Here are Tips for taking better photographs of yourself!

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A survey of thousands of photographs that people have posted on dating service web sites has shown that there are several common mistakes people frequently make in the pictures that they take. Watch out for the problems described below and you will have a far better picture promoting you!

Top Ten Things to avoid in making or selecting a photo for a Dating site Profile:

  1. Solid black or very dark clothing is almost always your enemy, particularly when taking pictures at night or in most indoor situations. Shades of dark gray to black usually come out as just black on computer screens and these areas of the photo will simply "go flat". For women, this can make you look like you have no shape, or worse, it makes you look far larger than you actually are. A flash usually cannot make a dark color less dark, but it may reveal under-garments, creating other problems.

    The same problem can happen with brilliant plain white clothing made of a material with no texture, if your camera over-exposes the image. Don't turn yourself into a cartoon cut-out!

    Doing one or more of these things can help:

    For similar reasons, those with black or very dark hair should also avoid using a photograph taken against a dark background.

  2. Don't over-crop. That is, don't provide just a mug-shot photo. There should be at least one picture of you from at least the waist up, preferably from at least knees up. (Also, by providing a non-mug shot you effectively get one more free photograph on your typical profile web site: the full picture, and a cropped close-up taken from the full picture that they use for the mug-shot. For example, on Yahoo, click on the "Photos" tab on a profile to see the original uncropped photo and "Details", mailbox or search pages to see the cropped version of the primary photo.)

  3. Don't be insignificant. Here, you are supposed to be the star! For this audience, including a photograph of a mighty mountain skyline with this tiny face in one corner (which might be you) is not a good photo. If you must use this picture, crop and enlarge the remainder to make yourself a bigger percentage of the overall image. Similarly, don't try to show your house interior off and have you standing one small corner of the screen. People want to see you, and they are not here to check for a lack of spider webs in the corners. Also, photos taken in house doorways in front of house doors, and house hallways are not the best, and are only slightly better than those taken in the garage or laundry area.

    Avoid a similar problem by using a photograph of a group of more than five or six people, particularly if it isn't well lit where the picture was taken. If you aren't taking up at least a quarter of the picture, you need to crop or use a different picture.

    Providing pictures of just rocks, trees, or pets, that is, pictures that you aren't in, is NOT a good idea. You can share your hobby/interest of photography later once someone shows an interest in you. People are there wanting to see you, not the ocean. Remember how irritating those TV commercials were for the car company that only showed rocks and trees and not the car? Don't fall into the same trap.

  4. In at least the primary photo (best if in all of them), don't hide behind furniture, pets, kids, trees, rugs, sunglasses, pillows, flowers, hats (GUYS TOO), scuba-masks, halloween masks or makeup, sheets/curtains, fake clown lips, posts, wall corners, plants, vehicles, pitchers, vases, coffins (a real turn-off), underwater photos, heavy winter coats with or without hoods, or the arms, legs or torsos of other people. A full view of your dog in one picture doesn't make up for providing only one picture of you that only shows the back of your head, part of a cheek and one shoulder. Are such pictures stylistic or classy? Maybe. Will they get you a date with someone you would really want? Probably not. Also, having only photos where you are laying on your stomach on the floor or other horizontal surface while fully clothed look, well, strange.

  5. The bathroom and a car interior make a rotten studio. Expect lousy photographs if you take pictures in these places. (See "Good Tips for help.)

    Bars, clubs, most restaurants, are not lit for photography, and even when you use a flash you can end up washed-out and under-exposed at the same time. Night-time photographs taken in parking lots and on streets or sidewalks are also usually poor.

  6. Holding the camera at arms-length makes things look scary in horror movies, but you probably don't want that same effect in a picture that you hope will promote yourself. If the camera has a "wide-angle" zoom feature (and most do), holding the camera yourself can make you look fat (or severely non-symmetrical) in the places closest to the camera. (See "Good Tips for help.)

