alienating a number of potential matches.

ADDRESSING TRANSITIONAL ISSUES

I often get asked by clients whether or not  they should reveal that they’re unemployed, recently out of a relationship, on sick leave, newly separated, etc. I always tell them that it all depends on what they are looking for. There’s no need to go into any kind of great detail, but it wouldn’t hurt to make a passing reference of your current situation in your profile. Just be sure to sell it in a way that’s positive and not negative.

If you’re in between jobs or on sick leave, then say you’re currently enjoying some time off by traveling/developing a hobby/engaging in self-improvement/contemplating your next big move as you look for your next position. You want to demonstrate that you’re not in dire straights financially or emotionally.

If you’re separated, and recently so, don’t admit that in your profile unless you’re looking for something strictly casual. Someone seeking a committed relationship isn’t going to be eager to meet with someone who just moved out of the apartment they shared with their spouse. If you’ve been separated for awhile or are positive that the divorce will happen or is imminent, then say that. You want people to know that there is little to no chance you’ll be returning to your estranged partner. You can select Single as your relationship status if you like, but you really should expand on that in your profile text if you’re separated.

I give similar advice for people dipping their toe into the pool after a break-up or divorce. If you’re just looking to hook-up, then state in your profile that you’re fresh off a break-up or newly divorced. That’s enough information for mature adults to deduce that you’re not looking for anything serious. if you’re looking for more, there’s no need to announce that you’re giving dating a go again after a heart break. In fact, you shouldn’t do that. Nobody wants to be your rebound.

Now, do you HAVE to mention any of this? No, but this information probably should be revealed before you meet someone.

PHOTOS

It’s astonishing to me how many people fail at choosing profile photos. In this situation, common sense should prevail and it should be a given that people should choose flattering photos. Unfortunately, many people ignore this simple fact and select what are quite possibly THE WORST photos of themselves for their profile. Let’s start with some general guidelines.

1. All photos need to be within the last year or so. Oh, you think you still look like that photo from 2010? How adorable. You don’t. It’s called aging, and we all do it.

2. Each picture must be clear, unobstructed,  and relatively close-up. No hats, sunglasses,shadows, bulky jackets, or baggy clothes. No pictures of you taken from far away. And no photos of you hiding behind friends. Potential matches need to be able to make out the features on your face without squinting or adjusting their screen.

3. Your primary photo should be a clear, well lit,  and close-up show of your face only. – You need that picture to be enticing when it appears as a thumbnail in a search. When the pic is that small, nobody is going to be compelled to click on your profile if it’s a shot of you standing next to The Eiffel Tower. All they’ll see is a stick figure. Use a photo that will make people click!

4. Your primary photo should be of you only. – I do not want to click on your profile and find out you’re the lesser attractive one.

5. Post no more than 5 photos. – Full frontal face, full frontal body, social shot, and then one or two more of any of those categories. You want to look relatively the same in all photos. Trust me, if you use a photo that’s 2-3 years old and put it amongst one that is recent, people will notice.

6. No goofy/unseemly shots. - Those pics of you with that fake mustache or in a Halloween costume? Hilarious, amirite? Wrong. We want to see what you look like. Putting fake facial hair on your face or dressing up like a zombie impedes that. Don’t use shots of you making funny faces, either, unless you plan on showing up to that first date and making that expression all night. You also want to avoid posting pics where you’re tipsy or high or under the influence because, duh. Holding a drink in a couple of your photos is fine, just don’t look hammered.

7. A full body shot is a must. - If you don’t have at least one shot of you from the middle of your thighs up, standing straight towards the camera, forget about dating online. Only people truly desperate will agree to meet you. Without that photo, your responses will be almost nil.

8. Your photos must reflect what you look like now. – That means all of them. If you dyed your hair, shaved your head, went and got a totally new hairstyle, your photos HAVE to reflect that. Gained ten pounds? Eh. Not a big deal But if you know you’ve gained more than that – and we all know when we do – your pictures need to be updated.

9. Use photo captions wisely. – It’s not a bad idea to add a time stamp to each of your photos. The month and year will do. You don’t have to explain each photo. If you do, keep it simple, although people don’t really care who was hosting that party or why you were at that barbeque.

