Step By Step

1. Choose a Service 2. Set Up an Account 3. Write Your ProfileThe Screen Name The Headline The Picture The Vitals The Essay 5. Respond...Or Don’t 6. The Email Dialogue 7. The Phone Call 8. The Date

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Step 3: Write Your Profile

The Picture

Your picture is the single most important part of your profile. Maybe I should repeat that for, you know, emphasis. Your picture is the single most important part of your profile. When people browse for profiles, all they see is a tiny little image, a screen name, and maybe a headline. If anyone ever looks at your profile because of your screen name, then you have one hell of a screen name. Women, here is an insight into male e-dating habits that no dating site will tell you: men browse by picture. I scan down the line of pictures and click the cute ones. The little picture gets big. If the big version doesn’t deliver what the little one promised, I click the back button faster than you can say, “But wait, I’m really cool”. If I like the big version, I think to myself, “Not bad,” and click the other pictures. Only then, if I still like what I see, do I check out the profile. Some guys, especially the mass-mailers, don’t look at the profiles at all. If they see a cute picture, they send a message.

I know…men are pigs. Thing is, I’ve talked to a number of women who browse the same way. It’s not that we picture browsers are only interested in looks, but looks are important, and we use them to filter. Dating is a gamble as it is. If I have to bet on the chance that a woman’s picture doesn’t do her justice or that she will be so cool in person that I’ll be attracted to her anyway, it’s not worth the odds, so I won’t waste my time. Maybe I miss some opportunities, but I’d rather bet on other opportunities where I at least have more confidence that I’ll be physically attracted to my date.

The lesson to take from all this is not that I, men, or people in general are shallow. I’m sure that you can form your own conclusions about that. The lesson is that people will judge your profile more by your pictures than by other factors, so whatever you do, post some kick ass pictures. If you don’t have any kick ass pictures, then grab a friend and a digital camera and keep taking pictures until you have at least one that truly kicks ass. Whatever you do, do not put up some mediocre picture because it’s all you’ve got. Otherwise, why bother with internet dating all?

All right, enough ranting, let’s get down to some practical advice about the best kinds of pictures to post…

The Main Picture

Most sites allow users to put up several pictures. The first picture is the one that people will see when they browse. In that context, it will be shrunk to smaller than one square inch, so as a rule, your main picture should be a headshot. If your main picture is a body shot, all people may see is a brightly colored stick figure, and they’ll be less likely to click. Some sites do custom cropping for the thumbnail image so that only your head appears when people browse, and the whole picture appears when people click your profile. In that case, you have more flexibility. To see whether your site does this, check out some other profiles.

Does It Look Like You?

This is a tough issue. No matter what photo you post, someone will probably say that it doesn’t look like you. As I see it, a photo is just a slice of you, a particular angle. When people meet you the first time, they will see all the other angles that the picture doesn’t show. Which angle most stands out to them will depend on the person. So don’t stress too much about it. Of course, if you receive a lot of comments about how you don’t look like your picture and you don’t get a lot of second dates, consider changing it.

Natural or Posed

As a rule of thumb, natural is better. People can always tell when a picture is posed. It seems more artificial and therefore not as attractive. It also can make it seem like you’re trying a little too hard, especially if you put up a whole series of posed photos. Finally, natural photos tend to provide more insight into your personality. So, if you can, try to post at least one natural picture. That said, don’t put up bad natural pictures. If you have no good natural shots, then certainly post the posed ones.


You might think that the clearer the picture the better, but it’s often better to leave a little up to the imagination. Don’t leave so much up to the imagination that people can’t tell what they’re looking at or think you’re trying to hide something, but it’s certainly not necessary for people to see your pores.

Body Shots

If you have a hot body, show what you’ve got, but pay attention to the message you’re sending. A natural picture of you on the beach is subtle. A posed shot of your unclad torso says, “I’m too sexy for my profile”. Also consider your target audience.

Action Shots

Not a bad idea. Action shots can go a long way toward showing your personality, e.g. skier, party animal, lion tamer. Since they usually don’t show much of your face, your main picture should probably not be an action shot.

Other People

Your main picture should be of you and only you. The other pictures may show other people, but avoid pictures with crowds and exes. When I see a picture with several women in it, I often have a hard time locating the subject, even when she has other pictures of herself posted. You would be surprised by how different two pictures of you seem to someone who has never met you. Some people, Photoshop in arrows to point themselves out, but I recommend cropping.

