Dating apps are part of the fabric of modern dating—and the fact that they’re so commonplace in our culture has done wonders for destigmatizing this totally valid way of meeting a partner. Still, it’s possible to have too much of a good thing right at your fingertips. And the seemingly endless stream of potential matches in today’s app-laden dating world can make swiping feel exhausting and overwhelming. That’s why creating a unique, personal dating profile is so important: It can help you cut through the noise and attract the matches you actually want.

Whether you’ve just started dating again after a breakup or have been dating around for some time now, sifting through profiles that aren’t a fit and lame responses can feel discouraging to even the most romantic among us. But there’s a lot you can do while crafting your profile to tailor your experience—namely, using it as an opportunity to show off a few different sides of your personality and have some fun while you’re at it.

What are the elements of a great dating profile?

According to Susan Trombetti, matchmaker and CEO of Exclusive Matchmaking, a great dating profile will show off who you are and entice others to want to date you. It’s your chance to make a first impression, so it’s critical to put your heart into it. “Think of your profile as a preview to your first date, so nothing should be too heavy, serious, or negative, but it should tell an honest story of who you are,” she says.

“Think of your profile as a preview to your first date, so nothing should be too heavy, serious, or negative, but it should tell an honest story of who you are.” —Susan Trombetti, matchmaker

The key pieces of a standout dating profile include an intro that conveys that story in a compelling yet concise way, as well as answers to prompts that reflect your core values and interests, as well as what you’re looking to find on the app. It’ll also include clear photos that reflect how you naturally look and the kinds of experiences you enjoy.

What should I write on my dating profile?

To figure out exactly how to tell your story on your dating profile, Trombetti recommends coming up with three pieces of information “that you think define the true you.” Are you the oldest child of six siblings, or did you grow up on a houseboat, which perhaps gave you a strong sense of adventure or independence? These are just examples to help you consider what the defining experiences of your life may be outside of your job, and how you might distill these experiences into a couple sentences that you include in your dating profile

You can also make a list of the kinds of traits and values you’re looking for in a partner, and consider what facets of your lived experience might reflect similar qualities, suggests certified matchmaker Shaneeka McCray, law of attraction coach and founder of HelpMeet Club, a dating service for professional singles. For example, let’s say you’re looking for someone spontaneous or adventurous; if you once took a solo camping trip on a whim, you might include that detail in a prompt answer or share a photo from the trip as a conversation starter, given that it shows off your own adventurous spirit.

“People may be nervous or struggle with how to reach out, so making sure your profile gives people an opportunity to ask you a question is really important.” —Jess Carbino, PhD, relationship expert

It’s also a good idea to include answers to prompts that encourage people to ask questions and find out more, says relationship expert Jess Carbino, PhD, former sociologist for the dating apps Tinder and Bumble. “People may be nervous or struggle with how to reach out, so making sure your profile gives people an opportunity to ask you a question is really important,” she says.

To do this, include a few details about yourself that offer an easy “in” for conversation. Maybe you were born and raised in the Bay Area and have a lifelong allegiance to the Golden State Warriors; highlighting this somewhere in the profile can invite others to connect with you about basketball, whether it’s to say they’re also fans or for some playful razzing. If you took a trip to Italy this summer and learned how to cook a delicious tagliatelle from someone’s nonna, you could say something like, “Ask me about my secret to making the best pasta ever” as a direct invitation for others to reach out and engage on a topic you’d love to discuss.

Below, the experts share additional tips for how to personalize your dating profile and attract the kinds of people you actually want to meet.

13 tips for creating a dating profile that’ll help you get off the dating apps

1. Tailor your profile to the app

There’s a dating app for pretty much everyone’s preference and dating style, and each has unique features. Adelle Kelleher, certified matchmaker and founder of Coaching Hearts Consulting, recommends tailoring your profile to match the app for which you’re creating it. For example, Hinge offers lots of written prompts, so it’s important to include several on your profile, while Tinder is mostly a visual medium so you’ll want to have plenty of great pictures to share.

