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The Short Version: The profile photo is the first thing people notice in online dating, and no one understands that more than LookBetterOnline.com. Bringing together hundreds of photographers from across the country, this company is able to connect singles with professionals who can deliver amazing photos at an affordable price. LookBetterOnline knows what works and what doesn’t — so much so that their clients receive 4x more attention on their dating profiles after using their services.
Back in the early 2000s, Dave Coy was single and looking to try online dating, a growing trend at the time. He wasn’t just going to throw any ol’ photo up on his profile, so he called around to see if he could get a professional photographer to help him out.
Dave quickly became frustrated, though, as he couldn’t find anyone who would do the job for a reasonable price, not $500+ an hour. As a photographer himself, he knew how important it was to have a great main photo.
“It’s all about the first impression that you make, but I couldn’t get anyone to do it in a cost-effective way,” he said.
He continued his search until he found someone who could get him the results he wanted without it costing a fortune. It was those photos, Dave said, that sparked the interest of his future wife Merav on Matchmaker.com. Ironically, Dave added, her photos weren’t the best, and he even briefly considered ignoring her message until he thought otherwise. Good thing he didn’t, because they were married just a few months later.
“That would have been my loss, as it turns out,” Dave joked.
Dave’s story is a familiar one — seeing someone online with whom you could be compatible, only to be iffy about their photo choices (A bathroom selfie? Really?). In online dating, a picture truly is worth a thousand words, so Dave created LookBetterOnline.com with Merav, now his former wife turned best friend, to make sure singles were saying the right things with their photos.
LookBetterOnline takes the pressure off singles to choose the perfect profile photo by bringing hundreds of experienced, talented photographers from across the country right to their doorstep. They even boast that their clients receive 4x more attention in online dating because of the fantastic work by their photographers.
“Most people don’t have a clue about how to portray themselves online. That’s why so many people don’t get any traction, even though they’re worthy,” Dave said. “We know better than anyone in the world what goes into making someone look the best they can in their photographs. We feel like we provide a really important service for those who date online.”
LookBetterOnline provides every client with a start-to-finish service that’s easy and fun — from choosing the best photographer for your needs to arranging the photo shoot to letting you choose your favorite images and sending you the downloads. The process is simple:
“The big benefit of our service is that we manage the job from start to end. We don’t just throw the job over the fence to the photographer and say ‘Hey, have at it,'” Dave said.
Typing in your zip code is where it all starts. Then you can browse through a list of photographers in your area. The list includes a photographer’s specialty and star rating, location, how far he or she is willing to drive, and more info like photo samples. LookBetterOnline has photographers located all over the U.S., and while a majority are in larger cities like Los Angeles, New York, and Miami, the company is continually expanding into new cities.
“We go to great lengths to find photographers in areas where people need them, so we’re constantly recruiting to make sure we have good coverage,” Dave said.
When you find a photographer you like, you’ll choose between three packages. Silver costs $247 and includes a 45-minute session, two outfit changes, and 12 photos (with optional services like retouching and profile writing). Gold costs $297 and includes a 60-minute session, three outfit changes, and 18 photos (in color, black and white, and a Sepia tone). Platinum costs $347 and includes a 60-minute session, three outfit changes, and 24 photos with retouching.
Your photographer will respond within 48 hours to set up a session at his or her studio or at a location near you (for an extra $15) and even recommend outfits that will attract attention (e.g., polos instead of T-shirts for men; solid-color V-necks instead of tops with busy patterns for women). Clients should consider outfits for their session as though they were going on a date — casual for an activity/dinner/movie or dressier if needed, as in button-downs/blazers/dress slacks/dresses.
During the session, it’s all about making you feel comfortable. The photographers will spend some time getting to know you, walking you through the process, and asking you what you want to get out of your time together. The personable, relatable attitude of the photographers is something we really love about LookBetterOnline, and it’s probably the main component that’s contributed to its 99% customer satisfaction rate.
