How do I ask potential dates for head shots on dating sites?
February 21, 2012 6:52 AM   Subscribe

What's the best way to ask for photographs from someone on an online dating site?

I'm a member of various online dating sites in order to find dates outside of my primary (open) relationship. I periodically have people write to me asking me out who don't have pictures on their profiles. Sometimes they offer to send pictures, but they usually don't. When I go to ask them to send me pictures so I can decide if I want to meet them, how can I avoid coming off as completely shallow (I accept that there may not be a way - after all, my goal is pretty heavily weighted toward meeting people I'm physically attracted to).
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

Most people think it's completely reasonable to provide pictures. Personally I feel that it's somewhat of a red flag if someone is sending messages without having pictures on their own profile, and not at least sending some privately. To me it signifies that they are hiding something. Whether or not this is true, at the very least they should not be offending by a request for photos, and if they are, you can just forget them anyway, as that's not a good sign (at least, I don't think so).

I mean, come on. Nearly everyone wants to see what a potential date looks like. It's not shallow. Just ask for the pictures directly. "Would you mind sending me a photo or two of yourself? Thanks!"

But you could also just reply to people who have photos, or offer to send them.
posted by bearette at 6:57 AM on February 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

"Hi, you sound interesting. Could you send a photo so I can see who I'm chatting with?"
posted by xingcat at 7:04 AM on February 21, 2012 [6 favorites]

It's not shallow to ask for some level of attraction with a potential partner. It's kind of redflaggy, indeed, if there's no profile pic. A potential script: "I've enjoyed our chats, but would like to know if potential attraction extends beyond the mental. Mind sending a pic?"
posted by MangyCarface at 7:11 AM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Your goal is to find people you're physically attracted to. I assume you have pictures on your own profile, so it's just fair if those who message you provide one, too. I'd add a line to the profile that you only reply to people with photos, or if they attach a picture in the first message.
posted by MinusCelsius at 7:20 AM on February 21, 2012

Please send several, recent pictures of yourself. They don't have to be glamor shots, I just need to confirm that you are not someone in a third world country trying to scam me. You sound too good to be true.
posted by myselfasme at 7:20 AM on February 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

Having photos are part of the unspoken covenant of dating on the internet. The people who don't provide them are the odd ones out. So it's not at all shallow to ask the other person to hold up the other end of the deal. In fact, most people I know who date on line have never even bothered to reply to someone with no photos, and for good reason; people who do not provide photos may have undateable-low self esteem, or are trying to have an affair (and keeping their presence on the d.l.) or may be just embarrassed that they have to stoop to dating online and therefore would have not the best opinion of you from the get-go.

So, what I'm getting at, is that asking for photos is asking for something you should already have. So there's no need to be coy or try to keep up appearances. Ask plainly and up-front, and if they balk, I can guarantee you something sketchy is going on.
posted by griphus at 7:20 AM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

(Uh, my use of the word "stoop" reflects the opinion of the person I just made up, not my own.)
posted by griphus at 7:22 AM on February 21, 2012

First - you're posting and sending photos of yourself first, right? My now-husband's second email to me was "here are some pictures of me at a kayaking event. I'd love to see what you look like!"

I don't think that not posting headshots on their profile is necessarily a red flag. Just becasue they may be self-conscious about their frizzy hair or their "beauty mark" (think Cindy Crawford) doesn't mean that you won't find them attractive.

And if you don't? You're not shallow. If the person is a definite "no, I won't ever find them attractive" then please say something along the lines of "this isn't going to work, sorry." Don't drag it out. If she's a maybe, well that's why god made coffee dates.
posted by desjardins at 7:22 AM on February 21, 2012

I used to think that no-profile-photo was a dealbreaker and a red flag. I would be polite but distant to people who emailed me under those circumstances. But then my now-boyfriend emailed me with what can only be described as an overly-effusive gushfest about my profile and how we absolutely had to meet, all the while apologizing for not being able to play it cool as he was certain that he was breaking all the rules of online dating. I checked out his profile and - no picture. Damn. But his message was so earnest and (possibly unintentionally) hilarious, that I just wrote back to him as I would anyone else. Also, he listed horseback riding as an interest and that was just too strange not to comment on. I didn't have a lot of tolerance for site-based email, so I provided him my personal email address immediately and when he emailed me again, he provided a photo. That's when he also told me that he's a teacher for a relatively conservative group of folks, hence the cloak-and-dagger profile sans photo. Ahh. As much as I don't like it, I can respect that he's protecting his livelihood and that it wouldn't be his choice to remain professionally pseudo-closeted.

