As a portrait photographer here in Denver, I often receive calls from potential clients looking for "headshots". This is a pretty non-descript way of defining a portrait, and could mean one of a dozen different types of images: corporate headshots, family photos, senior portraits, or headshots for actors, realtors, mechanics, or even pro-bowlers. To be able to provide quality photography services, I really need to know just what type of shots a prospective client is looking for and how they want to use them. So when a call for "heashots" rolls in - I always pry a little further and ask, "What kind of headshot do you need? Will these appear on a business card? A website? Or both?" And every now and then my questions are answered with nothing - just dead silence. I can tell the caller has been caught totally off guard by my questions, and has no idea how to respond. I break the dead air by saying, "let me guess... you need photos for online dating sites, right?" And I always get the same surprised reaction - "how did you know?!?!"
This ain't my first rodeo, kids.
That's Right - It's Trendy!
In recent years online dating has made huge inroads into mainstream culture. I hate to sound cliche, but the saying "everybody's doing it" certainly applies. Heck, I met my girlfriend on OKCupid (no joke!). A recent study estimates that one-third of all married couples in the U.S.A. met online, and that those couples may be happier than others. Eharmony - just one of many dating websites out there - claims to be responsible for 2% of all marriages in America, which equates to a whopping 236 marriages... every day! When you add in other sites like Match.com, Chemistry.com, PlentyofFish (POF), OKCupid, OurTime, and bulletin boards like Craigslist and Backpage, you can see that online dating has become the normal way of finding a mate.
With so many people turning to the internet to find that special someone, your time to capture your potential partner's attention is more limited than ever. Your personal profile is what speaks about who you are, and is what personifies your online presence. The most important visual on your profile is, of course, that single profile photo. Gone are the days of the self-shot photo in the bathroom mirror, sucking in your stomach and making "sexy" smirk faces with puckered lips. That just doesn't cut it. Nor does the four year old photo of you and your ex sipping martinis, with your ex conveniently cropped out of the shot.
People who are serious about finding a significant other online want to know their future catch is serious as well, and your photos must convey that seriousness. At the same time they must not be too "slick", but convey a warm, friendly, and real persona - and most importantly - be recent and accurate. Nothing is worse than showing up on that first date to find some one you don't recognize, because their profile photos where taken during a Hawaiian vacation... in 1994!!!
Be Real, Be You!
So, when Steve called me looking for "headshots", I quickly got down to business and discovered that what he really wanted was photos for his online dating profile. Steve had recently reentered the dating pool and was quickly becoming intimidated, and even a little discouraged, by the photos he found posted on the profiles of the fairer sex. "These women clearly have professional photos taken!" he lamented. Yes, they do, but that's no reason to fear - and after a brief consultation with Steve I assured him that we'd have him up and running in no time with high quality portraits.
In my opinion, the goal of your profile photo is to convey as much information as possible with imagery. Let's face it, we are an A.D.D. society; our attention spans are on the order of seconds, and asking some one to read paragraphs upon paragraphs of information with headers "About Me", "Hobbies", and "Favorite TV Shows", is more than the average internet dater can handle at first brush. So show that information! Get them hooked on your photos so they'll spend more time digging into your details!
With Steve being an outdoursy individual (he loves hiking, camping, hunting and fishing), it was a quick and easy decision to shoot him outside. This way, his interests would be conveyed immediately to anyone visiting his profile. By using a scenic location such as Commons Park near downtown Denver, and coordinating his attire to include sweaters and vests, I was able to show that Steve is a confident individual who is not only comfortable, but happy being outside surrounded by nature.
Conveying real personality in imagery can be a challenge for some photographers; it requires a good rapport with your client, and the ability to capture natural expressions while not forcing awkward poses. Posed shots can come across as too "planned" for a dating portfolio, and might scare off some visitors to your profile! I avoid this problem by really getting to know my clients - chatting with them about their hobbies and interests, and paying close attention to the message they want to convey. Since Steve has a strong connection with dogs, it was a no-brainer for me to snap some casual shots of him with his Golden Retriever. Throw in some studio portraits for good measure, and we were good to go! See a sample gallery of Steve's dating photos at the bottom of this article.
Don't Get Too Touchy
In closing I'll share just one last bit of advice... don't do too much "photoshopping" or retouching to your profile photos! Remember, your images are supposed to show you! A competent photographer should be able to capture you at your most flattering, being expressive and real, without the need for excessive editing. Overly edited photos are obvious, and only make visitors skeptical about your true appearance.
So don't be afraid to get online to see what all the buzz is with this internet dating business. Get some good photos and get going, you never know who may be waiting for you out there!