The dawn of dating apps has spawned many new businesses, but perhaps one of the most interesting niches is the dating profile photographer.
As anyone who occasionally frequents a dating app will know, photos are undeniably the most important part of one’s profile. It’s a shallow world, and it’s getting to the point where fuzzy, badly-lit photos just won’t cut it.
Not only that but we’re pickier too - a profile full of group shots? Left we swipe. Too many zoomed-out snaps? Next! Mirror selfies? Please.
So more and more people are turning to specialised dating photography agencies to ensure their pictures will give them the best possible chance of scoring a date. Or at least a right swipe.
It sounds a bit tragic, doesn’t it? Who’s so desperate they’re willing to pay to have a professional photographer take pictures of them for their Tinder profile?
Well, according to Saskia Nelson, founder of the UK’s first online dating profile photography agency Hey Saturday, a lot of people are: “Our client numbers are doubling year on year approximately since we launched,” she told The Independent.
And in the hope of ultimately deleting dating apps altogether, I met up with Saskia to have a shoot of my own.
Upon Saskia’s recommendation, we met on the Southbank in London. On a Saturday.
The prospect of having a photoshoot in front of crowds of weekend tourists was terrifying, but luckily, Saskia suggested we start the shoot somewhere quieter.
She whisked me up to a nearby deserted but pretty rooftop which I didn’t even know existed.
Despite my friends’ and family’s insistence that I am an attention-seeking drama queen, I was extremely nervous. “Lots of people assume they are unphotogenic,” says Saskia, and I felt so awkward.
What do I do with my hands? Where do I look? Should I fake laugh?
It turns out for straight women, pouting is not the one. Saskia informed me that men are more likely to swipe right for a woman who smiles than a duckface. So smile I did, trying my utmost to make it look natural and not like I was on a roof in London having my photo taken by a stranger in the hope of getting more dates.
“Our ethos is that the final photos look like one of your best friends, who happens to be fantastic at photography, took them while out and about with you,” Saskia explained, “Rather than, 'I'm so desperate I needed a pro photography shoot'.”
A few minutes’ in, I was feeling more relaxed, so Saskia suggested moving on to another spot.
Lesson one: if you want your photos to look natural so you have to mix it up, changing both locations and outfits.
Bright, block colours work better than fussy patterns, Saskia had informed me, so I’d brought a couple of clothing options along. One costume change in a public loo later (I’m sure this is how the top models work too), I was already feeling ready for my close-up.
We were outside a cafe and a few passers-by were giving me the odd glance, but by this point I was starting to learn what to do, laughing at my invisible friend who was slightly taller than me and to the side.
Next lesson: try on your outfit before your shoot. After seeing the snaps on Saskia’s camera I decided I didn’t like my skirt and top combo after all. Error.
Fortunately I had one more outfit with me, so hurriedly changed so as not to waste any more time - lesson three: you want to avoid harsh sunlight in the middle of the day for the most flattering light.
We moved on to a busy shopping area and I’m not going to lie, I was not only relaxed but lapping up the attention.
Sure, I got some people shouting things at me, but after hearing that one of Saskia’s clients was heckled by none other than Russell Brand, I felt almost disappointed.
Lesson four: take photos in various positions ie. sitting and standing, full-length and headshots.
For our final location, Saskia suggested right by the edge of the river. Wind in my hair, fake laughter on point, I was beginning to wonder whether I could pack in journalism for a modelling career.
Or at the very least, can I not have someone follow me round all day taking pictures and telling me I look great?
Whilst some of us may enjoy the limelight more than others (I wonder if Saskia tells all her clients the camera loves them?), I reckon everyone would relax into their photoshoot and ultimately love it.
It’s not cheap though - prices range from £127 for a half hour shoot to £247 for 90 minutes. So whilst I really like my pictures and it was a lot of fun, you have to be really serious about dating to shell out for a shoot.
I have the pictures, now I just need to manage to commit to using dating apps. Of course there’s the whole issue of committing to a relationship but baby steps, eh?