The following is a guest post by Joe Buchoff. Joe wrote this guest post for Alex and Playing with Fire to share the biggest thing he’s learned in his time as a professional dating profile photographer. He’s helped over 100 guys get more matches and more dates by taking better photos of them for their dating profiles.

We all know your Tinder profile pics matter most (and the same is true on the other best dating apps). It’s pretty common knowledge for people coming to this site. Alex does a good job researching and articulating what he’s found works, and what doesn’t.

I’ve worked with guys of many different ages, from 20’s to 50’s, of different ethnicities and of different styles. I have learned a lot along the way about what works and what doesn’t.

And with enough experience in anything, you gain a deeper understanding. I’ve consolidated what makes a good photo into one concept. I figured I’d share this concept and explain it through some of the photos from guys I’ve helped.

I call it, “The Paparazzi Factor”.

Imagine a celebrity… let’s pick one that is also attractive because that’s half of what “The Paparazzi Factor” is. As a self-improving man you should always be improving your physique, fashion and grooming – that’s half the battle.

Some celebrities are ugly, like Danny Davito, but a huge amount of celebrities are attractive compared to the general population. Let’s pick an attractive one so we can see all aspects of The Paparazzi Factor.

Paparazzi Factor: 10/10

Why does this photo look so good?

It’s not just how attractive Chris Evans is.

Paparazzi Factor: 0/10

As you can see here, Chris can also be in a very unflattering photo.

What’s good about the first one?

  • He’s natural, not posed. Just candid, unaware of the camera
  • It’s a good camera (background is blurry)
  • He’s got an attractive facial and body pose – relaxed and confident
  • He looks good (good physique, solid grooming, good fashion)

What’s bad about the second one?

  • He’s natural but it’s an extremely unflattering photo – his pose is awkward and his facial expression looks like he just smelled something horrible
  • He’s also in sweatpants and a random t-shirt. Horrible fashion choice
  • The background being 100% sharp and in focus makes it look “cheap.” A blurred background would make it feel higher quality.

That’s what makes up The Paparazzi Factor. Natural and candid, plus good physique, fashion and grooming, plus a good photo. “Good photo” means the background is blurred but the subject is in focus + good composition/framing. This is teachable and achievable with a recent smartphone. I’ve put tips at the end on how to learn this after I show some good and bad examples to make “The Paparazzi Factor” super clear.

Even though the first one of Chris Evans was taken in really bad lighting (I actually had to tinker with it using an AI retouching program to make it look good) there was enough good stuff going on in the photo that it still looks great.

This is something I do for all my clients on a photoshoot and in this article I’ll share how you can do it for yourself with either your cellphone or a good camera if you have one.

When I start to work with a client, I have them send me the photos they’re using on their profiles already. I’ve ranked these photos from worst to best, with a 0-10 rating of their Paparazzi Factor, and an explanation why. I’ve also included photos I took with them when we worked together.

And at the end like I shared a few paragraphs above I’ve included some actionable steps so you can get the Paparazzi Factor in your own photos.

Let’s get started

Paparazzi Factor: 0/10

  • The background is very plain and boring
  • The suit is too big
  • The lighting is super harsh
  • His smile looks very posed and inauthentic
  • The photo is too sharp, taken with a low quality camera

Paparazzi Factor: 0/10

  • Very unflattering angle
  • He’s very posed
  • Very very cheesy smile, makes him look like a clown
  • It’s a selfie
  • The background is very bland
  • The shirt is very generic and too flashy of a color
  • There’s no background separation (when the background is blurry but the person is sharp and in focus, it makes a photo look high quality)

Paparazzi Factor: 0/10

  • The background is very plain and boring
  • His expression is too posed
  • His smile doesn’t look like a genuine reaction to a joke or being happy but “hey look I’m smiling for the camera”
  • The lighting is too dark
  • The quality of the camera (background separation/blur nonexistent) is very low

Paparazzi Factor: 1/10

  • It’s a mirror selfie…
  • It’s in a bathroom
  • His hair is nice but his expression is very posed
  • The lighting is very harsh too
  • Also there’s no background separation

Paparazzi Factor: 1/10

  • It’s very posed, both in body language and facial expression
  • The background is very cluttered and random
  • The lighting is very bad
  • The photo is very grainy. It’s not the photo resolution, that was quite sufficient, probably just taken with an old cell phone
  • There’s no background separation

