How to online date when unphotogenic?
November 26, 2017 7:48 AM   Subscribe

I'm interested in starting online dating in the new year, but I am just not photogenic. How can I make this work?

I'm not a great beauty, but I look so much better in real life than I do in photos (at least, I think so). I've always hated how I look in photos and, as a result, never got into taking selfies or posting many photos of myself online. I just don't like how my features looked photographed, my chin always looks huge, my eyes look strange because of my glasses, my lips look extra small, the list goes on. In real life I don't think I look THAT bad.

Anyway, I'm interested in online dating, particularly because I don't meet very many available men throughout my social activities/work/places women usually meet men. I'm almost 30 and I've always put off online dating because of how unphotogenic I think I am. Even the thought of taking a selfie and posting it online... terrifies me. I have ONE good selfie of myself on Facebook. I guess I'm just afraid that because of how ugly I think I look in photos, no one will be interested in me.

So, ANYWAY, how do I get past this hurdle? Would it serve me well to maybe get some photos taken by a professional photographer? I'm not against that, but I'm worried that professional photos would turn off potential dates, is it too corny to get professional photos?
posted by modesty.blaise to Human Relations (27 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Consider this an asset. The people who meet you will have already accepted your photographs and will be pleasantly surprised when you are even better looking in person. The people who don't meet you because your photos aren't perfect will have filtered themselves away from your life.

Also, be kind to yourself. Your photos are probably just fine. Ask a friend to help you take a few pictures. I really don't think you should spend any money getting photos for online dating.
posted by juliplease at 7:55 AM on November 26, 2017 [10 favorites]

If you don't mind spending $$, I think hiring a photographer is a great idea -- go right ahead and tell him/her exactly what you want the photos for, and that you don't want them to look too "studio." A good photographer can handle that easily.

Also, consider getting the same photographer (or a friend) to shoot photos of you *doing* something that you're interested in. At one time I used photos of me knitting, reading, brushing the cat, etc. It's possible you will be less bothered by photos of you "in action," as opposed to looking at the camera, and it also helps illustrate your personality for profile viewers.
posted by JanetLand at 7:58 AM on November 26, 2017 [13 favorites]

One reason you don't like your photos is that you are accustomed to seeing your face in the mirror, which is a reversed image. Photos are not reversed and will look wrong to you. You can use your photo software to flip images or hold a print up to a mirror. It makes selection much easier.

Ask someone to take your picture on a nice day, outside. Not in direct blasting sun, but in good light. Wear makeup if you usually do. Smile. Take a bunch of shots. use a couple backgrounds. Wear a couple different outfits. That gives you lots to choose from.
posted by theora55 at 7:59 AM on November 26, 2017 [9 favorites]

Go outside with a friend in the early morning on a light overcast and get a lot of different action photos in differing locations. A few friends actually to chat and interact but get many many photos. Then have guy friends choose several each and where there are overlap you'll have a good estimate.

The right pro will take a great set of photos but the right pro will be very expensive and hard to find, and most "pros" are probably specialized in other areas.
posted by sammyo at 8:04 AM on November 26, 2017

is it too corny to get professional photos?

Not at all. Lots of people do this. They don't have to be formal, corporate headshots. A lot of professionals today specialize in "lifestyle" photography, which is meant to be more casual and fun.

The right pro will take a great set of photos but the right pro will be very expensive and hard to find, and most "pros" are probably specialized in other areas.

Not necessarily. Especially during the holidays, a lot of my photog friends run specials like mini-sessions for pretty reasonable prices. I think it's at least worth looking into.

The fact is, it can be difficult to get good looking photos of people, and this is exactly why people hire others to do it. I've taken photos of people for all sorts of different reasons, and photos for online dating, if you think it'll help your prospects and/or make you feel better, is a something that is absolutely done.
posted by girlmightlive at 8:10 AM on November 26, 2017 [3 favorites]

For an easy comparison, just look at the engagement/wedding announcements in your local newspaper. The obviously better photographs usually have a photographer's credit underneath. Photography is really about framing a subject and manipulating light to flatter, to help the sitter look like herself, but just a little bit more relaxed and "better". It's not deceitful to look relaxed and confident! Good luck!
posted by citygirl at 8:23 AM on November 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

Selfies are the devil. It's actually a tough skill. I'd personally be a bit nonplussed if I saw a professional photographer watermark on a dating profile pic, but finding someone to help you get good photos is 100 % ok
posted by Jacen at 8:40 AM on November 26, 2017

Thanks for the advice so far, I think I feel a bit better about finding a photographer to get some portraits done. I don't have any "in real life" friends where I'm located who can take photos of me, so that's out of the question.

