I'm a lot better looking in person. No, seriously!
October 17, 2007 12:41 PM   Subscribe

I don't take good pictures and I think it's putting a crimp in my style online-personal-wise. What can I do to get guys to meet me in person?

I'm female. I want to date. I write great personal ads and let my witty & winsome self shine through online communications (and phone). I'm an introvert and date guys outside my race --- online personals seem to be a good choice. Problem: I am not photogenic. I don't look like elephant woman but I don't look like me either -- someone who's pretty/sometimes hot.

Lately, great email communication stops dead once I share my pic. Is it my pic? I'm honest about my description before hand, whether it's an ad I placed or one that caught my eye. I've had friends read my prior correspondence to see if I was lying/dissembling/dreaming. I'm being truthful according to them.

I get anxious at the thought of talking to someone I don't know or flirting with someone who didn't already see me as a potential romantic partner, so approaching guys I meet IRL would be awful, painful, and amusing in a twisted way at best. I understand where the guys are coming from: people lie online. The last few guys I dated (two long-term) said they met with me in spite of my pic or didn't see my pic (and didn't share theirs). Upon meeting me they were rather pleasantly surprised. Some people will still reject me nonetheless -- fine. But I'd like a chance with the guys who'd flirt with me in person but are turned off my pics.

Do I give up on dating online? Use someone else's pics? Refuse to share a pic? Give references? There's a part of me that thinks okay, I'm not attractive -- assuming that part is off its rocker, what do you suggest?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (29 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
New pics! I also take horrible pictures- no, really. horrible. I spent years thinking I was an ugly troll, until somebody pointed out otherwise and took the time to take some good pictures of me.

Try a professional photographer, or a friend with a good eye. and then play with the colors, etc. once the pictures have been uploaded. This can make a world of difference. Wear more makeup than you think you have to, and pay attention to which colors look best against your skin. Try a different angle, close your mouth (or at least be aware of what your mouth is doing), and be aware of the lighting. If you are good looking, you can take a good picture. You just have to be persistent. Take 100 pictures instead of just 1.
posted by ohio at 12:51 PM on October 17, 2007

Where are you getting these pictures?

I can look disgusting or I can look nearly hot, depending on the angle, the light, the pose. Are you just doing the arm outstretched pics, because no one looks good in those?

Do you recognize yourself in the pictures you are taking? Or can you see that it indeed doesn't display your hotness?

I wouldn't recommend going to Glamour Shots or anything, but getting someone who's good with a camera to take a whole heck of a lot of shots of you looking good (but not super dressed/made up) and then finding the few that actually look like you. (Yes, you can occasionally get that super beautiful angle that looks nothing like you.)

(Heck, can you get to a MeFi meetup where DaShiv's going to be?)
posted by Gucky at 12:52 PM on October 17, 2007

What sort of pictures are you sending in of yourself? Pictures from a party with other people cropped out? "Myspace" pics you took yourself in a dark room with a webcam or holding a camera over your head? Having the right outfit, makeup, setting, and lighting is going to make all the difference in what your photos look like. Grab a friend who has a nice digital camera and do a photo shoot in a number of locations. Take some posed and some candid. Take lots. You'll find some that portray the you you want to share with other people.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:53 PM on October 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

Perhaps this fear that you don't photograph well is self-reinforcing: You don't enjoy having your picture taken because you're afraid of how it will turn out, and this leads you to have a dour expression and/or body language when you are photographed.

If this is the case, try an acclimation approach. Take a *lot* of pictures in different settings, lighting, clothing indoor, outdoor and in different poses, and especially when you're having fun or enjoying yourself. Get used to, and maybe even enjoy being photographed.

Ask trusted friends to help you select those pictures that represent the best side of the real you.
posted by de void at 12:56 PM on October 17, 2007

...or flirting with someone who didn't already see me as a potential romantic partner, so approaching guys I meet IRL would be awful, painful, and amusing in a twisted way at best.

Many guys consider any female they know a potential romantic partner, so if you give this a shot the odds are in your favor.

Who is taking these pictures? Are they mostly inside? Outside? Do you just not pose well?

