You’re doing it wrong… still.  

Perspectives from a single-in-LA matchmaker on finding your match in the age of the dating app.

Chapter 1. “If I see one more photo of a guy posing with a baby tiger…”

Can you remember dating before Tinder, Bumble, Hinge, or The League? It seems like we forget what it’s like to catch eyes and smile from across the bar. Yet we yearn for the simplicity and back-to-basics rules and regs of dating life — before we became Tinderellas and BeeBoys. E-dating in all forms continues to evolve (more apps, more options, more people, fewer filters, arguably less success) and, while it can mystify and disenchant us, we still participate with the hope that we meet that special someone we could never have encountered “in the wild.” So what can we do to make it work better for us, aside from hiring a matchmaker to do the work for us? You bet that was a shameless plug!

As a professional matchmaker and dating expert, I encourage my clients and friends to diversify the approach to finding a match and suggest picking one app to dedicate a slice of their time to – makes the app approach more manageable and keeps it fun, or at least less of a second full-time job. I’m often asked: “How do I keep it real, but still differentiate myself?”“Help! I need a photo refresh!” or “How do I convey that I want a true partner, yet keep it light, and not sound like I’ve been jaded by hundreds of horrible first dates?”

As a single matchmaker, I’m in this with you and I hear and see it all. Yes I, too, tire of the nonsense that can come with this dating app territory, and I even make my own mistakes, but from where I’m sitting it’s clear that there are simple changes to our approach individually that may create a more enjoyable, more fruitful dating experience! Step one, choose the right photos.

Admittedly, at times I’m grateful for the following faux pas, since often they act as a filter and indicator to swipe left. But I’m here to help everyone be better at this dating game, so here is the single matchmaker’s take on the cringe-worthy things you may be doing wrong (still!) when it comes to your dating app profile photos.

Disclaimer: These tips are mostly geared toward those looking for a LTR (long-term relationship). I’m looking at you, guys who swipe right on every single woman! Knock that off, too, while you’re at it.


  1. #squadgoal Group Photos. You have friends! Check! If you must show them off, make it one photo max and the very last photo so it is clear who you are amongst the 10 girls/guys you went to Yacht Week with.
  2. There’s nothing like seeing the whites of someone’s eyes, even if just digitally to start. Listen, if the sun is up, you can bet I’m wearing my sunnies (’tis California after all), but if you’re wearing sunglasses in more than one photo, you may as well have a beanie pulled down over your eyes.
  3. Stop the Selfies. Especially if you are in a bathroom with the toilet seat up, in your messy room that looks like you don’t know how to adult at 30, or in your car (if I had a dime for every time!). What would your mother think? If you must include one, maybe one, it better be because you were traveling solo through a remote part of SE Asia.
  4. Quality > Quantity. Leave the blurry, flash-heavy, 10-year-old photos on the cutting room floor. P.S. If you’ve been on multiple apps for multiple years, you may consider updating your photos more often or switching a few up on each app so it’s not all the same. Or just hiring a TDR matchmaker.
  5. Snapchat Filters. This one is more for the ladies that love showing their digital ice queen side, what they look like with Precious Moments doll eyes, or as a cute bunny. However I’m always shocked when I see guys with flower crown filters. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt that you were inspired during Coachella and don’t remember doing it.
  6. Duck Lips. Or any facial contortions. Again, talking to you ladies, but there are some male offenders as well. Also, guys, the contorted side smile selfie thing… awkward!
  7. Full Body Photos. It’s important to have a balanced mix of photos for both the men and the women. That being said, men are visual and there’s no getting around it. Girls, the photo doesn’t need to be revealing or a bikini photo but if you only include photos of you from the neck up, they will assume the worst. To my guys, women want the full picture too!
  8. Smile! You’re on a dating app! Isn’t this fun?! Women love a man that means business, and it’s true that men can appear more attractive when not smiling with their teeth, but let’s see that million dollar smile in at least one photo. Hiding those pearly whites makes us wonder what’s going on in there! And the line between not smiling and looking appearing unfriendly can be blurry. Also, ladies, men are more likely to swipe right when you flash that smile.
  9. Using children as props. Does your friend or relative know that their child’s photo is on a dating app? If it’s your child, then that’s your prerogative, but if you’re the best uncle/aunt/godparent in the world and are passively showing that it’s your turn for kids next, you might consider another way of conveying that.
  10. The mystery girl or guy with you in your photo. Is that your sibling? Ex? Are you trying to show your type as if to say “this could be you”? Why are you making me wonder so early in this relationship?! I’m going to assume you’re a swinger and this is a package deal. Next! Unless you’re into that sort of thing.


  1. Keep it real and balanced
  2. Tell a story with your photo selection
  3. Give your potential match something to go on beyond the physical
  4. Consult a trusted, honest friend or two from the sex you are trying to attract. Or your matchmaker!

Undoubtedly our dating app options will continue to change, but these guidelines won’t. You get a few photos and a few hundred characters to capture your future mate’s attention – here’s to you making the best first impression possible and becoming a success story. Let’s be better dating app citizens folks! Until then, I’ll keep advocating for a world where guys don’t take bathroom selfies that feature the toilet seat up.

Stay tuned for Chapter 2: The Hardest 200 Characters You’ve Ever Had to Write!

About the author

Natalie Smith

After finishing her Masters in International Business, Natalie traveled the world, spending time in Panama and Argentina, where she worked at the US Embassy. After returning home, she held a position in Strategic Partnerships at a well-known tech firm. Her realistic, direct approach has made her one of Los Angeles’ most sought after matchmakers. When she isn't matchmaking, you can find Natalie surfing, crafting a new salsa recipe, or volunteering at a local nonprofit. Want to set up your match meeting with Natalie? It’s free. Sign up here.

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