All the research suggests that people using a dating service need to know what you look like before they'll be really ready to approach you and start emailing. More, if you haven't provided an image, people will imagine that's because you aren't comfortable with the way you look. Bottom line, including a photo makes it up to ten times more likely that someone will contact you.
Focus on Face
But what sort of photo to choose? Research suggests that someone looking for a partner with a dating service makes their decisions by mainly looking at the face - so choose a close-in shot, one where your features are clear. You may want to show just a little of your body so that a potential partner can judge your build, but largely a head and shoulders shot is best.
It's also important to seem friendly and welcoming - would you want to contact someone who was looking serious or nervous? No, don't fall about with laughter - and don't use a shot where you're obviously drunk. Do smile at the camera; it'll seem as if you're smiling directly at the person who's looking at your profile - and that's very attractive.
You'll also want to make sure what you're wearing reflects you at your everyday best. It's a bad idea to choose a shot where you're very glammed up - it can look overdone or just too seductive; at the same time, a shot where you're in your oldest, raggiest clothes isn't going to show you to best advantage. Be smart-casual, tidy and well-groomed.
Choose a 'Real' Photo
Of course, even given these guidelines, you're going to be nervous about posting your photo onto a dating service website. It's always nerve-wracking to show yourself others - particularly when those others are people you want to like you, maybe even love you.
So it may be a temptation to choose a shot taken many years ago, or one that makes you look younger (slimmer, more muscled) than you really are.
But choosing an over-flattering photo misses the whole point. You're looking for someone with whom you can have a close relationship - and that means someone who's attracted to you for who you are. So be confident, believe in yourself - and choose a shot that looks like you!
One good way is to pick out a few snaps that you like, then show those to a friend you trust to be honest with you - preferably one of the gender that you want to attract. Then choose the shot that your friend picks as most attractive.
Make it Look Good
Finally, a quick word about the technicalities.
Nowadays most cameras, even phone cameras, give a good image. But if your photo isn't of high quality, then it won't show you to best advantage on the dating service website. So check that the focus is sharp and the image is neither too dark nor too overexposed.
You should also avoid shots that contain obscene images, advertising, private information or contact details.