I'd give a friend or two a camera then just spend a regular day with them, instructing them to take lots of candid shots of whatever you are doing. Chances are you'll get one or two decent shots.

Alternately, find a photography student who needs a sometimes hot model and volunteer to pose in exchange for digital copies of the pictures.
posted by mikepop at 12:57 PM on October 17, 2007

Aside from better pics, take different pics. Three-quarters of the people online use the same six poses, and it gets tiresome. Everyone blurs together.

...just a thought, anyway.
posted by aramaic at 12:59 PM on October 17, 2007

start taking pictures of yourself or have a friend take pictures of you. Take a lot of them. practice your smile, how you hold your head, and where your eyes are looking.

i used to hate having my picture taken until i realized what works for me after taking a ton of self portraits.
posted by dieguido at 1:03 PM on October 17, 2007

I work in online dating, and just helped a friend with this. What I did was take a LOT of photos of her doing things she loved: playing with her dog, reading aloud her favorite line of her favorite book, cooking, at one of my parties talking to someone else, and one of her hula-hooping in a bikini (yes, I'm serious. Sometimes you have to think about what the guy wants to look at, too, because they are, um, mammals and all that).

Have a friend talk you through some photos. Take TONS of them. Only post the ones where you genuinely feel you look pretty in them. Wear different outfits. If you have good photos that are less than a year old, go to Kinko's and scan them in. Tell people in your profile or whatever how old the pic is and if you still look that way.

I am unphotogenic as hell, and there are often horrible photos of me online in various places because I'm out a lot. I have learned to tell myself, "everyone takes bad photos. I know I'm pretty in real life, that's what matters." Keep reminding yourself you're pretty; in fact, when you are taking the new photos, repeat this in your head:


Sounds stupid, but I do it when I go out alone and it gives me confidence!

Also, is there an option to post a video of yourself? If so, have someone videotape you, if you can. Then the potential date can see and hear you at the same time.

Never assume what other people find attractive, by the way. Self-confidence, no matter WHAT you look like, is a big turn-on with guys!
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 1:04 PM on October 17, 2007 [2 favorites]

I might be the queen of taking weird photos. Ones where I have a weird expression on my face, ones in which my big eyes come across as too intense, etc, are not uncommon. Others have said pictures of me that appeared odd were quite pretty, so who knows. I do have lots that are weird though, and I am often loathe to share photographs of myself for that reason.

It does help a little to learn some photo techniques. As in reading some guides on how to take a better photograph.

Celebrities do it. They learn which are their best angles, the best poses, to do that slight angle of their bodies to look as slim and fantastic as possible, etc. (It tends to be worse when I smile, for instance, so I will tend to smile less broadly. ) It's something you can pick up a few pointers on too if you're concerned.
posted by cmgonzalez at 1:05 PM on October 17, 2007

Get better pictures. Easy solution.

Taking photos of yourself is hard. If you have a friend who's a good photographer (and I mean of people; just because they're a good nature/dog/vacation/whatever photographer doesn't mean crap when it comes to getting people to look good), ask them if they'll help you.

Or go to a professional (but not a place in the mall, a real professional) if you can afford it.

Alternately, if you're on a really tight budget, you might check out a local university and see if you can ask a professor in the art/photo department for the names of some talented students who might be interested in making a few bucks. But you might have to try a few people before you find anyone decent. But this does give you the advantage, if you pay them enough and they agree, of owning the copyright to the images when you're done -- most pros won't do this, because they want you to come back to them for prints.

A really good portaitist can make even people who don't look so hot, seem very hittable. Since you sound like you're probably good looking as-is, there's no reason why your pics shouldn't look outstanding. You just have to get someone who can look at you objectively and bring out your best features in the medium of a photo.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:10 PM on October 17, 2007

Yeah, have a friend of yours help. And have that friend take A LOT of pictures. I look awful in most pictures and had a really good friend help me out. She gave me feedback on what I was wearing and we tried a whole bunch of shots - indoors, outdoors, sitting, standing, from different angles - anything to give variety. She took over a hundred shots of me in different outfits, with different hair, and in different locations and after all that there were about a dozen that we both agreed looked like me and were flattering at the same time. Get help.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 1:11 PM on October 17, 2007

I think it's a good idea to keep in mind that your internal idea of what you look like and what other people see is not always the same. I once had a friend take a picture that she claimed was a "hot" picture of me. I thought it was hideous. I put it side by side with a picture I thought was a good pic of me, and showed it to a bunch of friends. Almost everyone picked the one I didn't like. Maybe you should take a day and have a friend take as many pictures of you as possible. show them to people who know you, and let them decide.