2. Write an introduction that tells your story

Most apps offer a space to include a short introduction or summary of yourself—filling this out is crucial, both Kelleher and Trombetti say, because it’s like a topline view of what you’re all about. This is where you can share the details you’ve brainstormed above about what really makes you you, and create an invitation for someone to message you based on your interests.

3. Pick prompts that highlight the traits you’re looking for in a partner

Most apps require (or suggest) that you pick several writing prompts and answer them with details about yourself, so you’re not just relying on your introductory paragraph and photos to get discussions going.

Some common prompts include, “Dating me is like…”, “Green flags I look for are… ”, “My perfect Sunday morning is… ”, “My most irrational fear is… ”, and “My perfect first date is… ” They’re ways to spark conversation and share more about yourself while allowing others to share about themselves, too.

It’s best to pick the prompts that’ll allow you to include as much of what you’re looking for in a partner as possible, says McCray. For instance, if you’re looking for someone who likes to dine out at fancy restaurants, perhaps you pick the prompt that allows you to describe your ideal first date at the hottest reservation in town. Or, if you’re trying to find someone who’s particularly independent and career-driven, you might choose the prompt that allows you to list these kinds of attributes as your key green flags. The idea is to use your ideal partner as your north star, and choose prompts that match the traits you’re seeking out, adds McCray.

4. Be positive

We’re all multi-faceted beings who aren’t happy all the time, but airing out your frustrations and wasting precious space on your profile by sharing what you don’t want from a partner can make you seem overly negative and can be a turn-off to others, says McCray.

For instance, answering a prompt like, “Swipe left if you like to wake up early and hate cooking at home” doesn’t do much to target the kinds of matches you are seeking out. A better use of this space would be to say, “Swipe right if you like to sleep in and prepare a great brunch on the weekends.” After all, “you’ll attract what you give out,” says McCray, “so, it’s important not to list the things you don’t want.”

5. Use a mix of photos to convey who you are

The purpose of photos on an app profile is to represent your full image—not just your face, abs, cleavage, or any single part of you. That’s why it’s a good idea to pick at least three to five photos (Kelleher says no more than eight) that reflect your full face and body, and demonstrate your interests and values.

What does this look like in practice? If you’re a pet lover, include a picture of you cuddling your dog. Photos from a recent trip are great to include as a means to show off your sense of adventure, and photos at a family gathering are a smart way to demonstrate how close you are with your brood. These are just a few examples, and what’s true to you might be completely different; the point is to ensure the mix of photos you include reflects different aspects of your core personality.

6. Include only accurate photos

You expect others to be honest on their profiles, so it’s important to extend the same courtesy their way. That means not using outdated photos that look nothing like you; aim for photos taken within the past year or so that match your current appearance, says Kelleher, and nix any heavy filters or face- or body-distorting poses.

Don’t have any photos you feel great about? McCray says that means it’s time for a photoshoot. Put on an outfit you love or that reflects an element of your personality, and enlist a friend to capture some shots while you’re out and about; this could be a friend with a camera or just one with a smartphone. “I had a client who is really athletic and that’s part of her personality, so in her photoshoot, she had on some athletic clothing,” says McCray, “and that really worked for her profile because it went with her storyline.”

7. Minimize your use of group shots, sunglasses, and selfies

Nobody wants to play, “Where’s Waldo?” when looking at a dating profile, so be sure it’s clear where you are in all your photos, too. If you post a picture of your ultimate frisbee team posing at a team dinner but you’re all the way in the back, someone might just keep scrolling because they can’t tell which person in the photo you are. Or worse, they might assume you’re a different person in the photo and be disappointed when they learn you’re someone else, says McCray.

Group photos are a good way to show that you like to hang out with friends, that you’re social, or that you enjoy certain group activities, but you want to make sure you’re easily identifiable, says Kelleher. You might try blurring others’ faces, or making sure to pick photos that only include a couple other people and where you’re prominent in the shot (and include them alongside solo shots), so it’s clear who you are.