  7. Don't take pictures by the light of computer or TV screens, or by "cool white or daylight" fluorescent lights. These will make you look bright blue or green, unless you use the camera flash or have other stronger light in the room. Don't look like a Smurf! If you really really want to use that picture, try converting it to black-and-white and see if it looks less creepy.

    Note that Black-and-White ALSO works against you in a world where all the other profiles are in color. People who study human behavior will tell you that if you had both a color and a BW photo of the same person shown to an audience, the color photo would be selected first over 90% of the time. So, do consider "popular" versus "artsy" in making the color vs BW decision, particularly for your main photograph.

  8. Don't have the brightest light behind the picture subject. This puts your face in shadow, which can hide your good points and bring out bad ones. Don't end up looking like the emperor from Star Wars.

    Photographing a person with a dark skin tone (natural or tan) against a bright blue sky or water will need to use a flash or manually adjust the exposure setting on the camera. Otherwise, the person will be under-exposed. On cameras that have it, turning on the "Back Light" setting will adjust the exposure enough to fix the problem without having to use a flash. Alternatively, zoom in on the person and make the sky/water a much smaller part of the picture. The camera should then set the exposure on the person and not the sky.

  9. If other people are in the additional pictures that you select, don't make yourself difficult to spot (or the viewer may give up on you and move on to the next profile). If your own hair color and style are significantly different from one photo to the next, your audience may not be able to figure out which of the fourteen people in the under-exposed picture taken at a bar is you, particularly if you are a long-haired blonde in your main photo and are a short red-head in the bar photo. Having a completely different type of dark sunglasses on in each picture also helps disguise which one you are, but that is probably not your intent. Avoid using very old pictures mixed with recent ones.

    If you still want to show these alternate hair-styles, make sure anyone can tell which one is you, even if you have to stick a "ME!" sticker next to the right person. (Having to resort to identifying yourself in a picture means it probably isn't a very good picture to use to show yourself off.)

    Also, DO NOT PASTE OVER just parts of people you don't want to show. Crop them only if you can eliminate every part of them, but do not just put paper over them. If you can't fully eliminate the undesired person or object from the picture or the void where they were, use a different picture.

  10. Don't use a low-resolution or low-quality setting on your camera. Use at least a medium or high quality setting on your camera (and in any editing software), particularly for the main photo. Since this photo will be cropped again and that piece of the original picture will be turned into the first photo that people see of you, avoid sending a picture with so little detail that it has to be blown-up so that it will fit the designated area.

    When a picture is enlarged too much, the picture ends up looking fuzzy with jagged edges of surfaces and won't be complimentary. Avoid this unless you really want your picture to look like it was taken by a gas station security camera.

    Photos taken by the typical cell phone should never be used as your main photograph, unless the camera has an enhanced resolution mode available of at least 640x480, which is equal to about one quarter of the typical computer screen, a reasonable resolution and size for most profile photographs. MAKE SURE THIS PICTURE IS OF YOU AND ONLY YOU SO YOU WON'T BE MICROSCOPIC! An average computer screen is 1280x1024, so think about how tiny a 160x100 picture from your cell phone or low-picture-quality setting on a camera will be! You don't want to have your picture end up the size of a fingernail clipping.

    If the picture you submit is too large, the web dating service will usually reduce the picture size for you at no charge, and they do this so that the picture doesn't take so much space to store on their system, and so that it won't take too much time for others to download. It is always better to send them a too-large photo than send a too-small one. (Don't send them TIFF format, which can be far-too-large.)

Top Eleven Good Photo Tips for promoting you!

  1. Get a friend to hold the camera and take the picture and be your conscience. (If you don't have anyone available to do this, see tip 2). If you don't have someone available but would think twice about taking this picture if someone else was around seeing you do it, don't put this picture on the Internet. You will regret it later.

    Remember that a picture you put on a web site on the Internet will be out there somewhere FOREVER, no matter what you do. (Most dating services reserve the right to keep your photos, profile and messages sent via their service as long as they want, including long after you leave.) Consider whether you will be happy with that picture being available five or twenty years from now. Just save those private moment photos for handing out in person later, and once you know the other person a bit better. Making your profile photos while you are drunk is not a good idea.

