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Hacking Tinder: This Vancouver-based business helps people looking for love online

Started in 2018, the company hires photographers in Vancouver, Kelowna, Los Angeles and Seattle.

For those tentatively dipping their toes into Vancouver’s online dating scene again and thinking maybe that their two-year-old bathroom selfie isn’t cutting it anymore, there’s a local company that specializes in authentically revamping your online dateability. 

Justin Veenema created Photos for Tinder in 2018 with the goal of getting people, who had nearly given up on online dating, back into the scene.

Over time, Veenema found a good-looking photo, while helpful, was not the recipe for matches. Luckily, Veenema’s background lies in marketing and analytics so, by creating panels to analyze the decisions of many left and right swipes, he was able to zero in on the match-making formula.

"The best photos that work on any dating app, are actually not when the person's looking really cool and looking really badass,” Veenema said in a recent interview with Vancouver Is Awesome. “It's actually when they're laughing, and having fun and smiling and really authentically being themselves."

'The sexiest thing on the planet Earth'

Getting an authentic, toothy smile can sometimes be a challenge in a photoshoot, Veenema said. He explained that many of his clients seek his services because online dating has been such a bad experience they feel like they have no choice but to try something new.

"They're in kind of a vulnerable state,” Veenema said. “They're not like, 'Oh, I can't wait to have a photoshoot.' They're going into this less than enthused."

This can be especially challenging for male clients but that’s where the rapport between the client and the photographer comes into play, Veenema said. 

"Guys, I think we're just taught not to really laugh and smile, like freely. I don't know what it is," he added. "The biggest thing is smile, show your teeth. It is the sexiest thing on the planet Earth when you're confident."

Photos not just for Tinder

Of the people who use Photos for Tinder, Veenema said it's about 80 per cent men and 20 per cent women; however, most women use the photos in professional pursuits like their personal brand or websites. 

“Most people don't really have the opportunity to get good photos of themselves, more particularly guys,” Veenema continued. "For a lot of guys, we just kind of use a mishmash of old photos that someone snapped of us at one time.”

Photos for Tinder1
Photos for Tinder was created in 2018 with the goal of getting people, who had nearly given up on online dating, back into the scene. By Photos for Tinder

While some might raise a judgmental eyebrow at the seemingly vain nature of Photos for Tinder, Veenema maintained the work comes from a place of caring.

“I actually get to help really, really amazing men and women in this area of their life that is wrecking their confidence,” he said. “Not being able to find love is a really devastating feeling.”

A strict authenticity policy

Judging a person on photos and a profile they create can be a gamble especially in a world where Photoshop exists. However, Photos for Tinder has a strict authenticity policy. 

“We will never try to make someone look better than they actually do,” Veenema said, adding he has had the odd request to "make it look like" a client has more hair than they actually do or appear slimmer.

"We will straight up just not work with those clients because there's no point in cat-fishing. You're gonna meet these people eventually," he said.

Getting to know you

If you’ve ever stared blankly at the flashing cursor point when figuring out how to sum up your entire personality in 100 words or less, there’s help for that too.

Last year Veenema brought on a professional copywriter who creates one-of-a-kind, tongue-in-cheek bios for clients based on their answers to a personal questionnaire.  

“It goes through everything from their interests, and their tastes, and what they like, and don't like, to the type of people that they're interested in and their goals for dating,” Veenema explained.

Over the last few years, Veenema has been able to hire photographers in Kelowna, Los Angeles and Seattle to help revamp many online dating profiles. 

In Vancouver, photoshoot locations include Gastown, a photographer favourite for its mix of old-school charm, exposed brick walls and colourful alleyways. There’s also Metrotown for outdoorsy shots and Canada Place for its up-scale architecture.