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With the number of people dating online growing every day, we have literally nanoseconds to impress potential dates with our dating profiles. Good quality photos are a sure-fire way to catch people’s attention. But choosing the right dating photos can seem like a minefield – there’s so much conflicting information around. Group shots? Party snaps? Photos of us doing impressive extreme sports? (For the record… it’s a big fat no to all of these). I’m Saskia and I founded Hey Saturday, the world’s first (and coolest) dating photography agency. We’ve worked with hundreds of single people helping them transform their dating profiles. I’m here to give you the definitive guide to the three ‘must have’ photos that’ll make your dating profile stand out from the crowd and win you some hot dates.

1. The close-up headshot

This one’s going first because it’s the most important. Make sure you include a flattering, close-up head and shoulders shot of you smiling. In fact, I’d advise making this shot your main profile photo. It’s been proven that shots where you’re smiling get more ‘likes’ – need I say more? Smiling makes you look fun, engaging, approachable and happy – all attractive traits that will get people’s interest. How do you make sure it’s flattering? Avoid amateur flash – which is known to add seven years to your face. The safest option is to head outdoors and find some nice even light. Avoid direct sunlight though, opting for open shade instead if it’s sunny. Make sure the shot is in sharp focus and the backdrop is interesting (but not distracting) and complements what you’re wearing. Being in a relaxed frame of mind and enjoying a genuine connection with the person taking the photo will also really help you get that natural, flattering smile.

2. The full body shot

Let’s be honest, even in these more enlightened times, both men and women are curious to see the body size, shape and height of anyone they’re looking to date, so the full body shot is the next ‘must have’ photo. It can be a tricky shot to get right. Make sure you keep your pose as natural as possible – looking away from the lens is a good tip, especially for men. Use open body language in all your photos. For example, avoid crossed arms, closed hands or turning in on yourself as it can come across as defensive or sometimes even aggressive, definitely not the vibe you’re looking for in your profile photos. Including a full-body shot signals to people that you’re comfortable in your own skin, you’re genuine and have self-confidence – top traits people look for in a partner. Not including a full body shot could come across as deceptive or lacking in confidence – people are going to see what you look like when you turn up for a date anyway, so why not just own it? Self-love is so important in online dating, which can seem a fickle and superficial business. Embrace who you truly are and be proud of it. Anyone who’s worth getting to know will love you for it.

3. The storytelling shot

Personality is super important in online dating – whether they’re aware of it or not, your matches are instantly picking up clues from your dating photos to help them suss out whether the two of you are compatible. This means you can use your dating photos to tell the story of who you are. Everything in your dating profile photo, from your clothes to the backdrop, is important in building up a mental image of you as a person. Help people to understand what makes you tick and show what makes you unique by doing something interesting in the photo. For example, a great storytelling shot would show you hanging out in your favourite cafe, vintage market or bookshop. It might show you holding items that have meaning for you, such as musical instruments, headphones, books, records or coffee. These shots are usually medium shots (from the waist up), as that allows you to include some context and background. Storytelling images are crucial as they make for a compelling, eye catching dating profile that stands out. They can also provide people with a hook that they can use to write that tricky first message.

To get loads more advice and tips on creating stand out dating pictures, including more about showing your personality, choosing your photographer and how to rock your dating shoot, check out the award winning Hey Saturday blog.

And if you’re ready to put this advice into practice, sign up to Soulmates today.

Bio

Saskia Nelson is the talent behind the multi award-winning and internationally acclaimed Hey Saturday, the first and coolest dating photography agency in the world. Hey Saturday specialises in creating gorgeous, show-stopping profile photos across the UK, in New York City and Los Angeles that help single people stand out online and kick-start their love lives.

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As February marks LGBT History Month in the UK, it’s important to look at how far the gay rights and civil rights movement has come in recent years. And equally to acknowledge that there is a long way to go to reach full acceptance. Both in the eyes of the law and in society. Recognising the little victories renews hope for future triumphs.

Gay Pride is a celebration of LGBT life and culture, culminating with a parade of love and positivity. London’s first Pride in 1972 had 2,000 people in attendance, while Pride 2018 attracted 1 million revellers.

LGBT History Month, on the other hand, is an opportunity to remember the LGBT community’s historical struggle for equality in the face of discrimination and injustice. The movement is focussed on education, and aims to raise awareness, promote diversity and increase the visibility of LGBT people and their history.