  2. If you don't have a helper to take the pictures for you, use the timer on your camera. Virtually all digital cameras and many decent film cameras have a timer mode. This mode waits several seconds after you push the shutter button before the picture is actually taken.

    On digital cameras, this feature is likely found well off the beaten track. I had an Olympus digital camera and was convinced that there was no timer, but after three years of ownership I found the timer capability mentioned in the manual one day! In my case, the "DRIVE" button on the back of the camera is pressed repeatedly, until a picture of a clock appears in the view-finder. That camera will then take the next picture on a 12 second delay. (See the manual for your camera to learn how to take "Timer" or "Delay" pictures.) This will mean running back and forth to the camera for each shot, but the pictures of yourself will be vastly better than what you would get by trying to use a mirror or holding the camera in one outstretched hand.

    When using the timer on an auto-focus camera, most cameras set the focus as soon as you push the shutter button. Look through the view-finder to see what the camera is focusing on (probably the wall where you will be, or a back of the chair you plan to sit in), and then go stand or sit as close as possible to the wall or back of the chair so that you will also be in focus when the picture is taken. Be sure that you are a lot closer to the thing the camera focused on than you are to the camera so that you won't be fuzzy.

  3. Take your main picture from a camera height somewhere between your upper chest and forehead, and your body doesn't have to face directly into the camera. If you are using a camera timer for your self-portrait and using the flash, put the camera on a tripod, bookshelf, kitchen cupboard shelf, or some other surface that will be at somewhere near your shoulder to eye-height. For flash photos, having the camera significantly below or above face height can leave you with shadows of your nose or chin that you probably don't want.

    Remember that this isn't a drivers license or passport photo, so you are allowed to not face directly into the camera, but don't go overboard. The best way to try this at first is to think of yourself standing in the middle of a clock face, with the camera at 6 o-clock. By facing your body toward the 5 or 7 o-clock position (but still looking at the camera), you will show your figure off a little. (By facing to the 4 or 8 o-clock position, you can show more of your profile if you want, but don't go beyond the 4 or 8 position or you will be back to looking like you are taking a government photograph.)

    Angling your body or tilting your head a little can also help avoid that "deer in the headlights" look that people with dark or large eyes can unintentionally exhibit.

  4. If you use photo editing software, use it to crop and enlarge, fix red-eye, fix film scratches, cover that price tag you forgot to remove, and blot out private info (like employee name tags, workplace signs, or license plates), but don't fix you! Be honest in the picture of you that you present, so don't go hiding wrinkles or other things that are part of who you are. Besides, most people go overboard with the "touch up" of their skin, and the result is somewhere between "obvious" and "Al Gore".

    Also, don't add "fuzzy" to hide lines or wrinkles, as the picture quality will be degraded again some when it is reformatted for the web site, and you may not want the double-helping of "fuzzy" that you end up with.

  5. Make your main photo (the one that will be cropped to be your mug-shot), well lit, good focus, yourself occupying at least a quarter of the frame, and be the sole person in the picture, or can be cropped (AND enlarged) to just contain you. No ex-es, friends, pets, kids, large plants, christmas trees or whatever in front or you or hanging around you. And don't try to crop them out on this picture because you will probably end up with awkward arms and shadows that you can't get rid of or fully explain.

  6. If you have a digital camera, take more than one picture of a given pose, It doesn't cost you anything, and if you have several to choose from, you will be able to select the "best picture", not just the "only picture".

  7. Don't post more than one photo from the same pose, unless something is significantly different between the two pictures. Having four or five photos that are virtually identical sends several undesirable messages.

  8. Vary your photo themes. For example, if you post four photos, try to make them of at least two different settings, not all in the same bar, not the same group of people, and so on. If you have a night photo you really want to use, be sure to include a couple of daylight or well-lit photos too. Try not to wear the same thing in all the photos you use.

