As someone who views hundreds or maybe even thousands of dating profiles per week — yes, seriously — I know a thing or two about a good photo. I know even more about a bad pic… and how one seemingly deceptive photo can turn into a left swipe faster than you can say, “Why doesn’t this person have any photos without their sunglasses on?”

When people are browsing dating websites or apps, they want to know who they’re looking at. That means not obscuring your face in any way, no matter how dramatic the background or how cute your hair looked that day. Even something as simple as a hat, looking up, or a shadow could make someone think you’re trying to hide something about your appearance. And in the world of online dating, it doesn’t take much for a person to move onto the next potential match.

Sunglasses might be the biggest culprit. I love them as much as the next person, but they completely change the way a person looks in a photo. In some cases, it’s hard to believe a shot with sunglasses and a shot without sunglasses is the same person! One fun way to incorporate your shades is to put them on top of your head when a photo is being taken. It keeps your hair out of your face and creates an instantly casual look that’s perfect for dating apps.

And then there are masks. While masks may be part of life now, they don’t need to be part of your dating profile. Ever. You might think you’re showing that you take COVID-19 seriously, but you’re really just hiding an entire half of your face.

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Like it or not, photos are a big component of how someone is looking at your profile. I always recommend five photos, starting with a clear portrait of your face. Your selections should also include a full body snap and something that’s “message bait,” or you doing an interesting activity that will catch someone’s attention and prompt them to send a note. (Think skydiving, hiking in a beautiful spot, posing in a funny outfit, swimming with stingrays.)

While some apps allow you to connect to your Instagram account, I wouldn’t recommend it. When it comes to your photos, less is more. Unfortunately (and unfairly), people will find one photo they don’t like and dismiss you for it.

When it comes to clothing, I suggest your photos show you wearing something you would pick for a date. Maybe jeans and a nice top with boots for meeting up at the bar or a more dressy look for dinner at a new restaurant that opened up in town.

At the end of the day, people want to see who is going to show up for the date — nothing more, nothing less. Sharing current, realistic and clear photos will ensure you start the relationship off on the right foot — and there’s nothing like a first impression.

Erika Ettin is the founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps others navigate the often intimidating world of online dating. ©2020 Erika Ettin Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.