10. Selfies are acceptable. – Okay, so pictures of you taking a photo of yourself in the mirror aren’t, but the other kids of selfies are. Anybody still using a bathroom mirror and a cell phone to take a picture of themselves is telling you they’re still stuck in 2005. Everybody at this point should know how to use the camera on their cell phone to take a picture of themselves.  The fact that OKCupid now allows user to link their Instagram accounts to their profiles should tell you how acceptable selfies have become. If you take some pics of yourself at home with a phone, use the timer and pose. Simple.

11. Post a photo of your face and body or GTFO. – Self-explanatory. You’re not POTUS. Post a pic. If celebrities can use Tinder you, Mr./Ms. Middle Management Person, can too. I realize that it’s scary to think what people can and often do with out photos, but we’re all in the same boat on that one. The good thing is that you can always change your photos if necessary. Nobody wants to get themselves into a situation where they trade emails with someone, then see their picture, and have to politely get out of the conversation due to lack of interest.

12. Have a clean scene in your photos. – Nobody wants to see your unmade bed or messy desk or garbage on the floor.  Clean your apartment before taking any photos.

13. Keep the group shots to a minimum. – Groups shots pull the focus off of you, that’s why they’re counter-intuitive in this context.

 

 Next up: Additional profile questions, common dating profile red flags and online dating time wasters.

 

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26 Responses to “How To Write The Best Dating Profile EVAH! – Part 2: Photos & Self-Summaries”

  1. Greg Figueroa Says:

    Pictures can definitely give you the wrong idea.

    Avoid: 1. pictures with children (if you have to explain that’s your niece, don’t put it up).
    2. Pictures with the opposite sex
    3. Clean the background (I see a lot of messes)
    4. Shots that are of other things, but yourself (No kitties, Times Sq crowd shots, beach shots over the horizon). Daters don’t care.
    5. Pictures that look old and faded from the early 2000’s.
    6. Laying on your bed provocatively, if you’re not looking just for sex.
    7. Having just one picture up. You need more just like Moxie said.

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    • AC Says:

      A picture with a niece or nephew isn’t a bad thing – just don’t come across as that woman (or man) that’s “obsessed” with them.

      Opposite sex photos can be dicey depending on who it’s with and the context of the photo ( We don’t need to see a photo of you and your “bestie” of the opposite sex unless it’s a strikingly good photo of you- this goes for guys and girls).

      You’re totally spot on about shots that are of other things but yourself. No ones looking to date your dog – or the sunset in Aruba for that matter.

      Old photo’s? Agreed… we’re not fooled! Same goes for one photo. It’s 2014, not 1999. No one believes that you don’t have any other photos of yourself.

      I think in most cases people are just trying to put up what they think are the best photos of themselves. In some cases it’s a lot of social shots. That can be a double edged sword because sometimes those can be the best photos we have. At the same time, some of the pics I’ve seen posted are mind boggling. It’s as if the poster is clueless or conducting some sociological experiment.

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  2. JayD Says:

    I think men who post pictures of expensive cars/toys/possessions are either scammers or douchebags unless they are on sugardaddie.com. Wonder what your ladies’ take on that.

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    • Nicole Says:

      Pictures just standing next to a pricey car definitely reek of scammer or douchebag.

      Pictures of a guy actually driving his boat, riding his motorcycle, or barbecuing on his $10k grill can be passed off as showing interests or hobbies, not just flaunting possessions. It’s very wink-wink, nudge-nudge – obviously you put up that picture of you on your boat to show off, and obviously the girl who messaged you is fine with that. But there’s at least some theoretical reason to post those so they’re not as blatantly awful as the here’s-me-and-my-Porsche pics.

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      • J Says:

        I always find it funny when guys post pics like that and talk about their income but say “no gold diggers” lol check the bait you are using vs what you are looking for.

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    • Eliza Says:

      Definitely – reeks of “Douchey guy”…and also of insecure man leading with his possessions–when a guy “Poses” by an expensive car. It’s just cheesy and cliche. Now, if a person posts a photo with their dog/cat/horse or other pet–that’s cute. And actually important to let others know they do have a pet–due to allergies, or preferences. Animals lovers will respond in kind, and others will now from the start. Having a motorcycle and posting a pic on it–can be viewed as showing an interest…the same with posting a pic on a boat. You want others to know your interests and passions.