  9. Be aware of what else is in the picture with you and what it may say (or contradict) about you.
    These examples are all things that were seen in real profiles:

    • Standing in front of a billboard for some political, religious or ethical position that might not be what you wanted to convey, such as a being in front of a Eat More Pork billboard, when you declare yourself to be a member of a no-pork religion or your profile says that you are a vegetarian.

    • People who admit to "A few extra pounds" or "thick" and claim to be dieting probably should not use photographs made in front of or in a Krispy Kreme store.

    • Laying on the sofa at home with a beer bottle in hand and several open bottles littered around the otherwise unoccupied room might not agree with "Doesn't drink" or "Drinks only socially" you put in your profile. Having an alcohol product in your hand or in front of you in every photograph deserves a "Drinks regularly", not a "Drinks Socially" or "Doesn't drink". It would be best if you put the bottle, can or glass down for at least ONE of your pictures.

    • The kitchen or coffee table in the photo has an ash tray filled to the brim with old cigarettes might just contradict the "Doesn't smoke" or "Smokes occasionally" claim.

    • You are standing in a room littered with toys, cribs and high-chairs, which all might tend to contradict the "Have Kids? No" answer you listed in your profile, or answer the "Tell you later" response. The soiled diaper or empty bags of chips and clothes on the floor in the photo also makes you look like a really untidy house-keeper.

    • Your picture is taken in a room of your house where the walls have several crucifixes, a rack of candles, a portrait of Mary and the last supper, a small altar and other religious artifacts. All that really doesn't agree with you declaring yourself "Not Religious" or "Only attends occasionally". That's about as believable as the Pope saying he attends church "A few times a year".

      Also, the universally-recognizable white on black "Mormon/LDS" name tag probably shouldn't be in the picture if you aren't going to also list LDS as the religion.

    • A ring with a diamond the size of a VW Beetle is on the third finger. Relics of former relationships, gifts from relatives and other "anti-pick-up" artifacts should be absent for these pictures if at all possible. (If you can't remove the ring, turn it so the setting isn't visible in the photo, cover it with a flesh-colored band-aid, or get your hands out of the shot.) You are trying to meet someone sensitive that you would want to pay attention to those sorts of subtle signals, right?

    In each of these, the picture may be more truthful than the text in the profile. Be honest, and get the pictures and the text description of you to agree and you will be a lot better off.

  10. When in doubt, use the flash. I personally dislike consumer grade flash photography, but it does manage to make color balance right in less than full sunlight. So if the picture looks fuzzy or blurred, your face looks a bit dark (or shows up as odd shade or yellow, blue or green) when not using the flash, take another picture and this time turn the flash on, or force the flash to be used (there is usually a button for this).

    Taking your picture in a darkened area, or while you are moving, or while you are too close to the camera can make the image blurred. The dark room can also cause "noise" in the picture (like a bad TV signal) as the camera struggles to come up with something to record. Unless you are a vampire, add light and get a better picture. Blurry pictures should not be used here, and definitely not as your primary photo.

    You don't want to look like you have some disease, so always compare what you look like by holding your hand up next to the picture on the screen. Computer screens don't all show color the same way, but if your picture looks bad on your own computer, think about what other people will be looking at, unaware that you really don't have Malaria.

    Some photo editing software has the capability of adjusting the "white balance" of a picture, but taking a better picture in the first place is always the better choice.

    Finally, remember that your camera probably can't take a good flash picture if you are closer than three to four feet to the camera. Be back between six to ten feet for the flash to work well. If your camera has an anti-red-eye mode, turn that on (usually a lightning symbol plus a picture of an eye).

  11. Dear Camera operator: Hold still, hold your breath and gently press the shutter! This is written in every camera owners manual there is, but this simple advice is commonly ignored or forgotten, and then people wonder why their pictures are blurry. The camera must remain stationary while it is taking the picture, or else the picture will be blurry, particularly pictures not taken in bright sunlight. On a SLR cameras you can sometimes increase the shutter speed high enough or use a flash to conceal some camera movement, but the best results are always obtained by trying to hold the camera as still as possible no matter what type of camera you own.

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