How to Choose Dating App Photos That’ll Have Babes Swiping Hell Yes

We’re revisiting this classic Autostraddle piece on queer dating as we get back to dating basics in partnership with HER’s Queer Dating 101, a series of live edutainment events that brings in concrete how-tos, insights, experts and some of your favorite Autostraddle personalities to help you find love (or whatever you’re looking for) in the time of corona. Check out the first event, the Dating Preparedness Kit, tonight, Tuesday 1/12, at 6pm PT | 9pm ET!

So you’ve accepted Tinder into your life, if not your heart. We’ve taught you how to write a great swipe-worthy Tinder profile. But what about the visual aspect of a dating app profile? How do you curate the photos that will make fellow hot queers swipe right on your cute face? You want to look like your best self: fun, hot, interesting, and lez be real, it doesn’t hurt if you look like you might actually send the first message.

Of course, like all aspects of a dating profile, and dating in general, you can’t please everyone – some things that will ping for one queer will make another go running far, far away. But that’s just the way life works, and if you’re a Nature Queer you don’t want to date someone who hates hiking anyway, so it’s fine. Even taking personal tastes into account, there are some basic rules you can follow when choosing photos for your dating profile that will help your online dating life thrive.

Can I guarantee that these tips will lead to more queers sending you the first message, actually going on more dates, or getting laid by someone who will text you back the next day? Sure can’t! But I can guarantee that following these tips will make your dating profile as strong as it can be. Here’s how you can curate your Best Dating Self via your Tinder photos.

DO: Have at least three photos.

Okay, if you’re going to the trouble to make a Tinder profile, you might as well give it your best shot. Anything less than three photos is not your best shot. Tinder is an app that relies heavily on visuals and so you need to actually include some visuals. That’s why you’re reading this article, right?! I personally think three photos is the absolute minimum amount you should include in a Tinder profile, but Tinder allows you to include up to nine, so you can decide what you want to do with that info. I think it’s important to use this space to show off a really full picture of you – you know how your face looks kind of different at different angles, and sometimes you wear glasses and sometimes you wear contacts, and occasionally you remove your lip ring, and also you dye your hair a different color every month? Right, so you want to show off all the versions of you that you can – the only way to do this, superficially, is by posting many photos. I would also suggest at least one full body shot, probably because I am a fat person, and I want to highlight my fat body – if someone is fatphobic, that’s a great way to weed them out right away. Personally, I have nine photos on my profile right now. More is more.

DON’T: Use multiple versions of the same thing.

As we just discussed, it’s important to have a nice variety of pictures, so the babes swiping feel like they’re getting to see a few different sides of you and your vibe. If you post three+ photos like I just instructed you to (great work) but they’re all selfies from the exact same angle, that’s not actually doing the work that posting three photos is supposed to do. Many of the folks I interviewed for this article (yes I researched this for you babes! I care!) said they really appreciate a nice variety of posed, candid, and selfie shots. It’s ideal if not all the images are selfies. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – it’s 2019. If your bestie / co-worker / mom won’t take 1000+ photos of you so that you can look your best on the dating app of your choice then WHAT ARE WE ALL EVEN DOING HERE.

DO: Make sure the photos are good quality images.

You want your photo to be well lit, composed nicely, and to have a general “good aesthetic.” If it’s helpful, imagine each photo you’re posting as if it’s going to be featured in a magazine! Or on the front page of your favorite website. I know not everyone fancies themselves a photographer or a self-appointed Instagram celeb, and that’s fine, but it’s actually fairly easy to take a good quality image. Some quick tips: natural light is nice, avoid very harsh sun and if things seem too bright find a spot of shade, avoid weird shadows on your face, Portrait Mode on the newer iPhones is a huge life hack (and I am told that Androids and other smart phones now have similar modes but I’m not personally familiar with them), make sure your face is *in focus*, and always take multiple shots (that way you can text them to your BFF later and decide which one is best). Kayla’s groundbreaking research in this area focuses largely on thirst traps, a subset of photo types, but many of the guidelines for composition and lighting etc apply regardless of how much clothing you’re wearing. I understand this might seem overwhelming, but it is really truly worth it, I swear. If you still feel like you have no idea what you’re doing, examine some of the photos you personally are drawn to on Tinder or Instagram and then try to mimic that when you take your own pictures. You can do it!

DON’T: Blurry photos, bad lighting, or Snapchat/Instagram filters.

You can have one or two photos with shitty indoor club lighting or a blurry omg-I-was-laughing-so-hard-you-can’t-really-see-my-face-but-look-how-fun-and-spontaneous-I-am candid vibe, but you better have multiple crisp well-lit portraits to balance that out if that’s the route you choose to take, okay? Also I’m sorry, I’m coming down with a hard no on Snapchat filters. No. Snapchat. Filters. No! Exceptions! You want someone to be into you based on what you actually look like, not what a blurry bunny version of you looks like. I will die on this hill, it’s for your own good, you’re welcome.

