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!
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!