How to take better profile photos: six tips that can bring online success!

Pretty woman in a garden

Online dating with EliteSingles is about meeting someone with whom you are truly compatible. However, to getting to that stage requires more than just good fortune. Indeed, to really make the most of your online experience, it is vital to know how to best put together a dating profile.

Photos are one of the biggest parts of this equation – so we have created a master-class in how to get them right.

With help from freelance photographer and PR specialist, Toby Aiken, we discovered the six things you can do today that will perfect your profile photos and help you have a better time online. Photos already up to scratch? Then why not jump to setting up your profile? Join EliteSingles by registering with the button below. Otherwise, read on for our photography master-class.

Why profile photos are so important

The only thing worse than a bad profile photo is no photo at all. Sound strange? It’s true. If you opt to skip the pics in your profile, you automatically alienate more than half of your potential audience. In fact, in a recent EliteSingles survey, 48% of Kiwi singles would refuse to open a profile without photos.

Toby Aiken, a professional freelance photographer, says that having photos in one’s profile is an essential step for two reasons. Firstly, ‘’whether we care to admit it or not, the first thing that we look at is appearance.’’ This is a sentiment echoed in our survey: 49% of our New Zealand respondents said that photos are the part of a profile that most catches their attention when they’re looking online.

The second reason photos count for so much is that they are a really valuable way to back up the impression you have created in the written part of your profile. As Aiken explains: ‘’it’s important to make sure your profile picture says the right things about you. If your profile says you enjoy quiet nights in watching a movie, and your profile picture was taken on a rare wild night out or at a friend’s hen do then it’s not going to help your search!’’ Having photos that show the true you, however – now there’s an extra way to catch the eye of someone truly like-minded.

1. Get comfortable

An essential part of taking good profile photos is the set up. Aiken recommends setting up somewhere you feel at ease: after all, one of the most important parts of portrait photography is that the subject is relaxed and happy!

He says ‘‘The key to taking a good photograph is making sure that you are comfortable in your surroundings. Whether that means taking the photo in your lounge, or with a professional backdrop, if you are familiar with your surroundings, then you will be more relaxed and take a better photo…Consciously relax your muscles and try to go with a natural smile:’’ If you feel calm and confident in the photo, it will show in your profile – and that is an image you definitely want to project!

2. Laying the ground work

Comfort may be king when it comes to an at-home photo shoot, but before you get too relaxed, you need to lay the ground work. Aiken points out that it is helpful to think about what will be in the frame of the finished photo (besides yourself, of course!). ‘’If you go for a shot in your lounge, make sure the background is relatively tidy – we’re not talking catalogue shoot clean, but just take a look and maybe tidy that pile of washing you were meaning to deal with and make sure the curtains are straight.’’

Prepping yourself is also worth doing. This doesn’t mean giving yourself a full-on glam makeover; it just requires that you give a little thought to how your clothing and accessories will work on film. Aiken’s biggest tip here is that colour blocking can be very effective. ‘’Bright colours are fine, as are pale colours, but the important thing is to avoid busy patterns.’’ In other words, you want to be the star of the show – not your clothing!

3. Avoid the profile photo no-nos

Another thing to avoid is clothing that is too revealing. In fact, in our survey, this was the voted the biggest picture no-no by our our Kiwi members. 23% said that they were not fans of profile photos that showed too much skin, making stripping off the biggest photo mistake one can make.

Additionally, there are a few other photography no-goes that are best avoided. Surprisingly (given their reputation), this doesn’t include selfies. In fact, they get a pass from our members, being voted as unacceptable by just 4% of Kiwi singles. The big portrait blunders were instead having only group shots (picked by 19%), having poor photo-shopping skills (also 19% ) and constantly wearing sunglasses (18%).

4. Focus on what’s important

Aiken’s photography tips suggest that the reason we frown on these photo no-goes is that they miss out on what’s important – the eyes. He advises that ‘’the single most important thing in a portrait photo is that the focus should be on the eyes. If your eyes are in perfect sharp focus the overall photo will look good.’’

Indeed, your eyes are such an expressive part of you that it is vital to show them in your profile photos. Not only will it give your potential matches a window into what you’re really like, it may even give them a stronger sense of connection to you. After all, as William Butler Yeats said: ‘’love comes in at the eye.’’

5. Lights, camera, action!

So you’ve arranged your background, your clothing and your camera focus. There’s just one last step to better photos – the lighting. Aiken stresses that the way a photo is lit can make or break the final shot: ‘’the temptation to take a snap with a camera phone now is almost overwhelming, but good as they are, and with all the intelligent features they have, if the lighting is bad, they will come out grainy, and poorly exposed.’’

Instead, he suggests, the best thing to do is ‘’get outside, open the curtains and try to use natural light when you can. Flashes can be harsh if not controlled properly so if you are taking the photo yourself or with a friend, try to avoid flash and compensate with natural light.’’

Positioning is important too (especially if you don’t want to squint or – heaven forbid – wear sunglasses!) Aiken says ‘’don’t take a photo outside with the sun shining straight into your eyes. Have the sun behind, or to the side – the result will be much better.’’

6. Consider going pro

The final thing you may like to consider when having a profile photo taken is investing in some high-quality professional portraits. We’ve talked before about how a perfect online profile is a bit like a window display – and, considering that only 3% of Kiwi singles use professional shots in their profiles, having yours done is a sure way to make your display stand out from the crowd.

Aiken adds that going pro is the best way to settle any nerves you may have about putting your image online. He says that ‘a good photographer will make you feel comfortable, and take a good selection of images, and adjust accordingly, making sure you are happy with the result. The lighting will flatter, the background will not distract, and they can make sure you look yourself – very important for your online profile!’’

Feeling inspired? Ready to get started with the online adventure? Register with EliteSingles today.

Toby Aiken is a freelance photographer and PR expert with extensive portrait experience. You can find him on Twitter or on his website at

EliteSingles editorial January 2014.

If you have any questions about how to take better profile photos, please let us know below or email us at [email protected]. For all technical photo help, including how to upload or delete photos please see the personal profile section of our EliteSingles Knowledgebase.


All percentages based on a survey of 1,000 EliteSingles members from New Zealand, Australia, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada and South Africa. Statistics may not equal 100% due to rounding and multiple choice answers.

About the author: Sophie Watson

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