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The Best Photos To Use on Your Online Dating Profile

Photos are everything when it comes to online dating. Here's how to pick the right ones.

Hands holding phones toward each other, with hearts in between
Love could be a swipe away. Or not. 
Angela Lang/CNET

Hey, you. In the bathroom, flexing hard, about to take a selfie. Put your phone down.

Instead, pull up a chair and let's chat about the photos you're using on your online dating profile. Allow me to lean forward, and assure you that a line of urinals should never be in the background of any photo, let alone one meant to attract a date. 

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Picking photos for your profile can be a daunting task. The good news is there are some light guidelines you can follow to make it a little easier to decide on which pics to use. And ideally, increase your odds of creating an attractive profile that other daters will want to match with. 

I will couch what I'm about to say with the fact that more than a few dating platforms out there have put out data in the past about what seems to work on profiles. You might be able to dig up platform-specific info on the ideal number of pictures you should have, or even the most successful facial expressions for men and women. One study found that guys come off as more attractive and trustworthy if they have a dog in their profile, which is great news if you're like me and like looking at pictures of dogs (and dreaming of stealing said dogs). And if you think I'm picking on the old shirtless mirror self, just know that Bumble banned them in 2016.

Dognapping aside, think of your photos as a whole. You've got maybe four or five pics to tell some kind of story about who you are and what your life is like.

To start, here's something that sounds obvious: Make sure people can see your face clearly in at least your main profile picture. THAT MEANS YOU IN THE SKI MASK. Are you robbing a bank?? What is happening??

A disheveled man takes a selfie in a men's room, with urinals in the background

You're better than a bathroom selfie. 

Vinicius Rafael/EyeEm/Getty

Making sure you're easily identifiable also applies to posting group photos. If your lead picture is you with five of your friends, you're creating work for the person looking at your profile. In the middle of a swiping session, odds are they're not going to take the time to figure out which one is you based on your other photos. 

Anyway. Throw in some lifestyle photos. Like to travel? Play soccer? Hike with friends? Great. (Side note: Make sure you're not projecting some type of unrealistic, showboat persona. You likely don't spend every weekend in a tux or evening gown. Give folks an idea of how you spend your time when you're not scaling a boulder shirtless.) Not only are you illustrating who you are, but you might be creating an opportunity for someone to message you about how they, too, play Tibetan singing bowls in their free time.

When constructing a profile, it doesn't hurt to imagine how some random person out there will perceive it. If all they have to go on is one grainy picture of you, taken at 3 a.m. while lying down on your couch, using your laptop's built-in camera, well… the odds are not in your favor, pal. The same goes for your decision to use a pic of you flipping a double bird at the camera or scowling like you're taking a mug shot. Would you want to date that

Look, you might not have perfect travel pictures of exotic destinations or delightful snapshots from Gatsby-esque soirees. That's OK. At the very least, put on a clean shirt, go outside and get a friend to take a decent picture of you.

And never forget: Car selfies are trash. 

Love Syncs is a recurring advice column focusing on online dating. If you've got a question about finding love via app, send it to erin.carson@cnet.com for consideration.