Paparazzi Factor: 1/10

  • He’s probably at a cool concert trying to show he does fun things
  • You can’t tell where he is though, what he’s seeing
  • And it’s very blurry and grainy
  • Plus it’s a selfie

Paparazzi Factor: 1/10

  • The background is very out of place and not showing anything exciting
  • His pose doesn’t show off his body and it’s also very out of place from the environment
  • He’s very posed, not natural at all
  • There’s no background separation

Paparazzi Factor: 2/10

  • His smile is super cheesy and posed
  • His expression is very feminine with the head tilt and body pose – like a girl posing for Instagram
  • The lighting is very harsh
  • The photo is low quality and “crunchy.” Way too processed
  • No background separation

Paparazzi Factor: 2/10

  • There’s some background separation, but it’s very imperfect – Portrait mode on smartphones requires you to be still for it to detect the edges well… he must have been moving around, or using an older phone
  • He’s showing nothing here, just his apartment – which isn’t bad but not exceptional
  • He’s just sitting, not doing anything cool
  • He looks posed, not natural
  • It’s a selfie

Paparazzi Factor: 3/10

  • He looks good, and his fashion is on point for his look
  • The truck in the background is distracting
  • He’s very posed
  • The lighting sucks though… he’s too dark but the background is well-lit
  • The photo doesn’t tell a story, he’s doing nothing
  • The fact that it’s not a selfie is a bonus here for sure, upping its score a couple points

Paparazzi Factor: 3/10

  • It’s a gym selfie
  • It’s also overlit
  • And there’s no background separation
  • He does have a good gym style though
  • And he has a good physique

Paparazzi Factor: 4/10

  • First off, to clarify it’s only okay if it’s later in the profile. That way it would be clear which one is him. If it’s the first photo it would be bad, since the girl swiping wouldn’t know which one was him (the one on the right)
  • The lighting is off – the background is well lit but they’re both too dark
  • The leaves behind him are distracting
  • There’s also no background separation
  • It’s a cool activity, which makes up for some of the faults making it an okay photo
  • It shows he has friends and is active
  • Also it’s very candid and natural

Paparazzi Factor: 4/10

  • The view in the background is nice, but half of the photo is a bland wall of a shed taking a huge amount away from the photo
  • Also he’s a little under-lit
  • And his shirt is a little wrinkled. If he just pulled it down it would look better
  • Also he’s very posed
  • And there’s no background separation

Paparazzi Factor: 5/10

  • This one is approaching good, there’s a lot of good things in it
  • His dog is adorable and not wandering away
  • The lights are fun and interesting
  • But the lighting is very off. It’s very hazy, which accentuates the grey in his hair
  • Plus the angle accentuates his hairline receding. I met him in person, and his photos came out very good. His hairline can be made to look good with a subtle top-down angle, and if he tilts his head slightly down
  • Also he’s posing for the camera, not candid and natural
  • And there’s no background separation

Paparazzi Factor: 6/10*

  • This one also is approaching “good”
  • The main issue I have with it is the harsh lighting, which makes his face look sweaty and orange
  • And I also have an issue with his super cheesy smile.
  • He’s posing for the camera, a bit more natural than the ones before but not quite there
  • The setting is like a picnic, very romantic and fun
  • Plus the way he’s laying down makes it look like he’s chill and relaxed
  • Also it’s clear it was taken by someone else, which adds a lot of value to the photo
  • You’ll see one of the photos near the end I took of him make him look like the guy in a bestselling romance novel… he has a lot of potential. The lighting and expression here take a lot away from what could be a really good photo though

Paparazzi Factor: 6/10

  • The background is cool – it shows he likes to travel. Looks like old European buildings in the background
  • I’m not a fan of his face position (if he tilted his head slightly down, he’d have a sharper jawline)
  • or the lighting (way too orange)
  • And he’s pretty posed

Paparazzi Factor: 6/10

  • It’s kinda funny with the donut, shows he doesn’t take himself too seriously
  • Also it’s a fun photo. He genuinely looks like he’s enjoying himself
  • He’s candid and natural
  • He is a bit dark though, and he’s small in the frame so it’s not optimal, but it’s good
  • Also there’s no background separation. Everything is very sharp and crunchy

Paparazzi Factor: 7/10

  • He has good-fitting clothes that match his activity
  • It shows something about him – that he’s active and goes outside
  • It’s not candid, but it’s close and it feels warm and inviting, not posed in a stiff way