I'm more concerned about getting photos that I feel comfortable about posting online. I'm not sure if being unphotogenic (or being unable to take a decent photo of myself) is that much of an asset, when it sort of prevents me from taking/posting photos to begin with.
posted by modesty.blaise at 8:52 AM on November 26, 2017

If you are worried about the glasses, take them off, or change them. I lived a very long time with glasses I picked myself, and as it turns out, I make bad choices by myself in the eyewear store. Finding someone who can give you choices that complement your features can help you find a pair of glasses you love.
posted by nickggully at 8:57 AM on November 26, 2017 [7 favorites]

Another option is to find a sketch artist who does charicatures (the kind that do paries and events), and explain what you want.

Thirdly, assemble a still life collage of items you feel represent you, and take a picture of that. Glasses, keys, items of note (hiking map / knitting needles / power tools / sunglasses / etc...)
posted by nickggully at 8:59 AM on November 26, 2017

I feel you. My face looks asymmetrical in photos and doesn't in the mirror (even when I flip the photo). Selfies often look terrible because 90% of people don't understand portrait lighting, and that your proximity to the camera distorts your features. It's really, really important to be farther away from the camera than the length of your arm. I'd get professional photos. My engagement photos were really casual and didn't look at all like Glamor Shots or whatever you're thinking. I agree with the comments that say you should have pictures of you doing something you like. Even barely visible pics in front of a mountain are better than bathroom mirror pics.
posted by AFABulous at 8:59 AM on November 26, 2017 [6 favorites]

The amateur's trick to taking photos of yourself, just like the trick to taking photos of your dog, or your kids, or whatever, is the same: take a lot of photos, and don't delete them in the moment. Do it later, when you've accumulated dozens and dozens of photos and are picking the best ones. This can be a challenge for people who consider themselves "non-photogenic," but it's legitimately how many people get more photogenic, especially in the selfie age. They practice. They learn which angles work for them, and which don't. It is a skill you can improve, even if you never legitimately enjoy it.
posted by deludingmyself at 9:01 AM on November 26, 2017 [8 favorites]

Do you have any lower-stakes places to post photos? Do your IRL friends follow you on instagram or Facebook? They already know what you look like, so you can post tons of selfies without worrying about judgment. It might make you feel more accepting of yourself. Even sending pics to relatives will work (and older relatives will ALWAYS want more pics of you).
posted by AFABulous at 9:03 AM on November 26, 2017

I embraced this and posted (on a dating site) the one or two pictures where I actually look "photogenic." I feel you--I have a cleft lip and palate--I really feel you. THEN I also included one of me smiling (genuinely) with no hairdo or makeup, and a full-length picture of myself in regular clothes. I made a joke in the caption about no hair and makeup, and a couple of guys commented to say that it was a refreshing change, the no-frills picture.
posted by 8603 at 9:18 AM on November 26, 2017

Also--I'm sorry if this is obvious, maybe you've already tried this--can you get a friend of your preferred gender to pick out the photos they like among your existing pics? You probably look just fine already.
posted by 8603 at 9:20 AM on November 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

I get super awkward as soon as I know my picture is going to be taken which led me to believe I was not photogenic for a long time. I have had two friends who somehow always managed to take fantastic pictures of me though. I couldn't figure out why they were the only ones who could do it until someone explained that because I am so comfortable with them, that initial photo shock doesn't happen. Working from that idea, I started taking selfies (that were almost always deleted) until it didn't feel incredibly weird. When I stopped freaking myself out at the idea of a photo, I looked much more natural and at ease, and much more like myself.
posted by August Fury at 10:44 AM on November 26, 2017 [4 favorites]

Until you're able to have more pictures taken, you might be able to play with something more arty. 1/3 of your face in the foreground with something cool in the background, full body shot in silhouette in front of a sunrise, just your mouth smiling, etc. Having only one photo up is a red flag for me (makes me think it's a fake profile or that the one photo might be ten years old) so posting some others is good even if they don't show you clearly.
posted by metasarah at 11:42 AM on November 26, 2017

Almost everyone has this problem on dating sites. I took probably five hundred before I found one I thought even tolerable.

