The Shidduch Photo


Making the most of the shidduch photograph

This post was prepared with extensive input from Mrs. Beth Guterman a highly-regarded shidduch photographer, (845) 558-8247, CelebratingYouToo.com
And, with help from Aleeza Ben Shalom: for a complimentary coaching call to help you further please visit MarriageMindedMentor.com

The single is likely to be asked for a photograph during the shidduchim process.  While there are different schools of thought about whether women should include a photo with their resume, most shidduch databases and many shadchanim request a photo along with basic information about the single.  The trend now is for men also to send photos with their resumes.  One dating coach recommends sending two photos with the resume: one that is just the face or a close up and a second that is a half or whole body shot.

Why Photos are Important

Some singles are ambivalent about sending a picture, since this implies that their most important characteristic is their external appearance.  According to one dating coach:

…most mothers will admit that seeing a picture of a young lady, who is being suggested for their son, is telling. She can see her taste in clothing, her choice of jewelry, her tznius level and her twinkle in her eye coupled by her smile. It is for this reason, that I suggest to my female clients to have professional pictures taken. Wedding pictures are beautiful but they are a fairy tale! How often is one that dressed up? They don't really say anything about the young lady. I recommend wearing an everyday better outfit; similar to one that they would wear on a date. Be cognizant; your choice of clothing, their color, length, and style are sending a message of whom you are. Make it authentic.

Photos are useful for shidduchim because:

  • They "put a face to the name", making it easier for shadchanim to remember meeting the single.
  • Many mothers of sons demand to see a photo before considering a shidduch.
  • They help convey a sense of the single, supplementing the resume and the personal description.
  • If the profile on the shidduch database lacks a photo, shadchanim and potential matches wonder if the single has something to hide.
  • It has been observed that resumes and computer-based profiles accompanied by photos get more “yesses” and clicks.

In short, not having the photo is most likely more of a disadvantage than having one.

Giving it the Best Shot

Singles who wish to put more hishtadlus (personal effort) in their shidduch search are advised to invest in obtaining a great photo because:

  • It gives the single a tremendous boost of self-confidence to see how attractive s/he is.
  • The photograph can be a powerful asset in presenting the single, since “a picture is worth a thousand words”. Every individual has his/her own inner beauty which can be brought out by a talented photographer.
  • Shadchanim and shidduch prospects are likely to obtain a photo through diligent searching through school websites, simcha photos and the like. Therefore, the single may take control by showing the best photo.
  • Since many girls are hiring professional photographers for their shidduch photo, the standards have risen on the quality expected of the photo.

A story from a shadchan:

I happen to know all the people involved, and I heard it from the person who was the girl in this story. A woman read a shidduch to the mother of a young man. The boy's mother asked for a picture, and the neighbor who was suggesting the idea showed a picture of the girl wrapped in toilet paper, and if I remember correctly with mud on her face. Seems the picture was taken in camp where she was a head counselor and this look was appropriate for whatever event it was.

The girl was beyond horrified that this picture was shown. But the boy's mother, it seems, took one look at the picture and said yes, and told the neighbor that this was exactly the kind of girl her son would like, and if she looked polished and sophisticated, they would have said no. The boy was also a real camp type, and BH they are married for a number of years now.

Indeed, while every single should have a photo, younger singles at the beginning of their shidduch journey may not need a top-quality photo.  As singles get older, they are expected to look more sophisticated.

That said, a single who is looking for someone who is seeking a more down-to-earth shidduch may manage with a photo that is less than perfect.  There may be fewer shidduch proposals and dates but this approach may filter out prospects who are unlikely to be suitable.  Moreover, some mothers and singles are intimidated by photos of perfect looking prospects.

Avoid Sub-standard Photos

Never send out a photo that is unattractive, since images may be forwarded without the approval of the subject.  Once a picture is “out there”, it can never be taken out of circulation.

Tips on Taking the Photo

How to Dress

A woman should determine her look in advance: makeup (natural, finished, glamorous), hair, and clothing. Dress for the photo as you’d dress for a first date.

Men who date wearing a suit have the option to use pictures from a family simcha since they are already dressed for the occasion.  During the family photo session, they may ask the photographer to take a separate portrait photo for shidduch purposes.

The Photo Session

  • Make sure you look your best. For men, this means shaving in advance so that the face is no longer red but before the onset of “5:00 shadow”.  Women are advised to put care into their makeup and hair.  Many recommend investing in a professional for both.
  • Make the photo shoot into a fun activity. Invite a friend or two (ask the photographer’s permission first) to keep you relaxed and smiling.
  • Avoid the odd look, whether in clothing, setting, or pose. While the bashert might find it cute, an unconventional picture might put off shadchanim or parents of eligible singles.
  • Determine in advance which kinds of shots are requested in your circle: shoulder, hip, or most of body.
  • Make the shidduch photo low resolution so that it cannot be enlarged or examined closely. This helps protect the privacy of the single and also makes it easier to email.

Camera Tips

  • Experiment with different poses and different angles to the camera: left, right, and center.
  • Hold the camera above eye level and take slightly from an up angle. This helps to avoid double chins and thin faces.
  • Shoot from farther away if the face or teeth are blemished.
  • Take some smiling posed shots and some candid shots where the subject is doing something. Some people look better posed and some candid.
  • Try having the single look at camera and another looking into the distance.
  • See which come out better: shots taken in bright outside lighting or in dimmer inside lighting.

Photo Background

While bland photography backgrounds are traditional, singles are moving towards more interesting looks, especially based on nature.  A problem with a neutral backdrop is that it can lead viewers to hyper focus on the subject’s face and possible blemishes.  In addition, such portraits seem overly formal and posed.  Aside from outdoor shots against a leafy background, singles may want to find colors that complement the colors in the portrait or shapes that add visual interest.

The background is typically kept blurry while the subject is in focus, in order to avoid visual distraction from the portrait. This can be done using a narrow depth of field when taking the picture.

Working with a Professional Photographer

  • Professional photographers usually get more attractive photos because they know which poses, hair style, makeup, lighting, etc., will show their subject best.   If finances are an issue, try to find a talented amateur and discuss the tips mentioned above.
  • It’s best to seek a photographer who specializes in portraits and, especially, in shidduch photos.  An effective professional should also have the social skills to help the subject relax and feel comfortable in front of a camera lens.
  • Most professional photographers charge at least $99 for a half hour session.  Typically, they take 15 to 20 shots and the client selects the best ones.
  • Before hiring a photographer, make sure to examine his/her portfolio; is this how you want to look in your shidduch photo?
  • Find out if the photographer does a pre-session.  This involves sending the photographer a photo in advance to help determine the best pose, makeup, etc.  Most faces are not exactly symmetrical and the photographer’s job is to find the subject’s better side and best angle.  During the pre-session over the phone, the photographer and the single should discuss the best approach, including the backdrop.  Professional photographers often have a collection of backgrounds and props.
  • It is a good idea to invest also in professional makeup artist.  Some photographers include their own makeup specialist for an additional fee.
  • Often, for an extra charge, photographers can smooth out imperfections when editing the photo.  While editing out minor or temporary flaws makes sense, the photo should not be altered to the extent that the shidduch prospect feels misled when meeting the single.

From a dating coach:

It is a fact that whatever photo one will share shows something about that person. A bland passport photo sends a bland message. If a young lady is wearing a very conservative black and white outfit with minimum makeup and small pearl earrings, then, she is giving off one type of message. If she is wearing a very tight top that is very open in the front and bright red lipstick with long dangling earrings it is another message. Everyone should be authentic. Certainly, these are extremes.

The final product should be an image that reflects who you truly are.

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