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updated 1/30/2013 3:21:25 PM ET 2013-01-30T20:21:25

Valentine's Day is just weeks away, and that means a surge in online dating activity. We can't guarantee you'll find true love by Feb. 14. But a good photo in your dating profile certainly ups your chance of making a connection.

"People won't read your profile if they don't like your picture," Giles Fabris, CEO of Look Better Online, a photography service that specializes in  online dating   photos, told TechNewsDaily.

While most online daters don't go the professional photographer route, they can take better photos by using similar techniques, even using a cellphone camera. First of all, no self-takes. Find a friend with a decent smartphone and shoot a lot of pictures.

Avoid filters

You can use your smartphone, but beware of filters and other editing tools. "You can make anything look good with  Instagram ," Fabris said. "But you can also make somebody look very different than who they are."

Filters that darken a photo, such as Instagram's new Mayfair, can hide blemishes, and others can make someone with pale skin look like they just returned from Aruba. But if the photo doesn't look like you, don't use it, Fabris said. 

Don't use a flash

Using the flash on your phone adds about seven years to your age. And whether you're 24 or 54, that's not a good thing.

"Soft light can hide wrinkles, blemishes, devil eyes," Christian Rudder of OKTrends, a research division of dating site  OKCupid , wrote in a blog post. According to the dating site's analysis of more than 500,000 profile photos, a 28-year-old who used a flash is as attractive as a 35-year-old who didn't.

Instead, take your photo in natural daylight. Late afternoon is the most flattering time of day to shoot your photos, OKTrends found when it compared photo timestamps with attractiveness ratings. This is also the time of day that professional photographers prefer.

Focus on your face

Draw attention to your face by making it crystal clear while making the background blurry — an effect is called shallow depth of field. Photographers have expensive lenses to create this effect. But you can get a similar effect with  Instagram . In this case, it's acceptable to use a filter because you're not altering your own appearance.

Use the blur tool (it looks like a teardrop) to highlight your face, leaving the rest of the photo slightly out of focus. If you don't want your photo to be square, try Snapseed, a free photo-editing app for iOS and Android that offers a range of shapes and sizes and also a more precise shallow-depth-of-field tool.

Look like yourself

Fabris tells his subjects to wear something they'd wear on a date. And he stressed the importance of looking like yourself.

"If you're always smiling, smile," he said.

But if you're tempted to look away from the camera — a common profile pose — consider your age. "If you're under 20 or so, you look interesting," he said. "But if you're over 30, you might just look sad."

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