Really, try to find someone (anyone) to take some photos of you. They don't need to be good friends -- perhaps a work colleague? Don't overact in them. Smiling is the key. If you can find some jokes that make you really laugh while you're doing it you'll be fine. Let them choose the best ones.
posted by tillsbury at 12:18 PM on November 26, 2017

I just heard this tip on a podcast I listen to: use portrait mode on an iPhone. I don't have an iPhone, so I can't verify the effectiveness, but the people on the podcast said that the pictures taken in portrait mode rival professional photos. (The podcast is Happier in Hollywood, and they discussed using the photos they took themselves in the place of professional head shots!) I wouldn't suggest using filters that significantly change the way you actually look, but you should definitely make the most of what your momma gave you.
posted by Barnifer at 12:32 PM on November 26, 2017

Take lots of photos of yourself, and analyze and learn from them as you go. I took over 100 photos of myself to get my current profile shot, and as I went I took mental notes on the most flattering angles and expressions and framing, worked on the lighting and background, changed clothes, touched up my makeup, etc., so that the pictures got better as I went along. It does take awhile, but then you can use that same profile shot for a good six months.

And yes, definitely have more than one picture, and while you can use a glam head shot as your profile picture to attract more people, make sure some of those in your gallery are more realistic and show all of you from different angles, dressed up and more casual, with glasses and without, so that you can give potential suitors a more holistic idea of what you look like. I've met people who looked very little like their one great head shot, and it's a let down.
posted by orange swan at 1:02 PM on November 26, 2017

Have someone with an iPhone X or 8 Plus take your picture with that portrait mode feature it has. My wife is interested in a phone with that feature and we spent the afternoon in a store playing around with it, taking photos of each other, and really does take some pretty amazing shots.
posted by 4ster at 1:43 PM on November 26, 2017

To piggyback on the 'DIY- lots of photos' suggestions: The camera really hates me, too. Even friends-of-friends that were supposedly professional photog's couldn't surmount this fact, though my jury's still out on whether it was their amateur skills, or just my face. But, I got a decent profile shot for my online job by 1) Getting a pro to do my "everyday" makeup- A nice fellow at Nordstrom's did my face without knowing I'd be taking any pictures. It was free, but he earned a BIG tip!
And, 2) Doing a "shoot" with my iphone on a little tripod, but using video. I just turned it on and posed in ways I thought I should for a portrait shoot. A couple of stills from that yielded some shots that I was happy enough with. Good luck!
posted by JulesER at 2:47 PM on November 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

It might be good to keep in mind that when people post nice selfies, they've often taken not two or three photos before selecting their favorite. They've taken ten or fifteen or etc. It can take a while to get a photo you are happy with!
posted by Amanda B at 6:02 PM on November 26, 2017

I will also say — I use the tinder ‘smart photo’ feature which orders your photos by the most right swiped and I am consistently surprised that the photos I think are the best are ranked last. Even this really great photo of me that was taken in iPhone X portrait mode — it’s currently in last place.

I guess what I’m saying is that we often aren’t the best judges of own attractiveness or what other people find interesting/intriguing.

You could always post a link to a profile or some of your photos. I got really good feedback here on my pictures and my profile.
posted by We'll all float on okay at 6:56 PM on November 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm personally convinced that 'not photogenic' isn't really a thing. I'm a student of photography myself, who is trying to focus on portraits. I'm convinced that there aren't bad subjects, just bad photographers (which is most people).

I've taken more than a few portraits of people who say that they don't like photos of themselves that like my portraits.

I certainly agree that professional photos can be taken that won't look too polished; but you may have to find the right photographer for you (ie: like any professional they may have an approach that won't work for you). Ideally they'll get to know you a little bit and have an idea of what you want to project. Check out their portfolio and see if their work speaks to you at all. And yeah, you can certainly get 'lifestyle' portraits that won't be in a studio (or look like they are).

Other comments here are spot on - taking more photos of you will improve your skills, close-up portraits can end up distorting, lighting is crucial, etc.

For me, I wouldn't take a portrait of myself, I'd have a (photographer) friend do it; I'm too busy thinking about the photograph to relax in photos, and am not really comfortable taking selfies (and I know what I'm doing to a large degree in regards to portraits).
posted by el io at 12:57 AM on November 27, 2017

This video explains how to accentuate your jawline in photos. You should also check out the "squinch" video from the same photographer. A pro probably knows these things, but they're useful knowledge for photographing better.
posted by O9scar at 2:02 AM on November 27, 2017

Oh gosh, I too am super unphotogenic but ok-looking in person. I have literally, as in actually literally, not figuratively, had professional photographers give up in exasperation.

Nonetheless, like 1 in every 30 photos of me will look all right. So the key is quantity AND a good camera. Don't use obvious filters or anything, but definitely use a high-quality phone camera at least and adjust the levels! And if you don't have someone around to take the pic, use a selfie-stick to get a better angle and distance from your phone's weird distort-o-vision.

Glasses are a wild card in photos. I suggest trying photos both with and without them. It's not cheating; even if you wear glasses exclusively (no contacts), certainly there are times when you don't wear them!
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 10:10 AM on November 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

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