What to Wear in Your Online Dating Photos

Whether you’ve booked a professional dating photographer (YAY!) or are gearing up for a DIY dating profile photo upgrade (get it!), figuring out what to wear is important, and can definitely be a source of stress. This post is about getting a top-view on the task at hand, and breaking it down into actionable steps. 

Because your dating photography wardrobe is not just about raw appearances.

The clothes you wear are one of just a few visual tools you have for giving your ideal matches on dating apps a sense of what you’re about and what you’re like as a person. 

Sure, you want your dating photography outfits to look good, but, when done right, your clothes communicate important values, values like:

  • “I take good care of myself”, and 
  • “I know how to dress context-appropriate”, and maybe even 
  • “I’m artsy and like to take risks with my clothes”

On the flip side, if you get it wrong, the clothes you wear in your online dating photos can work against you by making you look like you don’t care, aren’t making an effort, lack awareness (self-awareness and situational-awareness), are slovenly, etc..

Below are 8 tips to help guide you as gather clothes to wear for your dating profile photos so you can show off your authentic self and catch the eyes of your dream sweeties.

1. Only wear clothes in your dating profile photos that you actually wear in real life

Sometimes dating photography clients tell me “I heard you’re supposed to wear a suit in one of your dating photos” – to which I always ask: “do you ever wear a suit in your real life?”. If the answer is no, then I don’t recommend wearing a suit in your online dating profile photos.  

Your dating app photos should paint a genuine and accurate picture of you.

With this in mind, there are no “should’s” as far as what to wear, but there is for sure one “shouldn’t” – don’t wear anything you wouldn’t actually wear! You simply don’t need to and it may actually work against you by giving a misleading sense of what you’re like and how you dress.

2. Wear clothes in your online dating photos that fit you nicely

Wearing clothes in your dating photos (and in your life) that fit properly just straight-up looks good. But it also shows potential matches that you have solid self-awareness and good judgment. 

Well fitted-clothing communicates: I have an accurate understanding of my body shape and can choose (or hire someone to choose) clothes that look good on me. 

Plus, wearing clothes that fit and flatter your body are also a sign that you’re making an effort to look attractive. And making an effort (especially if you’re a man on dating apps) goes a LONG way.

If you are unsure when you look in the mirror whether a particular item of clothing fits properly, assume that it doesn’t and scrap it or (if you love it) consider visiting a tailor to ask about having it altered. *If it’s too small or too tight, definitely scrap it.

There are also tons of online resources for how to tell if clothes fit. Like this one:

How an untucked button-down shirt should fit

3. Show some range with your dating photo wardrobe (from casual to dressy)

A recent dating photography client of mine lamented that she always ends up matching with men who want her to be dolled up to the max 100% of the time (full face of make-up, hair done, nails done, dresses and skirts, etc.). She told me, “honestly most of the time I’m at home hanging out with my cat in leggings and a messy bun. I want a guy who is cool with that also”.

When I took a look through the dating photos she had been using on her Hinge profile, guess what? In ALL of them she was dolled up to the max! Men who want a high-maintenance, glamor girl saw her profile and thought “I’ve found her!”. Except…she wasn’t that girl; that was just one dimension of her. Yes, she likes getting dolled up, but not all the time. She also had a really relaxed casual side that was completely absent from her dating profile. 

When we infused her Hinge profile with some dating pics of her relaxing at home, she started attracting men who were a better fit for her, and who loved the fact that she could glam out and also be chill and down-to-earth.

All this to say – SHOW SOME RANGE! 

You are a multi-dimensional person and your dating photography wardrobe should reflect that.

4. Do not repeat the same outfit in more than one of your dating profile photos

Whether you’re using short-form swipe-style dating apps like Hinge or Bumble, or longer-form ones like OkCupid or Match.com, every single photo is an opportunity to fill in a little more of that story. 

The job of your dating photos is not just to show what you look like, it’s to tell a story about you as a person.

And since there’s only so much visual information that can be captured in a still photo, it’s important to make the most of every photo.

Repeating an outfit is like leaving cards on the table; you’re missing an opportunity to paint a more robust picture of yourself for your ideal matches, and to help them imagine being with you in a lot of different contexts.

*As a professional dating photographer it does sometimes happen that I end up with two real show-stopper shots of someone in the same outfit. Like they’re both too good (and different enough from each other) to choose only one. When this happens, here’s a handy trick:

TIP: If you want to use two photos in the same outfit on your dating profile, make one of the photos black and white and don’t put them side-by-side.

5. In each of your dating photos, what you are wearing should make sense with the the environment you’re in 

Your online dating photos should show you in a variety of environments, and include photos of you doing activities you enjoy. It’s important that what you’re wearing makes sense with each environment, and for each activity. 

