How do I choose the best photo for my online dating profile?
What do you want your future life partner's first impression of you to be? THAT's how to choose your picture. Even if you don't expect to meet your beshert (soulmate) online, if you're going to bother with Internet dating, you may as well consider the possibility. This is also one of those, "I'll know it when I see it" scenarios, and it's a lot easier to tell you what not to do than to give hard and fast guidelines for what to do.
Here are some of my favorite photo no-no's that I've seen while helping people with their profiles:
- A camel (no person in sight)
- A dog with half a human face behind it
- Sunburnt in a very, very small bikini
- With three friends (no indication of whose profile it is)
- Holding a baby (unless it's yours)
- Part of other people's cropped-off arms
- Any picture more than 2 years old or featuring a totally different hairstyle
I could go on. The point is, don't use anything that has the potential to send the wrong message about you. Granted, someone out there always has the potential to misread or misinterpret, but better that you don't give them specific fodder. You don't need to pay a professional photographer (though certainly some online daters go that route), but it's nice to take a picture with the intention of using it to represent yourself well. A random picture taken on a night out with friends that you decide looks "pretty good," will probably actually look like you found it scrolling through your phone after figuring that it was time to replace the camel shot.
For a world-rocking, myth-busting, online-persona-altering experience, though, I can't recommend strongly enough that you read "The 4 Big Myths of Profile Pictures"  by OkTrends (the same people who bring you OkCupid). This blog post, published at the beginning of 2010, totally changed the way I think about online dating, what people are looking for and how people "read" online cues.
Even with this revelatory article in my back pocket, I encourage you to think about what impression you want to make that is unique to you, what you want to say about yourself and what kind of person will be attracted to way you portray yourself. Then go take some pictures.