I've been spending an embarrassing amount of time on dating sites lately, because I am a.) lonely and b.) evidently unteachable via experience*. I have learned a few things, such as, things are bad for a lot of people in the Philippines.
One of my standard jokes is that I knew I was getting old when I would see a pretty young woman walking a dog and I'd find myself admiring the dog. Well, one of the ways I know I'm getting even older is that I look at profiles on dating sites and I either want to critique the person's photos, give them tips on how to do better, or offer to come do their photos for them. (This last must sound creepy, because no one's ever taken me up on it. Their loss, however, because, seriously, I would do a splendid job and I'd work for nothing. Hmm, even that sounded creepy.)
I'm sorely tempted to show some of the worst examples, but I do try hard not to show negative examples on TOP, out of respect for either the photographer or the subject or both.
One young lady made a complete hash of a selfie in a mirror. The mirror only occupied about half the frame; the phone she was holding up was blocking half her face; she was looking at the phone screen rather than at the reflection of the lens in the mirror; and everything that was reflected in the mirror was out of focus.
She was cute (what little I could see of her), but my old-guy gene kicked in and I couldn't help myself: I wrote her a note offering some tips for how to do better selfies-in-the-mirror.
Strange to say, I have not heard back from that particular woman. There's a surprise.
But then I thought, hmm, wonder how hard it actually is?
So I self-assigned myself. (Was that re-redundant?) Here's my best attempt:
But I really had to work at this. On several attempts the lighting was atrocious; a couple of other times the excessive detail of the pitiless digital sensor and lens made me look like I was desperately in need of botox, when in actuality I am only mildly in need of botox; and, of course, the client here is recalcitrant and cantankerous and has an unrealistic self-image. (As I always say, I'm 35 from inside here.) And you really can't see the screen with the phone held out of the shot. It's pretty tough getting everything to line up.
And I know I look grim, but the ones in which I attempted to smile made me look like Peter Lorre in M:
But really. If you want a tricky little challenge this week, try doing a halfway decent self-portrait in a mirror with a phone, without showing the phone in the photo. Don't expect to knock it right out, either. It looks like a lot of non-photographer types on dating sites should be able to do better than they do, but it's not as easy as it looks.
The best way to get great portraits of yourself is still to hire a good photographer! You wouldn't sell your house without a realtor, would you?
P.S. This really is the last phone-photo post for a while—I got a notification from B&H Photo that the Sony A7III has shipped and is en route.
* Actually I was just being funny with "b."—in fact I've met several truly fine people on dating sites, who I liked a great deal even if we didn't have that essential "spark." Statistically the best way to meet a future partner is through a friend, by far, but eHarmony says that "20% of those in current, committed relationships began online and 7% of marriages in 2015 were between couples that met on a dating website."
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(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Larry Gebhardt: "Mike, I'd try this experiment but my wife would probably catch me and wonder what the heck I was doing. Then I'd probably need to really be able take a good selfie for the dating sites."
Jim Hamstra: "Actually you know you're old when you see a pretty woman walking down the street and you think 'I bet her mom is hot.'"
Euan Forrester: "When I was Internet dating, I didn't have a good horizontal 'cover' photo and since I mentioned in my profile I was into photography I thought I'd better take a nice one. I noticed lots of peoples' cover photos were of themselves in front of pretty backdrops, so I one evening I drove up a mountain road where I knew there was an overlook that I thought would be quiet. I got there a bit late, and it was darker than I hoped, so I set up an umbrella on a light stand, gelled my flash, and put the camera on a tripod with a radio trigger. Just as I finished getting set up, the local ski hill above my overlook closed and car after car started streaming down the hill right past my location. Then someone got their car stuck right beside me and a giant crew showed up to try and get them out. All the while I'm blasting away with my ridiculous 'ultimate selfie' setup. It took me almost 300 frames to get something I didn't hate, all while trying to not look too embarrassed in my photos, and then I sheepishly packed up my gear and high-tailed it down the mountain.
"I ended up meeting my now live-in partner through the site with that as my cover photo. I eventually told her the story, feeling very proud that I persevered through my embarrassment and had managed to find someone as wonderful as her. She replied that she didn't actually like the photo very much."
David Maxwell: "I suppose that as someone who primarily enjoys writing poetry, songs, and fiction, I ought to try to avoid writing comments on blog posts! Seriously though, I have lost track of the number of times over the years that I have started writing comments on your posts only to delete and walk away. I'm not sure what your ultimate goal is with the online dating, but I met my wife of almost 3.5 years online (she gave birth to our first child last Monday). I used OkCupid, a free site with a somewhat sleazy reputation. It was pretty interesting to say the least, and I encountered a bit of wackiness, but I met some really cool women, and, as I mentioned above, married one of them."
JG: "I always promised the women I dated that, if nothing else, when they eventually broke up with me—which they invariably did—they would have some great photos of themselves to post online when they go looking for their next boyfriend. And sure enough, whenever I would stumble upon one of their dating profiles afterward, many of the photos had indeed been taken by me. Sometimes many years earlier, but that was the next boyfriend's problem, not mine...."
Mike replies: I figured I'd better feature this one because we might never get another from you. :-)
Stephanie Luke: "Nicely lit and exposed, goes without saying—although I just did. But I am intimidated by that guy and his unwavering stare. Also, what is in your hand, just out of the picture? An axe, perhaps, to go with the outdoorsy, he-man outfit? (Yes, I know it's a camera, but still...). I bet you have a nice smile, and from this female's point of view, it would be more inviting to see it!"
Mike replies: Thanks for the input Stephanie...just FYI, this is the mirror-selfie I actually use on the dating sites:
Yup, complete with, um, toilet. Oh well.That's where the mirror is.
Labeled with the date so people know it's recent. It's actually a more characteristic look for me, too, as I am usually smiling like a happy dog. But one very intelligent woman from around here complained that she hated selfies with the phone in the picture. "They're the worst," was her verdict.
Can't please all the people all the time...and most of those people are looking at my profile. Ba-dum-PAH.
(Another Mitch Hedberg joke, modified.)