Good Grief!

Sociologists and pundits agree, Online Dating Is on beyond tricky.

“Experts” are everywhere, in academia from Princeton to Stanford to content grinders in Cambridge basements to Matchmaker sites YouTube and in your monthly billing statement. All proffering advice on how to find love. Still the photos photographs tell another story…They are really bad. There I said it nicely. Without swearing (and I am from N.J.)

These photographs from this slice of our new dating culture constitute a photographic Red Alert; makes the current hostile takeover of the GOP look like a game of Tiddley-Winks. I consistently see people using their handy cameras like vacuum cleaners, and they wind up in the debris hopper without a thought. Everyone writes a profile about themselves, putting their best selves forward in the hopes to attract a mate. The accompanying photographs negate all of this.

As a result of this particular annoyance, and being a photographer, it is my civic duty to impart some of my best practices for those of you who want to continue to pursue your romantic quest of verbal self proffering without the inadvertent visual self-flagellation. Lets start with the fundamentals.

To Be Seen or Not to Be Seen?

Um, hello…?


Do not do this. You are not seen as classy, exclusive and discreet. You are NOT seen at all. Good luck with that.

OK I get the vulnerability of showing ourselves to the universe of potential mates. Brene Brown deftly explains how we avoid the pain of being vulnerable. It is easy to hide and not want to participate. It is exponentially worse if you have had some bad experiences. There is something tantalizing AND terrifying about showing yourself to potential mates, yet we humans have engage in this ritual throughout history. Nevertheless, Helen Fisher, noted biological anthropologist, states that Online Dating is an unprecedented social construct. We have not done this before…we get to make this up as we go along.

Looking at photos and choosing, “…yes…no…yes…yes…NO…Oh, God No!” Is really kinda crazy. Online dating in new, but this looking for a mate thing, it is not new. Like it or not the first thing people go for when your profile pops up is the photos. Our deep brain is looking for food, foes, and mates even while we sleep. Do not miss the opportunity here.

Please be willing to let us have a good look at you. These tips will help you.


The is Backlight. Don’t do this! The pain is unbearable


You know –when the light is BEHIND the subject? Do not do this either.  Smart phones do not see shapes, just light and they cook the bright parts and the dark parts into a “middle gray” so, If there is more light than dark, you are a dark figure. Your bad imaginary friend makes a appearance in your life. This person could be the Devil and should be avoided.

To add insult to injury, the official “consultant” and webinar leader (yes, I paid ten bucks to watch a webinar on improving my photographs on Match) labels backlight photos as “arty”. Why they paid a Harvard MBA to give us photography tips is beyond comprehension. More evidence that the online dating photos arena is in dire straits. Please stop with the backlight.


SHADES and Double Bad

“The eyes are the Window to the Soul”

joanna-shades-in-sun-237You know what I am going to say here! We all have self-image issues. No one is immune, so take a breath and put yourself in the eyes of the viewer, not your own inner critic. I am sorry if this is harsh, but when it comes to visual literacy people are lazy. Not illiterate, lazy. Don’t be lazy here, you will not get messages, faves, or winks. Along with Sunglasses comes hard sunlight, direct sunlight makes harsh shadows and this often does not end well photographically speaking. Furthermore, the 50mm lens, iPhone lens are predisposed to barrel distortion at close range. The toofers and schnozzola lens…they look bigger than they really are. Be careful this close in bright sun.


 Another Peeve

Excised persons, I do NOT blame Photoshop


Who was that Cropped Man? Am I next? Do not fall in love with a photo of yourself so much that you are compelled to do this, it is just one tip of the balance to the weird zone. The mere act of doing this (and tons of people actually do this) is unsettling at best. This asks more questions than you want brought up amidst showing your best self. Old boyfriend? Uncle? Dad? Someone who did not give you permission? Someone you want to protect? See where this is going?


 Image Files Have their Limits

Get some help


 Please do not enlarge the snot out of an already small image. If one can not see eye color before we see pixels, then this photo is doing you a disservice. Do not enlarge an image beyond 100%. This is a big problem and makes us photographers dyspeptic, crazy and suicidal. Get help with your images.

The Way to Go

Ok enough with the negativism of the Dont’s, here are some uplifting Do’s

Soft Light

Look at the light

joanna-color-soft-light-posed-135Look at the light. There is hard light and there is soft light and most light is in between. Choose soft. 20 feet away, under a tree against a clean wall of a garage, look what we found. Great Light! Soft and indirect. This light is flattering, good for skin, and does not make people squint. You do not need a Nikon Camera to do this. You can start with this pose, it is a classic and a great place to start. See? Joanna has blue eyes! It is a real delight to see her face. Please show us your face in a shot or two. Shoot earlier in the day when you are rested. Prepare a little bit, hair nails, skin. Clean clothes help. Play with the camera a bit. Light from the side works well too.

Window Light

My favorite

martin_taddertho_0699web-goodWindow light adds direction and is soft at the same time. Cross lighting from a window adds the ability to define shape and texture. The use of a narrow window light adds a wealth of character to Martin’s already expressive face.

Show us Your Body


post-modest-_kathy-shoe-385You don’t have to be Auntie Barbie, or Sexy Sadie. There is a human language that our bodies know. Speak to us.* Smiling works wonders, don’t worry about it just start there. You are making a photo, not a court document. Have some fun, a glass of wine, get some exercise, when you feel good you will look amazing.

Rest assured, with some effort in looking good in your photos someone will love the real you. If this is all really awkward, get help, from a creatively inclined friend or (you saw this coming, right?) even, god forbid, a photographer. We LOVE this stuff!

*But please, NO Jumping shots there is just too much space junk already and suspended animation is not a good starting point.



Want A Sense of Humor?

Show us Yours!

glindaBut very few actually DO this. Ms. LiveLoveLaugh says it all in her lead off photo. Tell me, who would not want a date with Glinda the good witch, if given the chance? This is a great use of photography with a wry a sense of humor and sense of play.  Instead of saying she wants her man to have sense of humor she is testing for the presence of one. The little minx winked at me and moved to Laguna the very next week. I have no doubt that she has a line of gentlemen all the way up to Newport Beach awaiting for to break a their spells. Ha! Ya win some and ya loose some! bottom line: Give humor Get humor.







Creative Abandon

Without getting too preachy and too technical I want to encourage you to have more fun with your photos before you use them on dating sites. Make a sequence of images that tells a story. Engage friends you love and trust to help you with this, collaborate and be courageous to change the things you want to change in your social life. The camera is not a vacuum cleaner it is an instrument. A musical instrument for light. Practice and Play.  Repeat.


I would like to thank Joanna, Kathy, Thomas, Glinda, and Martin for graciously allowing me to use and abuse their photos or likenesses. ~TEU

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