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  3. mindstar Says:

    Well for some it’s done in an attempt to show “status” or the ability to provide.

    If legitimate (anyone can pose for a picture in front of a Porshe doesn’t mean it’s theirs) its a form of short hand to demonstrate income level. Kind of like when a date asks do you own or rent? or Do you have a doorman in your building?

    I think for the most part they’re scammers and douchebags but then I’m a guy.

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    • Eliza Says:

      I have been asked – by men – if I own or rent…find it rather rude.
      I leave right there and then. or end the interview/asset qualifying interrogation within seconds. Nobody’s business what I own, or even where I live–when they are merely still a stranger from an online site. Had some weirdo try to figure out precisely – which building I lived in. As if there is no other conversation to be had. People basically tell you from a quick phone conversation where their minds are at. You stay or you go.

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      • AC Says:

        Great point. Anything financial is just as rude as asking about past relationships…none of their damn business.

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        • J Says:

          I don’t really see a big deal with asking if you own or rent. People ask me and it doesn’t matter. The rent where I live is more than my mortgage lol so I don’t really think it tells them anything.

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          • DMN the Wise Says:

            For nyc dwellers, it’s actually kind of a naive question because it doesn’t tell you anything about a person’s financial status. Except for the very wealthy townhouse owners, virtually everyone who “owns” in. Manhattan is a tenant in a coop or condo building, which require a monthly payment of maintenance “rent” to the building. This doesn’t even include a mortgage, which many “owners” have. So, basically, when you own, you still pay rent, you just pay it to the building and the bank, instead of a landlord. Conversely, there are many very wealthy people who “rent” because of convenience, or because they have a locked in rent control rate.

            “Owning” an apartment in manhattan basically just means you can remodel it to your taste (subject of course to board rules and approval) and you had enough saved to pay downpaynent and pass board approval.

            So, yeah, I don’t really find the question offensive either.

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    • Kate Says:

      Female here, and don’t think “own or rent” is a rude question. It is just conversation. I proudly rent.

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      • AC Says:

        Asking is fine. When people pry is when their behavior becomes rude. Had a woman spend about 30 minutes on a date talking about why it’s better to own rather than rent. As you can probably guess I didn’t ask her on a second date

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  4. Tinker Says:

    Can’t argue with any of this advice. I’d personally be pretty forgiving on most of these points, though, because I don’t expect him to be an expert at this.
    I’ll want to see a clear pic of his face but if he doesn’t have a clear one of his body I’ll live. I’m not attracted to overweight men, but I don’t expect he’ll understand the importance of a full body shot the way a woman would and I won’t knock him out of contention for that. The main things that will count for me are:
    – decent spelling and grammar
    – no unexplained pics with the opposite sex
    – no negativity/whining/ranting
    – no overtly sexual messages

    I feel like those are pretty common sense things that most folks should know, so a failure in one of those areas would really stand out, for me.

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    • LostSailor Says:

      Tinker, I agree with all of your points. People will disqualify or qualify themselves fairly naturally.

      The one thing I’ll contend is:

      I’m not attracted to overweight men, but I don’t expect he’ll understand the importance of a full body shot the way a woman would and I won’t knock him out of contention for that

      Yes, you will knock him out of contention for being overweight. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’ll just happen after meeting in person. Photos are still important, including full body shots for men. Just as important for men as it is for women.

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      • Tinker Says:

        Oh we are on the same page Lost Sailor. I just mean that the lack of a full
        body shot won’t automatically keep me from meeting a guy in person. I don’t really expect guys to feel the same way though, so I happily have full body shots posted.

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    • Kate Says:

      I won’t meet anyone without a full body shot. I’m into strength-training and fitness and keep lean year round. That’s important to me in a partner.

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  5. AC Says:

    This comes along at the right time because it seems laziness is at an all time high when in comes to profile writing.