By the same token, avoid pictures where you’re wearing sunglasses or a large hat. You want your whole face to be visible (in your first photo at least), so others swiping can get a good look, says Dr. Carbino.

She also recommends cutting down on the selfie shots. Too many can give the appearance that you’re vain or self-absorbed. Not to mention, the selfie angle cuts out the opportunity for background details that can shed light on what you like to do and where you like to go.

8. Smile in your main profile photo

Include at least one photo that shows off your smile. This way, you’ll come off approachable and kind, which Dr. Carbino says is essential in the context of dating. After all, you want to seem accessible to the strangers looking at your profile, and including a photo without a smile erases one key opportunity to do that.

9. Include your deal-breakers

Many apps have places to indicate other aspects of yourself beyond prompts and photos. This section typically includes checking boxes about certain preferences, like your plans related to children, your typical consumption of alcohol and drugs, whether you want a long-term or short-term relationship, if you’re looking for monogamy, and your religion and political affiliation.

If any of these boxes reflect key deal-breakers (let’s say, you won’t date someone of a different religion, or you won’t date someone who smokes), it’s especially important to fill them out. While, sure, you might normally avoid discussing topics like politics or religion on a first date, Trombetti says it’s important to highlight these items on your profile if they constitute absolute musts and are key to who you are. This way, you won’t find yourself weeding through ill-fitting matches or wasting time on people you wouldn’t seriously consider.

10. Be specific in what you write

Because there are so many people on dating apps, you want to stand out. You’re not alone in your love of SoulCycle and traveling, for instance, so Dr. Carbino and Kelleher say you should highlight why specifically you enjoy any commonly beloved activities you mention.

Maybe you like the uninterrupted time to yourself an hour-long spin class provides, or the city lights in Paris make your heart swell, or you’re mainly into traveling because of the chance to try local cuisines or collect unique skin-care products. In any case, it’s better to go more specific than general in your prompt answers and tidbits.

11. Use humor, but sparingly

You want to make an impression and be memorable, and using humor on your profile is one way to do that. But Kelleher cautions that some jokes won’t land with potential matches because everyone finds different things funny.

“Sarcasm, self-deprecating humor, and politically heated jokes can be great ice-breakers, but only if you know your audience and are confident that they will understand your tone and point of view,” says Kelleher. You don’t want to risk coming off rude, insensitive, or confusing people because you only have so much time and space to make an impression on a dating profile.

However, if having a partner who gets your sarcasm is at the top of your list, you’ll want to highlight that—while still aiming to do so in a way that’s not potentially alienating. “If you can find a way to allow your unique humor to shine without fear of misinterpretation, then, by all means, go for it,” says Kelleher, “but otherwise, proceed with caution.”

12. Be honest

There’s no point in lying on your profile about what you like and want because that defeats its purpose. You want to tailor your profile to find the best matches for you (not great matches for someone different from you), and you can’t do that if you’re not representing yourself accurately. “If you hate partying, don’t say that you love to go out every weekend,” says Kelleher, “because you want to use your profile and descriptions to attract the right partner.”

13. Telegraph your values

If you’re on the apps to find a life partner, Dr. Carbino says you want to highlight the values you’re looking for. Strong, lasting relationships are built on shared values, so you want to find a match whose compatibility with you extends beyond a shared love of, say, tacos or hiking.

So, how might you do this? Without writing a novel, Dr. Carbino recommends “trying to frame certain aspects of your life and the choices you made around your values.” For example, maybe your high school friend group organizes an annual summer trip; you could describe this on your profile in a way that highlights your loyalty and how important those friendships are to you. Or maybe you have core values around ambition and striving to make a name for yourself in your career. If that’s the case, you might share a recent career win that showcases how important your job is to your identity and helps attract someone with a similar ethos around their work.