While I wouldn't discount someone simply because they don't have a profile photo (and it sounds like you don't!), I would not ask for a photo. If they're interested in meeting you, the burden is on them to provide everything you need to get to know them and make an informed decision. That necessarily includes a photo. So I advise you to just correspond with them as if it is understood that they will provide you a photo (it really is part of the unspoken covenant that griphus references). If you need to drop a hint, maybe use language that lets them know that the deal isn't sealed. "Looking forward to learning more about you!" etc.
posted by jph at 7:37 AM on February 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

IF it's a site based around fetishes, it might be more likely someone doesn't post a photo in case it 'outs' them. (Although, when I used OKCupid a million years ago, there was one profile where a guy posted a picture of himself with his face blanked out using the clone tool. Why?) It's not always a sketchy thing.
posted by mippy at 7:46 AM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just ask for them. There's no need to give any explanation. Anyone using a dating site understands that people want to see photos. (If you happen to be talking to the rare person who can't understand this, then the individual in question has so little social awareness as to be not worth your time.)
posted by John Cohen at 7:53 AM on February 21, 2012

"I noticed that you don't have pictures up. I understand the need for privacy but I won't recognize you without having seen a photo. And I need to make sure you're not my boss!"

For straight monogamous people? No pics is a red flag. For people who are non-mongamous, kinky, bisexual/gay, these are often our limited options:

1. Put up pictures, giving up control of our privacy and potentially outing ourselves to anyone who signs up for the site, and possibly others as well. The end result of this can range from an awkward question or two to physical danger.

2. Put up pictures but lie about our preferences, finding others through PMs, coded phrases or other shibboleths ("I loved Secretary!") and hope that the wrong people don't catch on. If they do, plausible deniability.

3. Don't put up pictures and significantly narrow our options, but maintain our privacy.

posted by the young rope-rider at 8:01 AM on February 21, 2012 [8 favorites]

I'd take a slightly different approach. Narrow your dating pool just a bit by letting those profiles without pictures go, especially since you've put in the effort of providing your own. You wouldn't go out on a date with someone wearing a mask would you? The same goes for dating sites...just set your expectations that those communicating with you value the service similarly to yourself.
posted by samsara at 8:01 AM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's not completely shallow to want to know what the person you're corresponding with looks like and whether you're attracted to them. I didn't automatically weed out people who had no pictures - I ask, they provided, which was fine - I assume they wanted to know whether I was interested first before sending out their pictures. I basically said, "hi, thanks for your message [blah blah blah I'm interested in your profile blah blah blah], I'm not comfortable chatting with profiles that don't have any picture, would you mind sending me a recent one?"

Did I find it somewhat offputting when I got messaged by profiles without pictures? Yes, because my pictures were out there and also because physical attraction is important to me. But it wasn't necessarily a red flag. There were other, way bigger, flags usually.
posted by sm1tten at 8:14 AM on February 21, 2012

I put the words "Please have a picture" in my profile, and it probably helps weed out the no-picture types. I still get messages from guys who don't have profile pictures, but they usually send a backstage pass so I can see some pictures of them. If I get completely pictureless people contacting me, I just ask. It's really no big deal.
posted by orange swan at 9:09 AM on February 21, 2012

Hetero teachers avoid posting photos too. (Good luck maintaining discipline in a class full of teenagers once they find your online dating profile and start sharing the link with each other.)

Some people are fine emailing pics, but not posting them on a profile where they'll be indexed by Google. So just ask. It's a reasonable request and Xingcat's phrasing is fine.
posted by the latin mouse at 9:33 AM on February 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

With the others, just ask for a picture.

But don't ask for a nude picture...unless it's that kind of site. Seriously.
posted by SisterHavana at 10:47 AM on February 21, 2012

FWIW, i don't have pictures on my dating site profile b/c someone from work recognized me one time and i'm very honest about .. the things you should be honest about on a dating site but not at all at work. but i would send a specific person my pictures.

if someone doesn't send clear face shot and a whole body shot, that would be a red flag for me.
posted by cupcake1337 at 2:26 PM on February 21, 2012

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