“People who go through the process and spend the time getting good photographs are just amazed at how much more attention they receive online, irrespective of what they look like. It’s not about being pretty; it’s not about being handsome. It’s about putting forth a photograph that makes you look the best you can,” Dave said.
The only thing that’s left is to get your photos through the company’s portal, and then upload them to your dating profile.
A few great photos does not a dating profile make, so enter Dean Shanson, a New York Times best-selling ghostwriter who specializes in profile writing and has been with the company for 7 years.
Whether he’s reviewing and revamping your current profile ($49.99) or starting from scratch with a new one ($99.95), Dean is a natural at telling every online dater’s personal story and ensuring that the content is free of grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes — which studies have shown can be a death sentence in online dating.
Dave said many people struggle with their profile text because it’s hard for them to write a narrative about themselves that’s accurate, entertaining, and revealing all at the same time.
“Combine that with the fact that most online daters’ photographs are the worst. Take a person who doesn’t necessarily have the best physical attributes, combine that with a crappy photo, and the odds are stacked against them,” he said.
LookBetterOnline’s services go beyond the profile as well with its dating coach locator. These vetted experts help with other difficult aspects of dating, like attracting the right people and planning a successful first date.
As with the search for a photographer, all you have to do is enter your zip code. A list of results will then show you a list of dating coaches nearby — plus their years of experience, areas of focus, and client feedback.
All coaches are also reviewed before being included the directory to verify they are who they say they are and have the necessary experience.
“We want to make sure they’re professionals, that they’re conscientious, that they’re providing good service,” Dave said.
A real boon to LookBetterOnline is Director of Operations Ann Maas, who brings her unique perspective as a photographer for over 35 years and an online dater herself. Ann came on board three years ago as a photographer, learning firsthand how to set up a photo shoot that produces images both the client and photographer will love.
Now day-to-day life for Ann consists of being the Washington, D.C. area photographer, managing the other photographers, answering client questions, and helping hand-pick new people to add to their arsenal.
The most critical part of this vetting process is the first photo shoot, during which photographers are tracked based on nine conditions, such as making sure they respond to a potential client within 48 hours, they aren’t rescheduling too many sessions, and are delivering photos in a timely manner. If they can’t meet every single one of these requirements, they aren’t asked back. Ann is the last person to see the photos before they go to the client, ensuring they’re properly cropped, come in a variety of poses, and are of high quality in general.
“Daters who contact us are single, divorced, or widowed. It’s important that our photographers are sensitive to all types of our clients. This is where the vetting process is critical in choosing the right type of people for our jobs. Those coming back in the dating world after years and years of marriage are quite nervous to start this process of photos and a dating profile,” Ann said. “Our photographers are often the first step. Therefore, we are looking for those who not only have the skills but the enthusiasm and right bedside manner for the job.”
She added that the time spent on recruiting only the best photographers is especially helpful for people who hate having their photo taken.
As a photographer, “The transformation from the first part of the hour to the end is amazing,” Ann said. “For the first time they had someone who took the time to allow them to shine, and in the end, they never thought they could look so good.”
LookBetterOnline has photographed tens of thousands of people, mostly ranging in ages 30-60. Dave said few clients are in their 20s, and he attributes this to the selfie generation, which often doesn’t want to go through the lengthy — but worthwhile — process of getting professional photos taken.
“I can’t deny that some people can pull selfies off, but most people can’t. When they’re holding their phone up at that 45-degree angle, they’ve already made the decision that this will be good enough, and they don’t understand that had they invested a little bit of money for good photographs, they would’ve gotten multiple times more interest in their profile,” he said.
While Dave hopes to reach a younger audience in the future, for now he said the company will continue recruiting more photographers, expanding into more cities, and providing more quality photos that can make a real difference in people’s love lives.
“We want to provide the best possible photographs that you can get at the lowest possible cost,” Dave said.