10 Photos You, A Man, Should Not Put in a Dating App Profile

The selfie is dead.

November 4, 2020 8:41 am
dating app photos
Keep your shirts on guys.
Getty Images

Hello and welcome to another episode of What Not to Do on Dating Apps. So far this season, we’ve covered your worst dating-app habits and behaviors, as well as the offensive, cliché and simply cringeworthy phrases you should banish from your bio.

Today, let’s talk photos.

On the vast majority of dating apps, your photo is the first thing a potential match sees, and thus the first (and often last) thing they judge. In recent years, newer dating apps like S’More have attempted to provide a less overtly appearance-based platform through gimmicky stunts like blurring out photos, but on most mainstream dating apps, the photo is still king.

Suffice to say, your photos matter. Should your entire value as a potential romantic partner come down to your appearance as captured by a handful of photographs? Probably not. But in the age of dating apps, that’s the game, and you’ll get a lot further if you learn how to play it than you will trying to dismantle it.

In theory, selecting photos for a dating app profile should be fairly simple: just choose the best pictures of yourself. Unfortunately, you and your prospective matches might have different ideas about which photos are your best ones (sorry to your favorite shirtless selfie). While I can’t comb through your photo library and personally select your top five pics, I can tell you which ones to leave out.

1. Selfies

We are living in a post-selfie society.

Besides being the lowest form of photography, selfies are false advertising. While the vast majority of men are terrible at taking selfies in the first place, the only thing worse than a bad selfie on a dating app is a good one. Why? Because well-taken selfies are deceitfully flattering — that’s literally why we’re all so obsessed with taking them. While I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with posting a particularly flattering, not necessarily representative photo of yourself, the problem with selfies is you’re not fooling anyone. Maybe back in the early days of the front-facing camera you could’ve convinced someone your stellar selfie game had more to do with your god-given good looks than the angle of your camera, but by 2020, we’ve all caught on. We know we’re not as hot as we look in selfies, and we know you’re not, either.

Moreover, as we’ve previously discussed, an abundance of selfies tends to suggest that you’re a weird loner who doesn’t have any friends or family who can take a picture for you. As someone who identifies as a weird loner, I don’t discriminate, but other people will. Having non-selfie photos signals that you are a normal person with friends — a quality most people look for in a romantic partner. If you’re not a normal person with friends, does that mean you don’t deserve love? I don’t know, maybe. What I do know is that if you want to get any matches on a dating app, you’re going to have to at least pretend to have friends. If that means setting up a self-timer on your camera, so be it. But cool it with the selfies. You’re only fooling yourself.

2. Bed selfies

You thought that said “bad selfies” and then thought, “Wait, didn’t we just do this?” didn’t you? Nope, it says “bed selfies,” but truth be told, this entire article could just be a list of different kinds of bad selfies — which, again, is all of them — but I’ll limit specific selfie-shaming to the most egregious examples. Which brings us back to the bed selfie.

You may think a picture of you looking all sleepy-eyed and half-nude in bed looks sexy, but it actually looks lazy. I tend to attribute the amount of bed selfies on men’s dating-app profiles to a discrepancy between what straight men want to see and what they think women want to see. While a snap of a half-nude woman tangled in bed sheets might earn an immediate right-swipe from you, a similar picture of a man tends to come off as sleazy and unkempt. How long have you been in that bed? More importantly, when did you last wash the sheets? Get up, take a shower, get dressed and comb your hair or something. If we end up spending the whole day in bed together at some point, I want to believe it’s because you’re impossibly smitten and my feminine wiles have made you simply lose track of time, not because you don’t have anything better to do.

3. Gym mirror pics

These are usually selfies too. Notice a trend here? Yes, it’s great that you go to the gym, but highlighting this in your profile — particularly in an unsmiling mirror selfie starring you in a muscle tank — tends to come off a little meatheady. If you want to show off your athletic prowess, photos of you (again, taken by someone else) participating in some kind of sporting event, like a road race or even a game of pick-up soccer, might be a better choice.

4. Shirtless pics

Earlier this year, a survey from Dating.com broke the controversial news that straight men who include shirtless photos of themselves in their dating-app profiles tend to perform far worse on online dating platforms, getting 25 percent fewer matches than their fully clothed counterparts.