DO: Highlight who you are!

The whole point of a dating profile is to show off who you are, in a curated and vaguely superficial way, so that you can hopefully connect with other babes who like who you are! That’s like, the whole thing. So it is in your best interest to use the photos in your dating app profile to highlight what makes you special and fun and, you know, you. Show off your hobbies, your skills, your thirst traps if that’s your vibe. If you’re a farmer, include some photos of yourself with your animals, or at your farm stand. If you DJ, I’m sure you have some sweet professional photos of you doing your thing at that hot and sweaty monthly gay night you host – what a perfect image to add to your dating profile! Love your cat? Include your cat. Have kids? Put ’em in there! (If you don’t want to include your kids’ in your dating profile because of their privacy or because you’re uncomfortable posting photos of your kiddos online that is completely understandable – some of my pals work around this by putting cute emojis over their kids’ faces. If you don’t want to include any photos of your kids at all that is absolutely your call, but I would then put somewhere in the word portion of your bio that you have kids – for most parents I know, that’s a pretty important part of their lives, and you’re doing yourself a favor to weed out anyone who would swipe left simply because you’re a parent.)

DON’T: Pretend to be someone you’re not.

Listen, I love a good thirst trap, because I am an extroverted slut who practices body love as a form of self care and is really into getting attention from friends and strangers on the internet alike. It would be disingenuous for me not to include a thirst trap or seven on my dating app profile. But if you are shy, or not super sexual, that is totally fine and wonderful! And you should not feel pressured to include slutty thirst traps in your dating app profile! I cannot stress enough that aside from including well lit photos that actually show multiple angles of your face/personality/life, the most important thing about a photo on a dating app profile is that it reflects you. If you hate being outside, do not post the one smiling photo you managed to take on that camping trip from hell. If you are allergic to cats, you’re not obligated to pose with your friend’s kitty in the hopes of luring the lesbians to your cat-free life. If you’re nerdy and book-ish I guarantee you there are a million people who wanna curl up at the library and spend some sweet introvert time with you – no need to post images where you’re pretending to enjoy being at a dance party. One person I interviewed for this post actually said her favorite thing on a dating profile is thirst traps with books. “It’s niche but I’m into it,” she said, which is such a perfect way to think about what’s happening when we all look at dating profiles. Don’t cater to a niche you’re not into!

Final Tips

A genuine, big, confident, happy smile is the number one thing every single human I spoke to for this article mentioned when talking about what attracts them to a dating app profile, so I dunno, unless you literally hate smiling (be yourself, remember) I’d recommend finding a photo where you are flashing a KILLER smile and make that your first image. This is controversial, but I personally don’t love including any group photos – it’s confusing. I understand the urge and some folks say they like seeing candid group shots that show you are a real human with real friends and know how to experience joy while engaging in activities with said friends, so, like I said, controversial, but I personally just want to see photos of you on your dating app profile. If you’re going to include group shots make sure you include multiple solo photos so we all know which hot queer you actually are. Also controversial, but I don’t think you should use any of your precious picture real estate on memes, photos of your pet by themselves, or “ironic” images of like, your messy bedroom floor. That’s what your Instagram is for. Which brings us to my final tip – if you’re comfortable, link your Instagram to your Tinder account. I will forever stand by my very strong opinion that Instagram Is The Best Dating App For Queers In 2019, and I think a lot of the work that Tinder pictures are trying to do – show off what you actually look like, prove that you have friends and hobbies and a personality, cultivate your True Self while still also being clearly, you know, cultivated – can be done far more successfully on Instagram.

To conclude: Be confident, be real, lean into your strengths and your specific niche interests, never ever ever use a Snapchat filter, try to be authentic in this weird inauthentic world of dating apps, and as one sweet queer said to me: honestly, the gayer the better!!! Amen.

Want to learn more? Register for the Dating Preparedness Kit event tonight with HER host Nicole Lim and Autostraddle Managing Editor Rachel Kincaid, and check out the other upcoming Queer Dating 101 events!

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Vanessa is a writer, a teacher, and the community editor at Autostraddle. Very hot, very fun, very weird. Find her on twitter and instagram.

Vanessa has written 404 articles for us.


  1. Thanks for saying never ever use snapchat filters! It’s the BIGGEST turn off for me. I don’t like seeing someone with all of their photos with filters because then how am I supposed to know what you look like? All I know is you like the same filters as everyone else on there and I’ll assume we’re probably not going to get along because I don’t do social media and I don’t like taking selfies and for some reason a lot of people think that’s weird.

