Dating photographer Saskia Nelson reveals why your selfies won't get you a match
“Ummm… are you the one on the left?”
I’ve just asked dating photography expert Saskia Nelson to review my Tinder profile. The person that she has mistaken me for in the group photo is a tall leggy blonde in a leotard, a candid shot from my travelling days that I’d hoped would bring a ‘fun’ element to my portfolio. Being mistaken for a leggy blonde would be, on most occasions, perhaps a flattering misidentification – except, in this instance, said leggy blonde happens to be a Thai ladyboy. And I am in no way shape or form a Thai lady boy.
The confusion over which person I am in my profile pictures isn’t the only downfall of my Tinder account. Turns out most of my photos are missing the opportunity to wow.
“You look good, which is important,” Saskia comments constructively, swiping across to my go-to solo photo that I plaster across social media. “But as far as your story goes, the only things I’m getting are that you’ve travelled, you like cocktails with friends and you take good care of yourself – which, let’s be honest, could be anyone your age.”
Saskia is the founder of Hey Saturday, the UK’s first and only dating photography company that has set out to end terrible dating photos once and for all. Saskia established the company after realising that the world of online dating is lacking aesthetically pleasing photos.
“When I was online dating, I met so many guys that didn’t look like their profile pictures. I think often people think ‘it’s okay if I put a photo of myself online that doesn’t quite look like me because when they meet me they’ll get to know me for my personality’ – but it doesn’t work like that. If you use a photo of yourself that isn’t authentic then you’ve effectively deceived the person you’re meeting up with. And even if you have a great personality, they’re instantly going to decide that they don’t want to see you again because you’ve deceived them.”
Although Saskia was originally unsure whether to launch an outdoor photography service in Manchester, increasing demand has resulted in her establishing a presence here.
“When I first started the business I thought it would attract people aged 30-55, but we actually get a lot of millennials booking shoots. I think because they’ve grown up in such a visual and image-lead environment [with social media] that they see the value in investing in quality photographs. But we get people of all different ages and backgrounds.”
The service has also proven popular with more Manchester men than women since Hey Saturday launched in the city this time last year.
Prices start at £127 for 30 minutes with a photographer and three photos, with additional photographs costing £10 per photo. It may sound steep to the dating novice, but with sites like Match.com charging £29.99 a month (£360 a year), financially investing in your love life is nothing new.
So, what makes a good dating profile photo?
“Men like pictures of women where they are directly looking at the camera and smiling, as it gives a confident, flirty impression. Whereas women prefer photos of men where they’re looking off into the distance, as this makes them seem more mysterious.”
Selfies, group shots and photos with muted colours are also wasted opportunities, Saskia notes.
“So many photos on online dating sites have that same muted colour scheme. So, if you use a photo that has bright colours in it, you will immediately stand out from the crowd.” The dating expert regularly uses the bright colours of the Northern Quarter as a backdrop for her photographs, crediting the colourful scenery with giving photos an uplift.
“We’re hardwired to respond to red. Even in nature, animals respond to red. It symbolises love, passion, danger, sex – so everything you want on a first date!” jokes Saskia.
Whilst dating trends have seen a rise in personality-lead dating opportunities – from blind dates to apps like Jiggtalk that cover matches’ faces – Saskia comments that, whilst we might not want to admit it, aesthetics are still important on the dating scene.
“You don’t walk into a bar with your eyes closed and listen out for interesting conversations. And people don’t date with bags on their heads. If anything, I think it would be worse if someone started to get to know you and then you reveal what you look like and then they decide they don’t like you anymore. Our photos show people’s authentic selves in a positive light, so, as blunt as it sounds, you know what you’re getting.”
Although Saskia uses photoshop to edit out temporary blemishes and imperfections, capturing people’s authentic selves is a focal point of the service. Photos might be staged, but the result is natural, relaxed shots that capture the personality of the subject in an everyday setting.
“The vibe we try to go for is that we’re like a good friend that’s got an interest in photography and wants to practice by taking your photo.”
So, colourful, quality photos where I’m looking directly at the camera are the key to my tinder success. And I’ll probably be removing that ladyboy photo too.