In the UK, LGBT History Month was launched in 2005 by Schools OUT UK, the LGBT education charity that started life as The Gay Teachers Association in 1974. Schools OUT UK promotes acceptance and education particularly in schools, which is arguably the most crucial opportunity to promote long-term change.

If you’d like to get involved or find out more about LGBT History Month, there are a range of events happening across the UK. Schools OUT UK puts on their own festival of LGBT History, OUTing the Past, with festival hubs all over the world. For university students, you can find out what’s happening on campus here.

Events:

‘The Adhesion of Love’

Playwright in residence for LGBT History Month, Stephen M Horby, has created a new production about queer poet Walt Whitman, and it’ll be touring Greater Manchester and Lancashire.

February 9 to May 31

Rainbow Family Day

The National Portrait Gallery puts on a full day of family-friendly (and free) activities and performances about LGBT History.

February 21, 11am – 4pm

National Student Pride

Students from across the UK travel down to London for a weekend jam-packed with talks, performances, events and activities.

February 22-24

Hampshire Pride

Celebrate Pride early with a full day of fun and food in Winchester.

February 23, 12pm

LGBT History Month at Brighton Museum

While the museum has an exhibition on till August about LGBT fashion and history called Queer Looks, you can also bring your family along to their Free Day for creative talks and activities.

February 23, 10am-5pm

LGBTQ Tour at the V&A

The V&A’s volunteer-led tours are a monthly occurrence, and February has been dedicated to a tour of LGBTQ-related objects in the museum’s collection.

February 23, 4pm-5pm

Visualising Portraits: Love is Love

Discover the stories and scandals about artists whose work make up the National Portrait Gallery collection.

February 28, 2pm

LGBT History Month at Royal Museums Greenwich

February features a range of events and activities that are suitable for all visitors.

LGBT History Month at Museum of London

Visit the museum every weekend for free short talks on the history of the LGBT community in London.

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The Online Dating Association have released new materials about how to stay safe when meeting people online.

At Guardian Soulmates, we take your safety very seriously. Our moderators manually check every profile for fraud before approving it, and our award-winning customer service team can be contacted at any time if you ever have any concerns.

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Mona is a wedding photographer. Marriages are her bread and butter, and yet she’s not in a relationship herself. “My friends make jokes about it all the time, that I’m a wedding photographer and I’m single,” she says, with a good-natured smile. It’s a job that she loves. And when she worked at the wedding of a Guardian Soulmates couple, she felt that it was time to find a partner for herself.

This is Mona’s first time trying online dating. She’s “curious, terrified and optimistic, all in equal measure”. We can all relate to that feeling. With all the horror stories flying around, either from obscure blogs or unhelpful friends, it’s no wonder that online dating can feel like a leap of faith.

But since more of her friends – and clients – are meeting people online, it feels a bit more normal to Mona. She feels that Guardian Soulmates has a good reputation among dating sites for being a more welcoming place to meet people. And, having worked at a Soulmates wedding, she knows it can be really successful.

She hasn’t met anyone yet, but she’s positive about who’s around the corner. She imagines people who use Soulmates to be “intelligent, interested and engaged in their lives and what’s going on around them.”

A couple of her friends have met amazing partners through Soulmates. It seems to Mona that it really is possible to meet someone she has a lot in common with. And she’s looking forward to it.

Discover a different way to date with Guardian Soulmates. Register for free today.

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Dee is one of the most empathetic people you’re likely to meet. It’s the result of working for 10 years as a local authorities inspector, then as an Ofsted inspector for eight. She’s now in her final year studying social work, specialising in adult mental health. Her work has made her much more understanding of relationships. She says, “There’s so much more than what’s on the surface. There’s always more going on than you might expect when you first meet someone.”

It’s been all-encompassing over the years. And she realised – while sitting as a portrait model – that she needed to start making time for herself. And so she did. She threw herself into her passions, making clothes in her spare time, learning about the intricacies of fashion and going to shows, just for her. If money was no object, she’d love to work part-time in a theatre wardrobe – while completing her degree.

You know that a date with Dee would be fun. She loves meeting new people and finding out all about them: “It’s how I am with people all the time, and I don’t think I’m different on dates.” She’s open, relaxed and easy to talk to, and “unintentionally funny”, according to her son. If she was to organise a date it would be dinner, then dancing. “I love dancing,” she’s quick to admit, “I love soul and reggae, but I’m open minded about music…from Grace Jones to classical. I recently went to see Electric Light Orchestra.”