Paparazzi Factor: 7/10

  • His clothes fit well
  • He looks very natural and candid. “Caught in the moment”
  • He’s showing something about himself – that he plays guitar
  • Showing off a hobby, especially a musical instrument is very attractive to girls
  • I don’t like the background though, which limits how amazing this photo could be

Paparazzi Factor: 7/10

  • He is wearing good-fitting clothes
  • The background looks really cool. Looks like he’s camping or hiking
  • It says something about him – shows he’s active
  • There’s a little background separation which adds to the quality. Might be taken with a “prosumer” hobby camera like the Canon Rebel
  • I don’t like his expression. It was taken at an awkward moment.
  • Plus he looks like he’s posing for the camera, not just being natural and candid

Paparazzi Factor: 7/10

  • His fashion is interesting, he has a few layers
  • He’s looking off in a way that seems candid and natural
  • The colors of the background are vibrant
  • It doesn’t say too much about him, which is a detriment, but it’s still good

Paparazzi Factor: 8/10

  • He’s top tier in the physique department
  • The view is cool
  • He shows he has access to a cool rooftop pool, probably not a public area. Either he networks well or he lives in a really nice apartment
  • The background is slightly blurry – making the photo look more professional. As a photographer I can tell it’s portrait mode from a phone rather than a professional camera due to subtleties in the edges but most people wouldn’t know
  • I only have subtle critiques of the photo, nothing major

This is the same guy in one of the 7/10 photos.

Paparazzi Factor: 9/10

  • It’s a flattering angle
  • There’s high background separation
  • It looks very natural and candid
  • He looks very relaxed
  • It doesn’t say too much about him, which is why it’s not a 10/10 but it does say he likes coffee and can relax
  • The chill vibe he gives off makes girls comfortable without sacrificing his sexual vibe

This is the same guy in one of the 3/10 photos.

Paparazzi Factor: 10/10

  • He’s got a very niche style which works very well for him
  • He’s doing something interesting
  • He’s sharing a bit about his interests – that he likes pool
  • It’s well-lit and well-composed
  • It’s taken with good gear, which makes a naturally high background separation
  • The perspective of his hand coming towards the camera make it blurry, which also makes the photo interesting to look at
  • His pose is casual and candid… like a paparazzi took it

Paparazzi Factor: 9.5/10

  • He’s got a great sense of style with his necklace, shirts, earring and hat
  • You can tell he likes to go out from the people in the background
  • His facial expression is flirty and a tad playful
  • There’s high background separation
  • He’s got a very natural and candid pose, like he just noticed a paparazzi taking his photo
  • It tells a bit of a story but not too much which is why it’s not a 10/10

This is the same guy in one of the 3/10 photos – the gym selfie one.

Paparazzi Factor: 10/10

  • He’s playing an instrument which is very attractive to girls
  • His facial expression is pure candid, no posing here, just caught in the moment
  • The angle the photo is taken at makes the perspective interesting, the hand close to the camera gets blurry and both ends of the guitar get blurry too
  • He’s well-lit
  • The photo is well composed, drawing your eye to both his hands and his face

Paparazzi Factor: 10/10

  • His facial expression is super playful
  • His pose is very natural and relaxed. Purposeful for sure but not stiff and posed. Could be he noticed a paparazzi taking a photo and decided to be playful
  • His style is on point – his shirt fits well, his sunglasses look good, his necklace is interesting but not too flashy
  • His hair is well-done but not too try-hard
  • The belt gives a very sexual vibe without overdoing it
  • The water cup in the foreground shows that he’s in public which makes him seem super confident to be able to pose with his belt like this at a restaurant
  • There’s high background separation

This is the same guy in one of the 6/10 photos – the one with the “*” next to the score.