Wearing context-appropriate clothing says, “I know how to dress right for different situations” (a great life skill and very desirable in a partner).

It will also make your dating photos feel authentic and organic, rather than staged and just for appearances.

6. Ideally one of your dating app photos shows you wearing an outfit that skews dressy

A good rule of thumb for your business headshot photo is to dress as if you were interviewing for your ideal role. 

There’s a semi-parallel rule for online dating photos:

Include at least one photo in your dating profile where you’re dressed like you might dress for a third date with your dream babe.

Another way I like to say this is: wear something that says… “I clean up well”. Something you might wear to a fancy restaurant. Something you look and feel really good in.

I have an entire blog post about why dress up for dating photos but here’s the gist: 

Dressing up shows potential matches that you can and do dress nicely when the occasion calls for it.

Make it easy for a cutie who is eyeing your dating profile photos to not hope but *know*, “this guy would be a great date to my bestie’s summer wedding”.  

*If you’re suuuuper casual in your daily life, this may be as simple as including one button-down shirt with a collar in your dating photo shoot. Or if you have a more robust wardrobe and enjoy dressing well, you might go with a full-blown suit, or something in between like jeans with a blazer.

7. Consider wearing something in a bold color for at least one dating photo

People wear a lot of black, gray and neutrals, especially here in the PNW (don’t ask me why when the climate much of the year is dark/gray).

A sure way for your photos to stand out on dating apps is to wear bright or bold colors. Color is just eye-catching as hell, especially in the fast-paced scroll-y world of online dating apps.

Now, I’m not saying you should wear some hideous shade of neon (though that would for sure catch eyes), but I do recommend that you wear a shirt or dress in a bold color for at least one of your online dating profile photos.

Don’t own any clothes in juicy colors that you know you look good in? Now, before upgrading your online dating photos, might a great time to buy something new! And if you’re really unsure which colors look good on you, you could consult a personal stylist (like my favorite personal stylist, Tannya!).

dating photo graphic tee

8. BONUS: throw in an outfit that might be polarizing and/or spark a conversation

Last but not least, if you sometimes like to wear playful/shouty/bold things and/or clothes that might raise some eyebrows, consider including at least one of those items or outfits in your dating profile photos.

Maybe you bust out that sequined jacket you love wearing to parties or your favorite pair of cowboy boots, or a silly T-shirt. Maybe you finally give yourself permission to buy that outrageous fringe dress you’ve been eyeing at Gold Dogs.

I’m not suggesting you dress up in anything that feels like a costume for your dating profile photos. But I am proposing that, if you sometimes like to look a little (or a lot) funky and fabulous—GO FOR IT! 

Upside is that you’ve got a conversation-starter built right into your dating profile (omg dude, that SHIRT!). You’ll show potential matches that you’re fun and not a “play it safe” person.

Worst case is that someone sees the shirt and thinks “ugh, I would never go out with a guy who would wear something like that”. If that’s the case, wouldn’t you like to filter this person out now rather than waste time getting to know them only to find out later that they can’t deal with a funky item of clothing? (if you’re dating to meet your forever person, the correct answer here is “yes”, filter filter FILTER)

Dating profile photos are about showing off who you really are so you catch the eyes of people who love those qualities in a person.

If there’s an opportunity in your dating photos to wear something that you *love* but that might be polarizing….TAKE IT.

. . .

Alright friends, that’s a wrap! 

Whether you’ve invested in hiring a professional dating profile photographer or are investing time trying to upgrade your dating photos yourself it’s worth choosing a set of clothes that will represent you well to the kinds of people you want to match with. 

Here’s your quick dating profile photography wardrobe checklist:

With each outfit you are considering, ask yourself:

  • Do I actually wear this?
  • Does it fit me well?
  • Am I wearing this in any of my other dating photos? (if yes, skip it)
  • Is this outfit appropriate for the environment I’ll be in?

And, across your dating photos as a group, ask yourself:

  • Do my clothes show a good range from casual to more dressy?
  • Do I have at least one outfit that skews dressy?
  • Do I have an outfit with a bold color?
  • (optional) Do I have a polarizer/conversation starter outfit?

If you feel bogged down, I get it! It’s a lot to juggle. That’s why, if you hire me as your professional dating photographer, you don’t have to worry about any of this! 

It won’t hurt you to understand the what’s and why’s of the ideal online dating profile photo wardrobe but I’ve got you covered with step-by-step wardrobe planning (in fact, the Whole-9 dating photography package includes a one-on-one virtual style session with a professional personal stylist!). 

Phew, take this off my plate! Be my Seattle dating photographer!