Doing exciting stuff outdoors is a good look for anyone on social media. And dating apps like Tinder, Bumble, Raya, and Hinge take that to the next level by dangling enticing images of prospective mates in front of our faces. If you want to find that special someone, presenting yourself in the most appealing possible way is step No. 1, and we're here to help.
Here’s how to make the most of the activities you already do and the interests you already have to maximize your appeal and navigate the murky waters of online dating. Advice here is drawn from my own and IndefinitelyWild photographer Chris Brinlee, Jr.'s personal experiences. Both of us have always done pretty well Internet dating here in LA, but we’re going to run it past 28-year-old Lindsay-Bea Davis, an outdoorsy lady from Canada who Internet dates, just to make sure we get it right. LB's used Tinder everywhere from Los Angeles, to Nova Scotia, to Toronto, and never has a problem finding a date. Yeah, most of this advice is going to be written by heteronormative guys, but much of it is universally applicable. Sorry ladies, we don’t how you can avoid all the dick pics, either.
Get a Real Camera
Photography on your phone is quick and easy, but it results in grainy, badly lit, often distorted images. Do you want potential hook ups to think you’re grainy, badly lit, and distorted? Use a real camera. Widely available for just $400, the Sony RX100 Mk1 will blow even your iPhone out of the water when it comes to making you look good, and it’s almost as easy to use. With a Zeiss lens and one-inch sensor, it shoots far better than any other point-and-shoot even remotely comparable in price. It's also tiny and light, making it a great companion for outdoors types, in general.
Dating apps are a rapid fire affair. To stand out amid the swipes, you really do need to stand out. With a quality camera, your images will be sharper and more detailed, brighter and more vibrant, giving you a much better chance of capturing your future ex’s attention.
Lindsay-Bea says: “Look at our selfies, we like attention to detail. The better the picture, the stronger the message. It doesn’t matter how good looking you are, what’s the point of having nice things if you don’t make them look nice?”
Get the Light Right
Of course, using a real camera doesn’t guarantee good results. You’ll need to compose a good photo too. Luckily, it’s pretty simple. Start with the light. Outdoors, direct sunlight can blow out features, make you look pale, and cast awkward shadows. Overcast conditions are best, providing an even, muted light that sculpts your features and captures your natural colors. Go out on an overcast day and face the rough direction of the sun to take advantage of any shadows that could add definition to your jaw, or muscles, if you have those.
Rather than attempting a selfie with your outstretched arm, get a friend to help you look good. Bribe them if you have to. We paid our friend Darragh McDermott off with promise of a re-written, re-photographed profile, and even told him he could pose with my handsome dog for it. Darragh's one of our buddies here in LA, and an active outdoorsman. When he's not designing brain implants to power prosthetics, he's windsurfing, climbing, riding motorcycles...right now he's backpacking through Peru. But, he also sucks at Internet dating, so he's serving as our don't-do-this example for this article. Hopefully we'll fix that for him, as well as you.
Consider the other elements of the photo too. You’ll want the subject (you) to be large in the frame, in focus, and engaged in some sort of exciting or interesting activity, hopefully somewhere picturesque. And wear something nice. When it doubt, make it red.
Lindsay-Bea says: "I want to see the shadow of your jaw line, not a shadow of doubt."
Be the Lone Wolf
If you were just swiping away in your phone, could you tell which person Darragh is in the photo above? Online dating in 2016 is all about simplicity of message. If it takes more than a split second to tell what’s going on, you’ve been left-swiped.
This is a particularly galling mistake to make if the other people in the photo are better looking, or appear more interesting than you are. But it’s bad even if they aren’t. Are your dumb friends someone a potential partner is going to want to hang out with? If they’re wearing stained sportsball T-shirts, I’m going to guess not.
The big exception? Animals, and interesting activities. My adorable companion Wiley is a total show-stealer, but because the way he looks and acts says so much about my own personality, he’s a positive reflection of it, not a distraction. The same goes for stuff like rock climbing, skiing, and other fun activities. They demonstrate that you’re a capable, fit, adventurous person better than writing the word “adventure” next to a mountain emoji ever will.
Lindsay-Bea says: “Don't be the guy who isn't the guy we wanted you to be. Make sure it's clear which one is you.”
Show Your Civilized Side
While it’s a lot of fun to be a dirtbag, sleep in the back of your truck, shower at public restrooms, and eat ramen for dinner six nights a week, that lifestyle may not be super appealing to potential mates. What else goes on in your life beyond, say, being a pretty good snowboarder? Can you cook? Do you look good in a suit? Do you teach children? Do you travel to foreign cities? The entire idea here is to sell yourself as an interesting person, and a big part of that is being interesting beyond just your activities. Can you hold a conversation? About something more than just snow conditions? Look like it.
Lindsay-Bea says: "If you show me what you like doing with your time, I'll show you what I like to do with mine."
Use Your Words
Dolphin, fart, bicycle, pounds! Personally, on these dating apps, I find it really hard to strike up a conversation with a woman when she hasn’t included any information about herself. With online dating generally being more difficult for men, imagine how boring you must look with a few blurry photos and some juvenile emojis.
Describe yourself and the life you lead. Be honest, but be interesting. Include a few fun factoids that someone might have in common with you, or which could pique their interest. Most of these apps have very limited word counts, and writing for limited space can be hard. Try to provide the beginnings of a conversation.
My full profile lists my job and age, then reads: “For work, I do dangerous stuff outdoors with my dog, then write about it. But, I like living in the city and being civilized too. Grew up on a farm in England, worked in London, lived in Brooklyn, and now I’m in LA. Well, some of the time.”
Can you describe your life in a similarly succinct fashion? Work on it, I bet you can. Write in a word processor using an actual keyboard and spell-check if you need to. Run it past a friend who can read and write.
Lindsay-Bea says: "Just skip the emojis. Stop hiding behind tiny pictures and tell us who you really are."
Be Interested, Not Just Interesting
So you’ve followed the advice above and finally matched with a hottie. What do you do next? I’ll fill you in on a little secret: people love talking about themselves. And interest is often the best compliment you can pay. Ask someone a question about themselves. Not chosen from some awful list of one liners; examine their profile and photos and ask them something about themselves. When they answer, ask them a follow up question. Eventually, you can ask “Buy you a drink?” And you know what? They’ll say yes. Do the same on that first date and you never know what might happen.
Lindsay-Bea says: "Ask meaningful questions and you get meaningful answers. Meaningful conversations lead to meaningful drinks."
Create a Call to Action
In advertising, a call to action is a phrase used to convert a viewer or reader into a customer. Want to know if Valtrex is right for you? Ask your doctor! It’s a simple manipulation of basic human psychology. People operating at fairly low levels of attention do well with simple, clear instructions. And you can use this on your profile too.
Chris used to use, “If you want to go for a motorcycle ride, swipe right.” Simple, clear, and likely appealing to the kind of girl he’s going after. It weeds out the wusses, says something about him, and pre-programs a first date. Mine is “Swipe right if you want some more action and adventure in your life.” I wanted to move the instruction up a bit, a camping trip is my go-to third date, and people are online dating because they’re bored.
What should yours be? Give people a clear, appealing, and actionable message. What’s something you can uniquely offer that other people, especially ones you hope might sleep with you, will want to do? Luckily for all of us, it turns out that outdoor activities work extremely well. Take someone skiing, take them to the climbing gym, go hiking with them and your dog.
Lindsay-Bea says: "Take me away on one of your adventures. Let's get the fantasy going!"
Are you an outdoors type who meets people with the help of the Internet? Share what works for you.
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