    Maybe I’m paying closer attention but I’ve noticed a spike in self summaries that read like this:

    “I’m single. No kids. Drama free!!!
    Looking for friendship, good company maybe my partner in crime.”

    And “You should message me if’s” that read:

    “You want!:)”

    I know many of these are fakes but in some cases the photos are of pretty average women – I don’t mean that in a bad way. Simply that there’s nothing that would prompt a guy to send an email after a profile view.

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  6. Donnie K Says:

    Here’s one that doesn’t come up often but draws suspicion despite it’s practicality:

    The cropped photo.

    I remember reading on another dating blog that these types of photos should be considered red flags. I always found that viewpoint to be a bit paranoid.

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    • Tinker Says:

      Agreed. I’ve cropped girl friends out of photos simply because I didn’t think other people had any place on my dating profile. I always had uncropped photos too, but I wasn’t going to leave a great picture out just cause I had to crop someone put of it.

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    • D. Says:

      Yes. Cropped photos and “MySpace Angles.” (eg, http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/myspace-angles/photos)

      We know. We know what you’re doing, and we can guess why you’re doing it: you want to hide how you look. If you don’t want to send that message, don’t use those types of pictures.

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      • Donnie K Says:

        The weird angle crop took photographs… Absolutely…those are shady.

        Tinker makes an excellent point. If there is a great photo of me taken with a bunch of my girlfriends what am I supposed to do? If I crop them out, I’m being shady. If I leave them in the photo, I’m being a show off. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

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  7. LostSailor Says:

    A lot of people, when they decide to put up a profile, end up looking at other user’s profiles and taking cues from them.

    Yes, I, too, when I first went online for dating looked at other’s profiles. I chose to do the exact opposite of what I saw other’s doing. It’s worked fairly well so far.

    But Moxie’s suggestions are spot on. Don’t be just straight straightforward. Be creative. Yeah, it takes some work, but anything worthwhile takes work. I do think Moxie’s not quite on point that “your not applying for a job.” Yes, you are, in a way, but you’re selling a different part of yourself. Telling a story is a great approach, and telling a story well, takes thought and time to craft properly.

    You Should Message Me If section

    I go completely whimsical here. And it’s the section of my OKC profile that is by far the most referenced in message I get. Incongruity here works, at least for me. Keep this one short; the more things you put here, the more reason people will find to reject you.

    Traditional Issues

    Here I disagree with Moxie. Don’t mention ‘em. Save them for several dates in. Most of these issues aren’t issues if you make a connection. Don’t verbally vomit them on an early date. If you’re unemployed and can’t afford a date, that will be apparent soon enough. If you’re recently separated or divorce and not over it, you probably shouldn’t be dating if you can’t stop talking about it on a date.

    Photos

    Generally, Moxie is right. But for guys, it can be harder. I don’t have a lot of photos that are usable online that are new. But I haven’t really changed that much in the last few years: same weight, same hair, etc. I may have another line around my eyes, but you can’t see that in photos. The bottom line is that photos should be reasonably accurate. On that, and proper framing, etc., Moxie and I agree.

    Well, I might add a photo of me holding my new grandniece. She’s super cute and there’s the “awwww” effect…

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  8. Eliza Says:

    2 items of what NOT to post – photo-wise were ommitted!
    1) guys: please no bare chest shots! Please. We don’t care how ripped you are. Yes, if you have a nice body – we will notice eventually–one can tell (even with clothes on)–whether someone works out frequently. AND

    2) guys: or girls – no photos with a ton of people surrounding you from the opposite sex. I don’t get it. If you are a guy – supposedly looking to meet a girl – why post photos – with a harem of women?! Don’t need to be another one of your fan club members. I move on when I see that. It’s unecessary. No need to parade–or convince us that the opposite sex DOES actually find you appealing. Reeks of insecurity.

    Those bathroom selfie-shots with the mirrors are THE Worst! lol. so dated, and cliche. don’t need to see your filthy bathroom or unkempt rooms.

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  9. Kyra Says:

    My you should message me if section has worked fairly well, it seems, in that I rarely get a plain “hi” and the men are generally well-written.

    It reads:

    If you love using four syllable words in an everyday conversation
    or
    You want to share great book or movie recommendations!

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