[TR: Furthermore, there are surely people out there who might think, “hmmm, she’s OK, but her friend… rawrrrr!”]

Exclude the ex. Personally, an ex-boyfriend in the picture doesn’t bother me, but TR and other people with whom I’ve spoken find the ex in the photo to be a major turnoff. Blacking out the ex’s face is not a solution; those pictures always seem creepy to me. Crop the photo or use a different one.

[TR: Take care when you edit photos. I once received a post from a guy who had Photoshopped out everything but his girlfriend’s hands. The background of the restaurant behind him was perfectly replicated, but there were still two hands on his shoulders. Another picture showed him sitting down with a disembodied hand on his inner thigh.]


If you have a pet, you certainly want to mention that in your profile, but I advise against photos with pets, especially photos of you cuddling your pet. Your dog may be cute, but you look silly when you’re snuggling with him. Also, when I see photos like that, I get an image in my head of getting kicked out of bed because there isn’t room for the three of us. My ex-girlfriend, who adored her little pug, addressed the matter in a very cool manner. She didn’t include her dog in any pictures and didn’t even mention her until the very last line of the profile, which went: “Oh yeah, it would be good if you like dogs because I have one”. This line sent the message clearly without making me worry that I would have to compete with the dog for attention.


Kids are entirely different. If you have kids, I think that’s something about which you should be very upfront, so I wouldn’t hesitate to put them in your pictures. If people can’t deal with that, you don’t want to date them. Some people also post pictures of themselves with other peoples’ kids, e.g. nieces and nephews. I have heard that women like pictures of guys with kids because it makes the guys seem like they want kids of their own. I don’t mind pictures of women with kids, but I expect that they could bother some guys because they make the women seem like they are too baby-focused. I’d love some feedback on this. If you do post a picture with someone else’s kids, you might want to indicate that in your profile to avoid any confusion.

[TR: Guys, don’t post pictures with kids in them if you don’t want kids.]


Artistic shots, when done well, can be very compelling. They make people seem hip, intellectual, and profound. They also add color and personality to a profile. But be careful. Bad art shots can seem cheesy and contrived. Furthermore, don’t be so consumed with the art that you don’t put up any pictures that show what you look like.

Professional Headshots

New York has a lot of actors, and when actors date online, they often put up their headshots. Professional headshots always look good, which is why they cost so much money. In fact, headshots usually make people look a lot more attractive then they actually are, which is why I tend to ignore them.


Related to the art shot is the partial shot: a single eye, lips, the upper half of the face. Some people also take pictures of their own mirrored reflections so that their faces are obscured by the flash of the camera. I suspect that some people do it to be artistic and some so they won’t be recognized by their friends and neighbors. If the latter, get over yourself. I don’t care how pretty your eye looks, if I can’t see your face in any of your photos, I’m not going to write you.

I’ll Send You a Photo Later

Having said that, I have on rare occasions responded to photoless women who have contacted me and promised to follow up with a picture. I think that the mystery intrigues me. I even had a short relationship with a woman who refused to send a photo at all. She promised me that she was cute, and I decided to gamble. She was cute. I think that some attractive women hide their photos to avoid being deluged by emails from horny 50-year-olds. Other people probably just don’t want their friends or exes [TR: or partners/spouses] to see them. In any case, most dating sites now let you hide your photo from the general public but reveal it to people whom you contact, so there is no need to do the send-you-later thing. If you do try the send-you-later approach, you should be prepared for the possibility of being dropped like a dime bag in a drug bust if your correspondent doesn’t like your picture.

Forbidden Photos

Every e-dating service I have seen prohibits certain kinds of photos: pornography and pictures of kids or animals without an adult. Pornography I get, but kids and animals? I once tried to post a hilarious picture of myself hanging with my nerdy friends, age 12, but it was rejected by the photo-Nazis. Some sites check your pictures before they post them, in which case there will be a delay before your uploaded pictures are available for display. Other sites let you post your pictures right away but review them periodically. So if you really want to post that nude photo of yourself, it might evade the censors for a few hours.

[TR: Not all sites prohibit pictures of animals. A friend of mine once posted pictures of animals that he thought women liked: puppies, kittens, little lambs. Then he wondered why the women weren’t responding him.]