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Head-Shot Game

If your date looks better onscreen than in life, here’s why.


When the first calls came in, says Jinsey Dauk, a photographer known for natural-light head shots of actors, she was puzzled. The clients were “sort of vague,” she says, about why they needed portraits. Eventually, the truth emerged: They wanted flattering photos for their Internet-dating ads.

Since then, says Dauk, it’s turned into steady work, primarily from professionals in their thirties and forties. “We mostly do big-smile shots—Here I am! Not so much come-hither. I guess they save that for in-person.” Dauk says she’s shot more than 50 in recent months (at $795 per head, or $595 if they come through her Website). And even a cursory look at reveals far more obviously professional photos than, say, a year ago. Does it work? Ask John (first name only, he pleads), who posted an ad with a run-of-the-mill snapshot, then took the plunge and hired Dauk. The difference was “dramatic,” he says. “I got ten times as many responses.”

Scott Wynn, who shoots a lot of corporate portraits, did his first personal-ad job about two years ago, “an older gentleman, divorced.” And business has been getting busier ever since: “I mean, everybody I know is dating online now,” says Wynn. “I try for that you’re-at-a-party-and-someone’s-called-your-name-and-you’re-looking-over-and- laughing look.” Fashion photographer Lisa Crosby, who does a lot of actors’ head shots, says her new clients are “usually up-front about why they’re there,” she says. “They say, You may think this is stupid, but . . . ” She adds that actors and daters get the same treatment, including professional hair and makeup. “If people do their own—forget about it.”

And if all else fails, Dauk provides daters with a safety net. “I’m an ex–Ford model, and I retain one good contact —a really good retoucher.”


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