Paparazzi Factor: 11/10

  • He’s got a great physique and is not afraid to show it
  • The blurred background adds to the dreaminess of this photo
  • His expression and body language is super candid. Even though I was telling him exactly what to do it doesn’t look posed. Like a paparazzi snuck into his room
  • The dark lighting with orange hues make it look like candlelight
  • The wine makes it super romantic
  • The clothes taken off next to him remind the girl who’s swiping of what it might be like to be in his room, about to have sex – but in a very tasteful way

Bad: 0-2/10

Okay: 3-6/10

Good: 7-8/10

Great! 9+/10

Here are some commonalities of bad photos

  1. Not well framed, out of frame, unflattering angle
  2. Selfies bring down the quality
  3. Outfits that don’t fit or don’t match
  4. Shows nothing about you
  5. Backgrounds that are bland or unflattering
  6. Very posed
  7. They have an ugly or awkward facial expression
  8. They have an ugly or awkward pose
  9. The photos are framed weirdly

Here are some commonalities of okay photos

  1. Some minor things done right, but big mistakes like:
  1. bad lighting,
  2. a bad angle,
  3. A bad (cheesy or posed) facial expression, or too-posed body language
  4. Something distracting in the background

Here are some commonalities of good photos

  1. Most things done right
  2. Most say something about you
  3. They are well posed to make it look candid, natural
  4. They aren’t on portrait mode or with professional equipment, which makes it look a bit cheaper
  5. There may be some other subtle flaws here and there but nothing huge

Here’s what the great photos have in common:

  1. They all show something about you – not just a photo of you looking good but doing nothing
  2. Many of them are sexual or flirty
  3. The people are dressed well in them
  4. The photos are either taken with professional gear (I took all of them myself except the first one) or with a recent smartphone on portrait mode
  5. They all look candid, not posed
  6. Only one or two minor flaws, almost everything adds to the photo

You’ll notice some trends that raise the Paparazzi Factor.

  • Better composition of the photos are (where everything is placed, how big/small things are)
  • Higher background separation (better quality camera, or recent high end smartphone with portrait mode)
  • More natural and candid… “caught in the moment” like a paparazzi just happened to snap something
  • The more of a story the photo tells about you – the more you can look at it and say something about who you are – the better the photo

The ideal is a “paparazzi photo” where it looks like you’re a cool, good looking person doing a cool thing and someone just happened to take a really great photo of it.

Now how do you get great photos with a Paparazzi Factor of 9+?

You’ll have to have access to a good camera or a recent phone (Galaxy S22 Ultra, iPhone 14 Pro, iPhone 13 Pro etc.) using portrait mode.

Some people I know even buy a professional camera and figure out how to take photos themselves. I help people too, by taking them on a photoshoot ( but if you want to learn how to improve your photos yourself, here are the steps:

First I’d upgrade my camera.

You can either go with a recent top-of-the-line smartphone, or a professional camera if you’re extra motivated.


  • Get the newest flagship phone from Apple or Samsung. They both are the best in cameras on their phones, about equal in quality, beating the competition. At the moment, it’s the Galaxy S22 Ultra from Samsung or the iPhone 14 Pro. The Google Pixel 7 Pro just got announced at the time I’m writing this, and Google Pixel phones often match Samsung and Apple in camera quality – another good option when it comes out.

Professional Camera

  • Get a Canon EOS RP. It’s a great camera at a good price, plus it’s a mirrorless camera, the technology that’s replacing DSLRs. More user friendly and more features. In fact Canon stopped making their DSLRs and is only making mirrorless cameras now.
  • Get a “Canon RF 50mm f/1.8” lens. Just search that on Amazon. This lens will give you great image quality and high background blur. It’s also an easy lens to use for beginners.

I’d then watch a bunch of Youtube instructional videos on posing and photography.

If you go the cellphone route, search for “Portrait Mode Photography Tutorial” and find some good instruction videos there.

If you go the professional camera route, search for “Lifestyle Photography Tutorial” and find some good instruction videos there.

I love Peter McKinnon. He has some good tips and content – not all of it will apply but a lot of it will.

For posing, search for “Candid Photography Poses” and watch Peter Hurley’s video on the “squinch.”

Then find a friend who’s down to learn with you. Go out with him and take photos of each other with your new phone or camera setup, applying the tips and tricks you just learned on Youtube, and keeping in mind the Paparazzi Factor.

Every time you come home and check out the photos on your laptop, rate the Paparazzi Factor in your mind of the photos you just took.

How’s the background blur? Do you look natural and “caught-in-the-moment” in your photos? Are you telling a story? Is the background interesting but not distracting?

Over time with practice you’ll get good at it.

Soon enough you’ll be good enough with it to get solid photos with a 9+ Paparazzi Factor and you’ll be getting more matches and going on more dates!

One of the huge plusses about the Paparazzi Factor is that it carries over to Instagram too. Instagram has more leeway for po

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