This, again, seems to represent a discrepancy between what straight men want to see and what they think women want to see. Case in point, the survey found that 90 percent of men share the mistaken belief that a shirtless pic will help their odds on a dating app, while 76 percent of women claimed they wouldn’t consider dating a shirtless-pic guy. This may be understandably baffling to straight men, many of whom I assume would love to see a shirtless woman on a dating app, were the internet not petrified of female presenting nipples for some reason. (Just kidding, the reason is misogyny!) Unfortunately, straight women don’t tend to share the same appreciation for naked male torsos, with 66 percent of those surveyed reporting a shirtless picture of a guy on a dating apps tends to convey “a lack of maturity and self-awareness.”


Is this fair? No. In fact, it’s my personal belief that modern society’s general lack of appreciation for the nude male body and tendency to shame straight men for expressing their sexuality through the same aesthetic choices women are encouraged to embrace only reinforces toxic, heteronormative gender stereotypes that limit male sexuality to very rigid, often problematic models of masculinity.

That said, do I agree with the 66 percent of women who are turned off by a shirtless pic of a man on a dating app because it makes him look like some frat-boy dude bro? Yes, yes I do.


But should you, a man who has every right to celebrate his body in whatever (consensual) way he chooses, let a stranger stop you from baring your torso on Tinder? Probably not! Your body, your choice. But if you must include a shirtless picture in your dating-app profile, let me at least leave you with two tips: 1. Don’t let it be a selfie. 2. It should be taken in a context in which it is normal for you to be shirtless, e.g., at the beach, the pool or on a boat — not in the bathroom at the gym. If you must be shirtless, it should look coincidental, not like you stripped down to your boxers for the explicit purpose of taking a shirtless mirror selfie for Tinder.

5. Photos that are not of you

But you don’t need me to tell you that one, right?

6. Photos of you with someone else’s dog

It’s called dogfishing, look it up.

7. Excessive group pics

You are permitted one to three group pics, depending on how many pictures you have total. (Your ratio of group pics to solo pics should be approximately 1:3 — this is a totally fake, unsubstantiated data point I just made up, but which I now stand by.)

Again, having a picture featuring you and at least one other human helps signal to matches that you are a normal human being who occasionally interacts with other people instead of hiding out Tinder-swiping in your basement lair. However, too many group pics can make it hard to figure out which person you actually are, and in our rapid-swipe era, no one has time for a game of Guess Who.

Also, try to limit any group pics to one to five people. A photo of you and your 25 closest bros tells me nothing about what you actually look like, and is also vaguely threatening. A few men is a friend group, more than that is a fraternity.

8. Photos of you at the Women’s March

We’ve covered this before, but including photos of yourself at the Women’s March can make it seem like you’re trying to use feminism to attract women — because as a straight man on a dating app, everything you’re doing on that platform is presumably done in an attempt to attract women. Going to the Women’s March and being an active male feminist is great and something you should feel good about, but flaunting your Woke Guy status on dating apps can feel a little heavyhanded, if not wokefishy.

9. Photos out of which an ex has been obviously cropped and/or blurred

It would literally be better if you just posted a picture of you with your ex fully on display. Cropping her out has weird, sociopath vibes. Best-case scenario, cropping or blurring out your ex makes it look like you haven’t moved on from your last relationship and your life still revolves around your ex to the extent that you literally don’t have any photos without her. Worst-case scenario, it looks like you murdered her.

Maybe you actually aren’t over your ex yet. I don’t know your life! But if you’re on a dating app, you should at least pretend to be over her. There is no way photos of you with your ex are the only good pictures of you in existence. And even if you’re one of those people who was attached to your high school sweetheart at the hip for 15 years and literally hasn’t taken a photo without them since puberty, just get a friend, a family member, or a random stranger on the street to take new pictures of you. You need them.

10. Pics out of which a child has been obviously cropped and/or blurred

At face value, this may seem like a responsible, considerate move. After all, it’s probably not a great idea to post a child’s photo on the internet (especially on a dating app) without that child’s consent. However, the blurred/cropped face thing is also creepy — potentially creepier — when applied to children. Look, it’s fine to have kids — we can’t all be the Never Married No Kids Guy — but you should probably leave them off your online dating profile. They’ll be making their own soon enough, anyway.

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