Also there's a possibility that your pics aren't "bad" so much as they're just somehow incongruent with the way you communicate online. For example if you're really jokey and funny in email, but not smiling in your pic, it could be a subtle disconnect in the mind of someone who's trying to piece together a solid mental picture of who you are.
posted by billyfleetwood at 1:32 PM on October 17, 2007

If you have a decent point and shoot camera, it should have a timer as one of its options. Set aside a weekend afternoon and take a bunch of self portraits. I mean dozens. Then put the camera away and go do something. Come back a few hours later and look through the results. Since this might be the first time you've done this, consider yourself lucky if you find one photo out of 70+ that you actually like.

That was practice. Now, go do it again--wear clothes you like. You'll learn when the best time to smile is (generally, right before the timer runs out--holding a smile for 10-12 seconds is hard and it shows). Try different angles, poses, lighting. Oh! Learn how to adjust the white balance on your camera! That might make a HUGE difference.

After a while, honestly, it becomes sort of fun.
posted by gsh at 1:39 PM on October 17, 2007

to be very specific about one possible problem with self portraits: if you are hand holding the camera, you are probably using your camera at the wide side of its zoom. This will tend to distort features unfavorably, cheeks will look fatter, your nose more bulbous, etc (this also happens a lot when other people are using the camera if they don't know better). Portraits are generally more pleasing if the lens is on the telephoto end. For most point and shoots, with a 2-4x zoom range, that means zooming all the way in, and then positioning the camera far enough back to show your whole face.
posted by Good Brain at 1:55 PM on October 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

have someone shoot you from the top down. look up and smile. show a (tiny) bit of cleavage.
posted by rdurbin at 2:07 PM on October 17, 2007

Do all of the above.

Then upload 5-10 of your favorites to amihotornot.com** or similar rating site. Use the highest rated 2 or 3 for your online profile.

It's pretty amazing -- the same person can be rated a 4 or a 9.5, depending on the the picture.

** I know: those ratings sites are so cheesy and shallow. Yes they are. They're also brutally honest as to what Joe Anonymous likes.
posted by LordSludge at 2:07 PM on October 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

Get professional pics but make sure they look like yourself. People will not take you seriously if you have pictures that look nothing like you in person.
posted by JJ86 at 2:13 PM on October 17, 2007

Two magic ingredients in every photo that will make men want to see you in person:

Big friendly smile--make sure this reaches your eyes (apparently, clenching your butt cheeks does the trick)
Cleavage -- if you have some, flaunt it just a bit. Don't lean forward like you're in a nasty mag, but do let the suggestion of your curves show up in the photo.
posted by Deathalicious at 2:21 PM on October 17, 2007

LordSludge's answer is brilliant.

Short of getting a professional photographer, have a friend shoot lots of spontaneous pictures of you at a party or other event where you'll be having a good time and unaware you're being photographed.
posted by adamrice at 3:08 PM on October 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

Good suggestions above.

From personal experience, taking pictures and seeing how I appear in pictures:
- With any cheap camera, the flash is close to the lens and harsh -- if you wear glasses take them off first to avoid the horrible reflection.
- You're better off with natural light anyway (but not direct sun).
- Smile, but naturally (Exception: if you have a really asymmetric smile, you might practice a bit in the mirror to make it a little less strange.)
- The "clenching your butt cheeks" thing Deathalicious mentioned really works. I forget where I first read it, but I recall it's one of those little tricks models and other frequently-photographed people know.
- Take more pictures (have more taken of you). Most people look like crap in three-quarters of the photos taken of them. Also, this will give you more of a chance to be in a relaxed/fun/confident mindset while you are having your picture taken, and it will be noticeable in the final result.
posted by mmagin at 3:49 PM on October 17, 2007

Use someone else's pics?

