Tinder Portraits: A User's Guide

Dessin montana
Dessin montana

It’s ironic that I should be advising you on how you should look for your Tinder portrait. I’ve been in a relationship for six years, and the last time I dated, the “poke” option still existed on Facebook. “Tinder Portrait” is a term I first heard from my roommate, a photographer also in a relationship. He joked that if he started taking Tinder portraits (and only Tinder portraits) his business would boom. But there’s a certain truth to that. Almost everyone I know is on Tinder, Hinge, or Happn. The photos are singular representations of how attractive you are (which is a completely subjective thing), how much fun you promise (also subjective), and how great of a one-night-stand companion you can be (you get the picture).

Currently, two important women in my life are dating at opposite ends of the life spectrum: One of my best friends, who's a pretty young thing at 24, and my mother, whose birthday this month will make her 58. Like clockwork, I’m there to hear their woes, their glories, their successes, and their failures. The idea of putting yourself out there to be criticized and matched is like small technological warfare with not just the pool of men on your radar, but also yourself. Though I may not be well versed on touch-screen swipes to a possible mate, I’m there to listen and empower them with stylistic choices, terminology I learned from some expensive feminism degree, and of course beauty tips. Here are some of my observations that may or may not help you.

First Impressions Are The Only Impressions

“For your first photo, you should not use a picture of a pineapple of fire.”

I recently had coffee with the author who runs the Tumblr, Tinder in Brooklyn. A vivacious, attractive, and quick spoken woman, she has had a number of fun dates, strange dates, and a date with a male model whose friend had mistaken her for the dog walker. “Without fail, there's always the photo of the girl who looks like she dropped a coin casually over her shoulder.” Enacting the dropper, she turns her head over the side, and says, “Oh, what’s that? I must have dropped a penny!” In case this pose doesn’t work for you, I suggest a well-lit portrait in natural light with only you in the image. I’m partial to selfies and really enjoy when portraits are compositionally balanced and the subject stands in the center. There’s a dynamic quality to seeing you as the focal point. If you have time, have a friend take an image of you in late-afternoon light about 3-to-5 feet away. It’s hard not to look good during the magic hour.


Flawless skin is key. My mother has never touched Botox. Instead, she regularly uses face masks and serums. Yes, she has wrinkles, but her skin is still clear as day, partially from genetics but also from her skillful usage of foundation. In photos, you can tell when foundation is too heavy, so opt for a light hand that covers imperfections. Then add a little highlighter and some blush (maybe it feels weird in person if you don't use it, but it's going to photograph well—trust). You don’t want to look too shiny, so some powder is always a good idea. When in doubt, VSCO Cam for an undetectable layer of filter.

Brand Yourself The Way You Want To Be Branded

Suit your wardrobe to your current place of residence. I tend to advise that if you live in New York, make sure not every picture is of you in a bikini. But then again, if you live on the beach or if that’s your most confident self, who am I to tell you otherwise? When in doubt, go with options: A friend of mine has a well-curated photo gallery starting with a well-lit portrait, then a photo of her during July 4th in a bikini top, jean shorts, and a flower crown, and a stylish picture of herself in a button-up floral top and a leather skirt. It doesn’t hurt that she looks like a cross between Charlotte Rampling and Sofia Coppola, but the images together offer a more complex idea of what she’s like. There’s personality. But with my mom, she does not want to look cute. Instead, she wants to read sophisticated. I helped her with her Match.com profile to which she receives multiple emails a day, so something’s working. There’s a photo of her enjoying afternoon tea in Hong Kong, a 35mm portrait of her by the water La Jetée- style, a photo—my favorite—in which she’s taking apart a lobster, and image of her wearing an amazing coat visiting the Met.

On that note, I want to say that these quick observations are very general ones that seem to work for two women out of many. In New York, there’s a running belief that single men and women are always looking for the next best thing. So how do we make an impression that last for more than a few seconds? What has worked for you? Share away, dear readers.

—Connie Tsang

Illustrations by Montana Azuelos. On a more morbid note read How To Break Up When There's The Internet.