Cringe-Worthy Photo Mistakes

Sick of seeing photos of shirtless men in the mirror or women surrounded by 20 friends in every profile you click on? You’re not alone! Below, we list the 10 worst photo offenses based on our poll results.

By Lauren Ware

hat makes a photo “cringe-worthy,” exactly? You know it when you see it: you click on someone’s profile and can’t help but cringe as you flip through their photos. It’s that guy who snapped a shirtless cell phone pic of himself flexing his muscles in a dirty mirror. Or that girl who’s just a
Statistics show that profiles with photos are viewed far more often.
tiny face in a sea of women sitting around a restaurant table… so small, in fact, you’re not even sure which one is actually her.

There are already too many ways to turn people off with the photos you choose to post in your profile. Look over this list of the worst offenders as defined by the 13,162 men and 43,178 women who responded to’s online poll on this subject and see if you agree with their choices. If you have any of these date-repellers posted in your own profile, don’t waste time: swap them out for something better today!

Below are the top 10 cringe-worthy mistakes made in profile photos, ordered from least to worst offensive:

10. Posting one photo or no photo at all with a promise to email more if contacted
This should go without saying, but put a photo — any kind of photo — with your profile! Statistics show that profiles with photos are viewed far more often than those without. And besides being tacky, no one wants to have to email you to see what you look like. They’re going to wonder why it isn’t right there and what you’re hiding instead. So put up some pics of yourself already!

9. Photos of you with someone who looks like an ex
Even if the person in question is a sibling, cousin or friend, this comes across badly and makes you look like you’re on the rebound. Instead, post images of yourself with same-sex friends (but don’t post all group shots, either; I’ll discuss the reasons why in more detail below). And put up some photos of just you, alone, that show your face and your whole body.

8. Photos which are either too dark or too blurry to see your features clearly
Roughly 15 percent of women who responded to our poll said this was the biggest turn-off for them. Make sure your photos are sharp and taken with good lighting. Natural sunlight is the easiest and best option for taking a crisp, well-lit photo, so grab a friend and head outdoors on a nice day. Bright, direct sunlight is actually harder for shooting good photos, though, so don’t shy away from an overcast day — that’s perfect.

7. Too many “costume” photos where you can’t tell what the person really looks like
About 12 percent of guys said this was their top online photo offender. One Halloween shot of you is probably OK, ladies. But let’s see some shots of you looking like yourself — not all glammed up and carrying props, but in your everyday life. Also, avoid posting images where you look dramatically different in every photo (maybe you changed your hair color recently?). Take new ones that show how you look right now and go ahead and upload them — then delete the old ones so there’s no confusion.

6. Girls who Photoshop themselves to death/posting only “Hipstamatic” shots
Girls who try to alter reality in their photos were the biggest turn-off for 23 percent of the men we polled. Let’s face it: when you see a face that’s been heavily altered using a software program, it’s obvious. And it makes you look like you have something to
The simple fact is, guys want to see you — head to toe.
hide. Get over it — you look great! Put up a nice, clear photo that shows what you really look like and guys are more likely to stick around and read your profile.

5. Wearing sunglasses/hats in every image posted
The biggest pet peeve for 23 percent of female respondents was seeing men whose faces are lost behind sunglasses and/or a hat in every single photo they’ve posted. Have a great shot of you at a baseball game, but you can’t see your face? One or two photos like that are fine, but vary things up a bit. Make sure others can see your facial features clearly in most of your profile photos.

4. Photos taken in front of a mirror with a smartphone
Nearly 29 percent of women who answered our poll said that a photo taken in a mirror with your smartphone was the biggest reason they’d click away from a guy’s profile. Here’s a word to the wise: don’t do it. Take the time to get a friend to help you by taking the photos, or use your camera’s timer feature or a remote. Having someone else photograph you also shows your commitment to the whole process of online dating rather than the quickly snapped (and often blurry) smartphone image does.

3. Nothing but group shots — I can’t tell what he/she really looks like!
We know you want to look like you have an active social life, and we know that women tend to take photos of themselves when they’re out with their friends. And while a few group shots are OK, you absolutely must include photos that are of you alone — including both full-body images and close-up head shots of your face. Twenty-nine percent of our male poll respondents said this was their biggest turn-off; that’s nearly a third of the guys who might be looking for you!

2. Guys posting shirtless photos of themselves
Now we’re up to the biggest profile photo offenders. This ubiquitous image is the top pet peeve of women who took our poll, with a whopping 33 percent of them saying that seeing a shirtless photo makes dating you a no-go. They don’t want to see your pecs or your abs, guys (at least, not in your profile). It looks tacky and you come across as an egomaniac. If it’s your default image, you’re an instant click away. And if you’re holding up your phone and looking in the mirror as you flex your muscles and suck in your gut simultaneously? You’re offending women on several counts in a single photo. Edit this one out of your profile and replace it with a nice, smiling photo of you taken by a friend… with your shirt on.

1. Girls who crop their bodies out of every single photo
The biggest turn-off for 36 percent of the men who took our poll was seeing a woman who has carefully orchestrated or cropped every photo of herself to show just her face. Mix it up: post some close-ups of your face, some full-body shots, some group photos, and some solo of you in action (think: pets, hobbies, etc.). You’re not fooling anyone when it’s obvious you don’t want anybody checking out your profile to see what your body looks like. And I’m also guessing that your fears probably far outweigh the reality when it comes to what others might think about your looks. The simple fact is, guys want to see you — head to toe — in at least one of your photos online. Take a deep breath, smile, and feel confident and attractive — that’s so much more important than what dress size you think men expect you to wear!

I’m spotting a trend here: online daters want to see one another clearly in their profile photos. Both men and women are turned off by things that obscure the real you: awkward cropping, hiding behind sunglasses or hats, using filters, software and other special effects, or trying to lose yourself in a crowd. Make sure your profile photos don’t fall somewhere on this list of worst offenders and that they show what you look like without letting your ego run rampant — that way, you’ll be sure to attract more notice online.

Lauren Ware lives and writes in northern Vermont. Besides crafting new dating profiles for clients of’s ProfilePro service, she pens the Guide to Small Farms and writes about medicine, science, food and farming for such publications as Proto and Wondertime. Read more of her work at
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