The first time I met Saskia Nelson in person, she told me, in the kindest way possible, that my main profile picture didn’t really look like me. It was the profile photo I was using on Twitter, but also Bumble, Tinder, OkCupid, and a few other dating apps, to limited success. Here’s that picture for context:
I didn’t think it was a good picture of me either, but it was the best one I had at the time. It’s rare that I go out of my way to get my picture taken, and half of my pictures are pictures where I’m not alone. I’m not a selfie person, and I generally take pictures with people, so my profile pictures were, if I’m being honest, sub-par.
So when Saskia reached out and told me she’d be returning to New York City in the Spring of 2017 to do some shoots in advance of the stateside launch of Hey Saturday, I was beyond thrilled. Let me back-track a bit. Saskia is the founder of Hey Saturday, “The first & coolest dating photography agency on the planet”. Chances are good that you’ve seen her work, especially if you live across the pond and follow any folks who blog about dating. Or maybe you saw a recent blog from New York Cliche’s own Mary Lane about her experience shooting with Hey Saturday (we shot on the same day at different times). You’re even more likely to have seen Hey Saturday featured in this article on BBC.com. It’s entirely possible that you saw this feature about Saskia and Hey Saturday on Métier (an ongoing series showcasing inspiring women working with passion within their field). Maybe you listened to Saskia on my podcast where we talked about the importance of good dating photos.
I’d been seeing her work, and the work of the lovely photographers of Hey Saturday all over the internet, and I thought, FINALLY, my time has come. I’m going to get some legit pictures that look like me and look good!
The Hey Saturday style can best be described as “having your dating profile pictures taken by a friend who just so happens to be really good at photography”. I know the idea of taking professional dating photos might conjure up images of cheesy mall photo shoots, but a Hey Saturday shoot is anything but that.
See, this is how I actually look! If you look really closely you can see my that I’ve got a few gray hairs, and that I’ve got a few freckles on my nose and cheeks. I feel like I look my best, and I’m at best when I’m smiling, so I really feel like this captures who I am.
There’s a reason I’m smiling in so many of these photos and it’s because Saskia does an incredible job at making people, especially someone like me who is very awkward when taking photos, feel at ease. I feel like even saying that is an understatement, so let me set the stage a bit. We’re shooting in the Lower East Side in New York City, in the middle of the day on a Saturday. One of the busiest neighborhoods in the city, full of people who will stop and ask “why are you taking his photo?”, which a few people did. I’m self-conscious about taking photos in general, so the idea of having photos done professionally, on the street, in the LES, was a bit nerve-wracking. But then we started shooting…
…and within minutes, I was at ease. Saskia genuinely has a gift at not only photography, but making people comfortable. I went from nervous fidgeting to confident posing at the drop of a hat. None of those smiles were forced, I was genuinely having a good time. That ease made me comfortable, made me feel confident, and I think it shows in my photos.
One of the things I noticed and really enjoyed about the shoot is that nothing felt forced. Saskia wasn’t trying to get a shot she wanted with me in it, she was trying to get shots that she thought I might look good in. There wasn’t any sense that she was making me take pictures I wouldn’t ever want to use, the shoot felt collaborative. You know when you sat down as a kid to take your yearbook photos, and the entire experience felt forced, and you were given “tilt your head this way” instructions that just didn’t make any sense? I had the exact opposite feeling during this shoot.
It was small things like explaining where you should look, what to do with your hands (I NEVER know what to do with my hands in pictures!), or just making recommendations but not forcing shots that made the experience incredibly enjoyable. The shot above is a great example of that feeling of not feeling pressured. Do I want to take a shot with a soft pink in the background? Hell yes I do.
As great as you are as a person, people can’t see that in pictures on dating apps. As much as I eschew the idea of superficiality in dating, the first thing that people see when swiping right is your pictures. Your pictures are important, whether you get them done professionally or not. Now, I’m not saying that you have to get your online dating photos taken professionally. But, I’d be lying if I said that these photos are head and shoulders above what I’d have taken on my own. My old profile pictures were good enough, these photos are great.
And one last thing before I close. All this gushing about Saskia and Hey Saturday is legit. This isn’t sponsored content, I wasn’t asked to write this post, or paid to write a recommendation. I’m writing it because I really do believe in the quality of Hey Saturday photos. If you’ve followed the blog for awhile, you’ll notice that I don’t promote products, sites, services, or people very often. When I do show love and support, it’s because I genuinely stand by a person or a company’s work, and would recommend it. I like and support what I like and support, not because I’ve been asked to. I genuinely think that Hey Saturday photos are damn good, and well worth it if you’re dating online and looking for an edge.
If you’re in the NYC, London, Brighton, Hove, Edinburgh, or Glasgow area, and you’re current online dating photos are sub-par, you should book a shoot. Even if you can’t manage to get your photos taken by Hey Saturday, I would highly recommend checking out the Hey Saturday blog which has tips on taking good dating profile photos (and lots more dating advice).
Good Luck Out There.
Also published on Medium.