Online dating experts often give conflicting advice… 3 pictures versus 5 pictures, a long profile versus a short one, listing your salary range versus leaving it blank. However, there’s one online dating pointer most experts can agree on: Be by yourself in your online dating pictures. The last thing you want is to be compared to someone else in your own profile, or this could end up happening to you, too.

People have all kinds of reasons for including others in their photos, and I’m here to debunk them all… and then add two caveats for when it’s A-ok to share some screen time with someone else.

1. I want to show that I’m social.

If you’re trying to show you’re social by including a picture of you with your friends, it often does the opposite – it looks like you’re trying too hard to show that you’re social. If you have an active social life, your profile should list some of the activities you do (kickball, mahjong, sailing club, etc.), and you’ll therefore have no need to show it in a picture. And we don’t want to make anyone pause to wonder whose profile this is, do we? Remember – you don’t want people to compare you to your friends!

Whose profile is this anyway?


2. I want to show that really attractive people (often of the opposite sex) are friends with me.

This picture is intimidating on many levels. First, it makes the person looking at your profile compare him/herself to your picture-mates to determine whether he/she is attractive enough for you. Second, it looks a bit conceited, like you only befriend really attractive people. Third, it makes the person looking at your profile wonder if all of your friends are of the opposite sex. Is there even room for someone else in your life? Lose-lose-lose.

Look at me – I have hot friends.  (And a side comment – that guy in the background is hilarious!)







3. I want to show how attractive my ex was so people can see who’s in my league.

This picture is also intimidating. First, once again we will be comparing ourselves to this person. Second, we think you’re not over the ex if he/she still takes a prominent spot in your profile. Third, even if you’re in a picture with just one other person of the opposite sex, we will assume it’s an ex, even if it’s just a brother or sister. Again, lose-lose-lose.

My ex and I used to play golf.







4. I want to show how good-looking I am compared to the rest of my friends.

This has the opposite effect of #1. People may think that you’re only attracted to friends who aren’t as attractive as you are and wonder why. Or, more likely, they’ll see right through it. Shallow? Yes. True? Yes. (I’ll spare you a picture for this one.)

What are the two caveats? Children and pets. If you have children, it’s your choice whether to include a photo with them or not. But if you do, one is sufficient, and please add a caption saying that these are your kids. For pets, again, one picture with Fido or Mittens the Kitten is plenty. And remember, don’t just show a picture of your pet without you in it. For all we know, you stopped some guy on the street and asked to take a picture of his pets!

The moral of the story? Being alone is best… in your online dating profile picture, that is.

Erika Ettin is the Founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps people navigate the world of online dating. Her services include: writing unique profiles to get you noticed, helping to choose your best profile pictures, writing one-of-a-kind emails to get someone’s attention, and planning dates. Want to connect with Erika? Join her newsletter for updates and tips.
  1. Erika Ettin has the most beautiful eyes of any woman I have ever seen.


    And the smile is pretty awesome too.

  2. You said all photos should be of ourselves alone or with our children.

    How about me with my grandbaby (without my child)?

    How about me at the head of the table at the interfaith dinner to show that I enjoy offering hospitality to a variety of people? The label says I’m at the head of the table and says to note the photos on the wall behind me.

    How about a photo of my child holding my grandchild?

    How about a family photo with a title indicating who they all are?

    How about a nature photo or photo of a building, taken by me on vacation, to show that I was really there and did a good job of taking pictures?

    Please comment on each. If you say so, I will remove all of the above. Thank you.

  3. Inanna,

    Thanks for your great questions! Of the ones you listed, I would only show the one of you with your grandchild (with a caption). For the others, it’s better to describe your experiences versus showing them, especially the one you proposed of your vacation. People want to see YOU! 🙂


  4. Thank you, Erika, for the personal response! So I should get rid of those ones?

    I forgot to ask one more question: how about a photo of me alone, on vacation, to show where I was? I have two which show me head and shoulders. But in another, while I’m the only person, I am surrounded by scenery, and if I crop it to show only me, it gets blurry. Should I skip that one?

  5. I like playful men !! But they seem to be not serious.. What do I do? And please don’t tell me I need a different man. How can I handle playful and fun men?

  6. Question…I have a picture with me and two Israeli Soldiers in my profile. The reason I have those pictures is not for any of the aforementioned reasons you listed above. It’s to show I support the Soldiers who serve in the IDF. I have also captioned that it was an honor to meet these individuals, unsung hero’s of Israel. My conveyance it was a humbling experience and to show that I do support Israel. Would this also fall into the category of taboo pictures of having more then just myself in a picture? And I also have a picture of my Father and I, as well as a picture of my Sister and her family. Are those photos considered taboo? Thank you for your time.

  7. Inanna and Ryan,

    For pictures on vacation, it’s still best to just show you. While scenery may be nice, people aren’t going on a date with the scenery. If you write that you love to travel (and some favorite destinations), it should have the same effect.

    For the photo with the soldiers, your father, and your sister’s family, I still stick with posing alone. Clearly, you have a huge support for Israel and the military, which is wonderful. Could you instead talk about that in your profile? Perhaps the “On the first date, remind me to tell you the story about…” section. There you can say that it was a humbling experience.


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