Do NOT do this under any circumstance. Ever.

Also: in the world of online dating, "I look better in person than in photos" is a FAR FAR better problem to have than "I look better in photos than in person", also known as the leading cause of Horribly Awkward First Dates. You're not in a bad situation at all.

In my experience, 95% of "I look bad in photographs" is due to posing. It's like drawing: those with an untrained eye draw what they think they see, rather than what they actually see. Likewise, people pose for photos in a way that they think works for the camera, but often doesn't.

One solution is to spend a few hours of trial-and-error learning to pose flatteringly in front of a camera (which is harder than it seems -- the ability to deliver poses to the camera on cue is one reason why high-end models get paid so well). An alternative is to attend swanky events where candid photos are being taken (weddings, corporate parties, gallery openings, etc), be extra-outgoing to attract attention while socializing, and have lots of fun while ignoring the cameras. And lastly, if you have any photographer friends that you can rope into service, it should be pretty easy to milk a good photo from them while you all are out doing something fun.

If you're in California, you're always welcome to email me to see if I'll be in town for a particular meetup.
posted by DaShiv at 3:52 PM on October 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

You might also consider using a polaroid camera and then scanning the resulting photo. For some reason, I always look better in Polaroids. I think it has something to do with the flash. Or the film itself - they always look super saturated and rich.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 4:28 PM on October 17, 2007

Lots of great advice here and most of it I have heard from friends when I complain about this very same thing. I have also thought of daring a friend who is a photographer to take a good photo of me to see if she will jump at the challenge. I spent a good part of my life thinking I was as hideous as my photos, reinforced by people saying "oh it's not that bad!" and then thinking "god, I really DO look like that!?"

One thing I have done when I take portaits of others is ask them questions about something they really love...it helps if you know something about them, and don't just ask them open-ended questions. Ask something like "what did you do with the grandkids last time you saw them?". The question should be something that kind gets them out of themselves. I try to take the photo before they even start speaking because often a big smile lights up their face at the thought. See if you can get your friends to take photos of you in that kind of setting.
posted by kenzi23 at 4:40 PM on October 17, 2007

No-one's mentioned Photoshop? Not to drastically alter how you look, but maybe to change the lighting, get rid of some blemishes or whatever. It can do wonders, but still let you look like you.
posted by Sar at 6:33 PM on October 17, 2007

Once you've used the above advice to get some good photos and narrowed down your choices to the one(s) you want to use, you could consider a professional photo retouching service. FixMyPhotos.com seems to do a pretty decent job for $10. (As featured on Guy Kawasaki's blog.)

Chatfilter: I'm totally going to try all this when I'm ready to try my luck in online personals. +favourited.
posted by Kwirq at 7:44 PM on October 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

Hell, I'll do it for free, once you take a photo you're halfway happy with, just because I like messing around with Photoshop. (ilyaura at gmail, if you want to take me up on the offer)
posted by Sar at 11:31 PM on October 17, 2007

my other half had not that great profile pictures.
if you dont start out with the facts however they are anything you do seem to have is based on them waiting to see what you look like. the longer you wait the more emotionally involved you are, whereas they havent got there yet.

On the other side its amazing how different pictures of the same person can look like different people. Gets lots of pictures ask someone else to select good ones. Photos of me other people like, I dont like that much. Our own opinions are biased.
posted by browolf at 8:02 AM on October 21, 2007

Quick Tip: If you have a webcam, you can position it different ways to get a sense of how you look from different angles. Compared to everyday mirror experiences and moment-in-time snapshots, this "crowd" view can be uniquely insightful. Unless you're like me and look most striking sideways, on the right side of the monitor.

Lately, great email communication stops dead once I share my pic. Is it my pic?
I'm not sure where you're posting, as I think most online dating sites require pictures up front. Regardless, the exchange of pictures may be having more of an impact than the actual content of those pictures -- it's the crossover from blind exchanges such as this very post to actual, real life conversation in the context of your dating scenario. It represents a step toward "real life" and for some, that may be a deal breaker, even if they didn't realize it earlier.
posted by VulcanMike at 5:53 AM on October 28, 2007

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