"Can you please send me a photo of you in a bikini? I'd like to know what I'm getting before we meet up."
That's an actual quote from an email I received on Match.com. It's also the email that sent me on a half-hour-long rant to two (very straight) guy friends here in San Francisco. Amused, they listened patiently as I droned on about the objectification of women. About how I had more value than my cup size. About how all the men on Match.com were just looking for arm-candy-bimbos. And that's when they asked me the question that would change my online dating life: Can we see your profile and photos? Gulp. And the ridicule began.
A few hours later, after enduring the indignity of having them comb through my Facebook albums, they showed me the three photos to post. I obeyed. The result? The following week I received 400 emails, which was not only an overwhelming increase from my weekly average of 40-50, but it also yielded many of the nice men I was looking for. In my initial photos, my goal was to seem as hot as possible. I showed no personality and came off as self-absorbed and mindless. It shouldn't have been a surprise that the men who contacted me would be the same.
It turns out that I made the same mistake most girls do when they first go online. I went through my photos and posted the ones where I thought I looked pretty. I figured there wasn't much more to it. Look pretty, and love will follow. WRONG. What I learned is that there are three questions many men ask themselves when viewing your profile usually in this order:
1. Does she look crazy?
2. Does she look fun and cute?
3. Does she seem like she'd be attracted to me?
So in short, here are the dos and don'ts of profile photos:
DON'T post photos where you look psycho.
No photos where you have a manic gleam in your eye, or where you seem drunk or even where you're looking arty and contemplative (trust me, you just seem depressed). Also: No photos in which you're holding something weird (ceramic animals, plastic baby dolls, snakes, etc.) or that have been through Instagram or Hipstamatic-style editing.
DON'T post photos that you took of yourself.
Sure, the lighting is great in your bathroom, and your hair looks fabulous. But resist the urge to hold up your phone, snap a picture and post it. At best you look ashamed to be online, at worst, like a crazy recluse with nobody willing to take your photo.
DON'T post photos that are sultry and sexy.
Are you leaning against a wall with your butt sticking out? Are you half naked with your hands caressing your hair? Are you pouting for the camera like you're on the cover of Playboy? Sure, you're a sexual person, but save that for someone you like. You don't need to make love to the entire site.
DON'T post photos of yourself as a bridesmaid.
I know. You had your hair and make-up done, and the professional photography is awesome. Doesn't matter. Here's what the guys hear you saying: All my friends are married but me. Marry me! OH WHY WON'T YOU MARRY ME?!
DON'T post photos of you with other men.
Men don't want to be reminded of the competition when they are looking for women to date. Also, don't post photos where you cut out your ex-boyfriend people can always tell.
DON'T post photos where you look high-maintenance.
No tiaras. No little dogs in your Louis Vuitton bag. No pink t-shirts with princess written on them. No overwhelming combination of luxury brands. All of this says just says, "Please pay off my credit card debt."
DON'T post photos that are 10 years old or don't look like the current you.
You want to meet guys who are attracted to you as you are. Don't put yourself into a situation where he thinks you're dishonest at first sight.
DON'T post photos of you and your cat(s).
Sorry feline fans, but you don't want to be pegged as a crazy cat lady. Dogs, on the other hand, are a total do. You and your dog show you're active and down to earth.
DON'T post photos with identifying details.
Be smart and safe. Don't give away where you currently live, work or go to school (college logos, for example), and NEVER show your home address.
All that said, here's what you need. Three photos. No more. No Less.
DO post a head shot where you are dressed down looking happy and easy-going.
There will be no chance you can be pegged as crazy or high-maintenance on first glance.
DO post a full-body shot in which you are doing something athletic.
You could be at the top of a hike, riding a bike or just jumping in the air. Many men like to be active and physical; you want to show you can keep up with them.
DO post a shot of you looking fun and/or interesting.
Nobody wants to go out with a boring person. A picture of yourself holding a camera (if you're a photographer) or playing the guitar shows you have interests. Another option is to post a photo where you're out with a friend (just one, not a crowd) looking happy and social.
Think of your photos as the cover of your autobiography. You want to make yourself as appealing as you can to the widest selection of men possible. This way it's in your power to choose whom to date and with whom you share your personal details. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then three well-chosen dating profile pictures can open up a lifetime of conversation with the love of your life!
A Practical Hint: Make sure you rotate your main profile photo every six weeks or so. This will draw the attention of men who may have missed it or skipped over it the first time.
Don't Miss: "San Francisco" magazine's February 2011 dating issue it's chock full of juicy tips on dating in the new economy.
A special thanks to:
Photographer: Bill Weesner, www.eaglerockphotography.com
Model: Erin Elizabeth Finnegan
Bobbi the Cat and Kiki Da Pug