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A Few Words From a Professional Profile-Pic Whisperer

Animation: ERIK CARTER

Since 2013, single people from around the country — some referred by matchmakers or dating coaches, others referred by a high SEO ranking on Google — have sought out photographer German Marin’s help in taking natural-looking profile pictures they don’t hate. “Most of my clients don’t know how to take photos,” he says. “I love working with them because they’re a bit timid.” When Marin first started, most of his clientele was female, but today, he says, 90 to 95 percent of his clients are male and range from 24 to 65 years old.

What’s your process?
I ask the client to book a call with me immediately so I can get to know them before our photo shoot. I also ask clients for screenshots of the profile photos they are currently using. Then we book a Zoom to see how they look, how they act. That’s when I really discover if they’re shy, if they get nervous. We talk about clothes and strategize. I ask clients a lot of personal questions. One of my favorites: “Tell me about your first crush.”

A lot of my clients would struggle before their photo shoot — they’d come to me saying, “I’m so nervous getting in front of the camera.” Other people would break out into rashes or they’d feel sick. So I recently started working with a mind-set coach who happens to be my husband. He’ll work with my clients on how to not feel so nervous.

So what does a photo shoot entail?
If it’s a virtual shoot, I FaceTime them and coach them on how to position their phone, where to look, then I take the photos from my end. That’s $300 to $400 an hour. My basic in-person package is $650 for one hour. You get a 30-minute coaching session and around 50 photos with three wardrobe changes and a few backgrounds. Most of my in-person shoots are done in either Tribeca or Dumbo; I know some of the streets, and Tribeca is quiet, while Dumbo has things like coffee shops. The second in-person package, which costs $900, is a two-hour session with four wardrobe changes. And I’m adding a third package that will include styling because New Yorkers tend to wear pure black. But when it comes to dating photos, people feel more attracted to color.

Some people really don’t want the photos to look professional, so I offer to do half of the photo shoot with my cell phone, the other half with my camera. A few times, clients have asked, “Can you just take photos with your phone? I’ll pay you the same price.”

What kinds of people do you typically work with?
It comes in waves. In February and March, I was working with a lot of doctors. There was a doctor who came from Connecticut and then I photographed some other doctors in March. Then I started working with a lot of people in IT. My last client was from Texas, and we did a shoot when he was in New York. He’s an entrepreneur, a CEO. He has, like, two companies.

What makes for a good dating-profile photo?
Something that looks genuine. If you’re looking straight at the camera with a genuine smile, natural and not super-pose-y, those photos will work really well. There’s some statistic that shows that if a female is smiling and looking away from the camera, the photo will get more of a reaction, but she has to be showing the left side of her face. For some strange reason, males feel more attracted to the left side. And then for guys, they have to be looking straight looking at the camera. But I was working with a dating coach in Atlanta, and she said it’s reversed: Males had to be looking away from the camera, and females had to be looking straight at the camera. We almost got into an argument over it.

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A Few Words From a Professional Profile-Pic Whisperer