    But I do love a picture with something I can start a conversation from! Anything with a cool background, or an event or people’s pets or something that shows what they’re interested in makes it much easier to start talking and get to know them quicker.

    • Could not agree more re: Snapchat filters. They are a hard pass for me, ALWAYS. I strongly associate them with frequent use by my middle school students, so if that’s how you present yourself, no matter how hot or cool you are… in my mind you are 12.


          I remember this article too! Tinder or OKCupid, I think. I definitely see a lot of profiles that say “looking for queer friends/queer community.” So it just depends if people really mean what they say…

  2. My problem is finding someone who will take a decent picture of me, I don’t know anyone that does. I only have selfies and on every dating site I’ve tried I only post one photo but it’s a selfie. The last time I was on OKCupid most profiles I viewed or at least the profiles I viewed that I liked all the women wrote Please No Selfies!

    • Tripod + timer! Preferably a timer that will take many photos with a short interval.
      (It’s an investment that everyone can’t make, I know!)

      The last time someone took a photo of me that didn’t make me cry was probably in 2012, so I feel you. It seems particularly unfair since everyone seems to be using photos I took of them for their social media. Oh well.

    • I actually have multiple photos on my tinder that look like they were taken by other people but I took them myself! (because I am too shy to ask people to take my picture + I am very against only having selfies.) you don’t even need a tripod, just prop your phone against your lamp/pot plant/quinoa jar and maybe elevate it with a few books underneath, put on the timer, and go for it! I tend to go for gardens, blank walls, or cool rooms of places I’m housesitting/visiting

    • the advice from the other commenters is totally spot on! as long as you have a timer on your phone (all iPhones do) and like, a window / a book shelf / a stack of books / a potted plant / etc, you are in business!

  3. If I may add, make sure beauty mode is off when taking a selfie as some devices by default have beauty mode on(some on high some on low setting). It’s not really flattering and some phone reviewers also mention it as a feature to turn off.


    I totally requested this follow-up article in the previous dating app piece and I already took everyone’s advice to heart about demanding that my friends take many, many pictures of me! Just last weekend it was snowing all pretty and fluffy and I made my friend meet me for fancy alcoholic hot chocolate so I could get pictures of me drinking it on the snowy patio and I look like a dang model for the distillery now, it’s so cute!

    Based on the rest of this article, my next step is more hobby-related photos. What’s a glamorous way to demonstrate that I binge-watch a lot of TV??

    • you’re welcome! i’m so glad to have been able to do this follow up for you. and hell yeah, sounds like you are living your best life with the best pictures!

      excited to hear about the cozy blanket / hot beverage / potential cuddly pet binge-watch TV photos ;)

  5. These are great tips and I also definitely agree with the ban on rabbit ears in pictures. I just swipe no immediately when I see those.

    I went to okcupid to check my pictures out and I’m doing well on the not-all-selfies front and the showing hobbies front, but you can actually only see my face in 4/7 pictures (one is a scuba diving photo, one is a kayaking photo where you see my back, one I’m pretending to kick a big concrete barrier that says “please leave this here” and you see my whole body but I’m not facing the camera). Should I have more emphasis on my face?

    • I think if you can see your face in 4/7 photos you’re doing great, especially if they’re not all selfies and if you’re showing off different angles! The photos where you can’t see your face sound like they demonstrate your hobbies and your personality, so in my humble opinion a combo of 4 face photos and 3 hobby/skill/personality photos is *chef’s kiss*! Good luck out there!

  6. Excellent article!!! In addition to Snapchat filters, another thing I always swipe left on is when people are sticking their tongue out or giving the camera the middle finger. Am I the only one?

    This might just be a personal preference. If you tend to be a person who sticks your tongue or gives people the middle finger, maybe it’s a good way to weed out people who don’t like that? Anyway, good luck to everyone!

  7. something about this article (and the articles like this, about thirst traps, etc) feel like a friend sitting you down for very real and specific and also hilariously-stated advice. Thanks, pals!

  8. I was literally just whining to my friend about how I’m about to try online dating again (hello rural Texas gays, I am soon to be on the apps), and I desperately need new photos of myself. I’ve been feeling self conscious about it though because I’ve gained weight. This article may have just given me the confidence to try.

  9. I watch a lot of youtube & one tip I keep hearing is if you can get your eyes in focus as close as possible that’s will give people a focal point to look at. Many digitals cameras have eye auto focus now & some phones now(not Apple or Google yet), can also let you do eye auto focus.

  10. great article! seems like it should be acceptable to have a majority of selfies in 2021 – all photos of me doing fun, cool and sociable stuff are now nearly a year out of date and my appearance has changed. somehow never occurs to me to get a photo of myself attending endless zoom meditation classes :)

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