What’s she looking for? Someone to enjoy life with, someone who’s more than a mate. But they’d need to be honest. Not that she doesn’t like surprises: “Someone brought me flowers once, I wasn’t expecting that, and on one date I was taken to a mystery show – it was quite risqué.” But dishonesty would be a major problem.

Because it was when Dee tried other online dating platforms, before finding Guardian Soulmates. “People are more upfront on Guardian Soulmates. On the app that I used before, a lot of the men were married. I had to check before meeting them!”

With Soulmates, there’s more of an opportunity to focus on yourself. “It’s the first time that some of us have had a chance to focus on just ‘us’. You’re having to say ‘this is me’. People find it strange. But I think it’s a great opportunity.”

Discover a different way to date with Guardian Soulmates. Register for free today.

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The last time Amanda hit the dating scene, things were a bit different. She didn’t have children and she didn’t own her own home – she didn’t even have her own bathroom. Now she’s raised her children, paid her mortgage and has dipped her toe into a new world of online dating.

She’s full of positivity, introducing this new phase of her life as “second time lucky”. Free from the constraints of parenthood, she’s ready for new adventures, and looking for someone to share them with. She’s open-minded about who that person might be, claiming, with a smile, “I don’t think I believe in perfection – perfection is the enemy of fun.” Since her children left home, she can finally do what she wants to do. And fun is definitely on the cards.

She’s forgiving on a first date. As a relationship counsellor, she knows that being nervous is normal. But she has ways around that particular problem. “On every date, you must take your sense of humour with you,” and be aware that most people need a bit encouragement before you get to know them.

Including her. Amanda is the first to admit that she could do with some practice. Which is why she likes Guardian Soulmates. She finds some of the other dating sites daunting and sometimes a bit aggressive – more like “the wild west” than somewhere to spark a romance.

“Guardian Soulmates is quite an easy environment, especially if you’re a beginner. I’d say it’s a good place to start.” For Amanda, she finds that it also allows members to share more of who they are on their profiles, with less boxes to tick and more places to write about yourself. Because of this, she feels that she has a better idea of who she might be talking to, which makes deciding who to start up a conversation with much easier.

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Crafting a good online dating profile can sometimes feel as complicated as a painting by Jackson Pollock. And yet, you have the power to make it as intriguing as the Mona Lisa. So here’s how to paint yourself in the best light on your online dating profile. Starting out with how to choose the right pictures.

Take a leaf out of Da Vinci’s book. Pick an image that shows you straight on, with an interesting background, but make sure you are the main focus of the photo.

Try to avoid photos of you and an ex.

And maybe think twice about party pictures.

While it’s good to be honest, avoid pictures of you looking your worst.

Make sure to choose props that are important to you. If that is a globe, a crown and a killer ruff, then so be it.

With the right photos, you’ll manage to stay true to yourself while looking great.

To get started, register for free today.

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As the summer rolls along with longer days and weather that’s not sub-zero, your dating possibilities open up. No need to hide away in a dark bar (unless that’s your preferred wooing spot, of course), the outdoors is now your oyster.

If you’re looking for something specific to where you live, we’ve got recommendations for date ideas in London, Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Manchester and Brighton.

But today, this post is all about al fresco dating. Let your summer romance blossom with this list of six ideas for summer lovin’ activities.

Go for a picnic

Although this requires a bit more thought and preparation than your usual dinner date, the outcome is much more memorable. Picnics can be as romantic or as casual as you’d like them to be, which means you can be in control. It’s a great opportunity to wow your date with your home cooking, or take them to a favourite park or viewpoint.

See an outdoor movie

A twist on a classic date idea. Take your love interest to see a movie, but don’t worry about missing the last rays of sun in a dark theatre. Outdoor cinemas have become a summer staple over the past few years, with screens on rooftops taking over most of London. Beyond the big smoke, you’ll find more pop-up cinemas at various locations across the UK.

Do a trip to the coast

The UK is surrounded by sea, so why not make the most of it? If you live near the coast, then a walk along the beach is a great way to get some one-on-one time with your date. And if you live a bit further away, take a train for a special a day trip. There are loads of seaside towns that are perfect for a day out.

Visit a stately home

Indulge your secret love of Downton Abbey. OK, maybe it’s not secret. But even if your date claims they don’t watch the series, Britain’s many National Trust properties are well worth a visit. Most of them have a busy calendar of summer events, so if your date is interested in history, architecture or being in a beautiful setting, they’re sure to be impressed.

Play a round of golf

This may not seem like the most obvious of dates, but hear us out. There are classes for beginners, you get to spend lots of time outside and there’s some mild competition to keep things entertaining. Plus, you get the opportunity to sneakily put your arms around your date when giving them putting tips.

Get active

If you’re a bit more of an adventurous duo, try a wild activity to get the heart really racing. There are opportunities for wild swimming, kayaking and cycling all over Britain for those who like a challenge. Or, if you’d rather soak up the scenery with a gentler activity, try hiking – or going for a walk with a pub at the end.

Join Guardian Soulmates today and start meeting like-minded connections. 

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Online dating is a rollercoaster adventure. But while it’s exciting, it can also leave you feeling a bit bamboozled. What does a successful profile look like? What is the right etiquette? And how can I pick the right person when there are so many options?

As mid-life ex-wife blogger Stella Grey puts it, “it’s a great big dance hall, though without the alcohol or the band. Or the hall.” Online dating is an excellent way to meet people, but you can’t just leave it up to chance.

Yes, online dating can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. In this step-by-step guide, we’ve rounded up five pieces of advice to help you stay cool-headed on your online dating journey.

1. Make a wish list

Whether you’ve already got your profile up and running, or haven’t yet taken the plunge, take a step away from your screen. Set some time aside to think about you. What do you want from online dating?

“Many of us answer the questions on dating sites aspirationally rather than honestly. We think about idealized versions of ourselves and paint a skewed profile, often not on purpose,” says Amy Webb, the data scientist and journalist who hacked online dating. Her advice is to create a wishlist and be specific.

This is less about whether they prefer Jilly Cooper to Dostoevsky, but more about what stage of life you’re both at and where you want to be. Do you really want someone who’s about to head off on a six-month trek around South America when you’ve just been given a promotion?

This wishlist will help you to define what you want – and make it a smoother process to sort through the many matches and profiles.

2. Give your profile a makeover

You’ve now put yourself out there into the world wide web – great! But maybe you’re not getting as many matches or replies as you’d have liked. See that you’re getting the attention you deserve by making your profile the best it can be.

Read through your profile aloud and ask the question: would you want to date you? The most successful profiles tend to be about 100 words long and use positive language. You’ll come across as intriguing and everyone who sees it will want to know more.

You can also check out a list of our dos and don’ts for Soulmates profiles, plus some excellent advice on how to pick the perfect photographs to show you at your best.

3. Start writing

Now your profile’s looking good, it’s time to start talking to people. Writing your first message can be a bit of minefield, but luckily dating online means you a chance to plan first.

While it can be hard to know what to write, there are a few simple rules to play by. Avoid sending the same identical message to everyone and anyone – this happens too often on dating sites and you’re likely to be ignored. Pay attention to the details on profiles to work out hobbies, likes and dislikes. Show them that you’re interested by asking a question.

This may not seem like the most spontaneous or romantic approach, but if it gets results then what’s to lose?

4. Move offline quickly

Cut short the screen time and move into real life as soon as you can. While it’s important to get to know your match before you meet, save the best conversation for the first date. This can be tricky, and it’s easy to get carried away when emailing or chatting online.

Try not to check your messages too regularly and plan a first date if you like them. If they’d rather keep things in the virtual realm, then don’t compromise. Save yourself the time, energy and potential heartbreak by moving on. You can tell if they’re interested by checking their behaviour against our list of signs your match likes you.

5. Be forgiving on the first date

If everything’s gone to plan (and you haven’t lost the will to live in the process) you’ll have secured yourself a date. Expectations are high. For both parties this is exciting, but also nerve-racking, and can be difficult to know how to behave. It’s not uncommon for stress get the better of you and affect the way you come across. In situations loaded with so much anticipation, people are rarely relaxed and find it difficult to be the best version of themselves.

Many of our members, like Helen, have told us of the brilliant people they met before finding their soulmate. Meeting new people, making real connections and going on fun and interesting dates are all part of the journey. Thinking about it this way will take the mounting pressure off finding “The One” and you’ll be able to relax, enjoy the experience and let the best version of you shine.

Join Guardian Soulmates today and start meeting like-minded connections. 

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Jean Smith, anthropologist, author and flirting expert, offers her advice for minimising feelings of self-consciousness on a date, but putting the energy on the other person.

How to avoid feeling self-conscious on a date - YouTube

Join Guardian Soulmates today and start meeting like-minded connections. 

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