Being photogenic refers to the ability of appearing very attractive in photos. It is important to grasp that being naturally beautiful or striking does not necessarily translate to being photogenic in photos. Being photogenic is about awareness of how to put your best self forward, and knowing how to express your charisma for the camera. These are learned techniques, including applying your knowledge of the best backgrounds, lighting, and positioning for a good photo. In fact, it’s not unusual for “Miss Photogenic” to be a different person from “Ms Beauty Queen” in beauty pageants because the photogenic subject has learned how to work the camera best.
- Aim to learn the following techniques so that they become second nature and you cease to be conscious of using them and just “do it”.
- The more opportunities you have to practice in front of the camera, the better.
- The two dimensional nature of photographs causes us to lose depth perception; for some people, this also loses what makes you attractive in real life.
- Focus on what you’re wearing. Even if you’re not being photographed, knowing how to present yourself in a way that makes the most of your assets is important. Clothing style and color will impact the photogenic appeal of your photographs.
- Select the right clothes. Color matters for a good photo. Patterns can overwhelm you, horizontal stripes can make you appear too wide (the two dimensional aspect already does this anyway, so don’t add to it!), and wearing a single tone can cause you to blend together and appear bland and undefined. Very-closely-spaced stripes or patterns can create weird artifacts in digital photography and photographic processes such as printing. Solids and neutrals work best.
- Wear clothes with colors that suit you. Certain colors complement certain skin tones, while others tend to bring out the worst. Also, take into consideration your hair color. You may have a feel for which colors you look best in, but if not, do some research on colors that suit your complexion and work it out through trial-and-error.
- Avoid red, black or white. Digital cameras can have difficulties with red, and black and white present too much by way of contrast.
Mind your complexion and grooming. There is a lot you can do to improve on what nature has gifted you with by way of appearance. Fixing up common complexion errors is important for photos.
- Hide your blemishes. The bad thing about photographs is that because they’re simply frozen images of one angle in an instant in time, they can’t show all your good attributes. The good thing about them is that you can easily hide certain features you don’t like. Be careful with makeup tones: makeup colors appear more intense in photos. There are special principles and techniques for photo modeling that are different from those for looking nice in person (though they’ll likely look just overdone, not bizarre, in person); learn and use them for critical applications.
- Keep the shine down. It is so important to keep the shine down in the ever-troublesome T-zone – the top of your nose and your forehead. While this especially important on a warm day, even the coolest among us may get a little sweaty when faced with the lens of a camera.
- Use makeup to cover skin redness, which will stand out in photos.
- A photograph (other than a stereogram) doesn’t actually record the shape of anything but leaves it to be subconsciously inferred from patterns of light and shadow. Shading with makeup (there are guides to this) can make even an oddly misshapen face look conventionally beautiful so long as it is not actually in conflict with the actual light and shadow (ideally, use diffused light that doesn’t make its own defined shadows; in casual photos and everyday appearance you’ll generally look fine).
- Use eye drops to clear redness in your eyes. Staring at a light source for a few moments will reduce your pupil size and reduces the chances of red eye (don’t stare directly at the sun though!). If some preparation is involved in the picture-taking process, however, it’s best not to rely on a flash, particularly on-camera flash, and large pupils are generally considered more attractive.
- Brush your hair into place. Frizzy or loose hairs can appear messy. On the other hand, the hair should not be apparent–not slicked down thin against the skull and then behind the neck in a ponytail.
Keep your face in equilibrium. Look at your face in the mirror. That’s not actually the face which shows in your photograph. Now stare at your own reflection. After some time your face will reach its “normal” appearance, your “equilibrium” face. Now deactivate your eye region and activate your lip region. Don’t clench your teeth; just make sure that your upper and lower jaw molars touch each other. If you smile with your mouth open, don’t let your upper lip expose much of your gums, or let your lower lip cover far over the bottom of your upper teeth. Always smile if your complexion is dark or dull and your smile should be a slight one. At the same time, stress the corners of your eyes and raise your eyebrows a little. Practice this exercise every day before mirror for a few minutes. In one month, it will become a habit whenever someone tries to take a photograph of you.
Work the angles. Camerawork isn’t all a mystery: people who are photographed for a living are keenly aware of which angles and poses work best for them, and they ensure that this is what they present to the camera most times. In addition, there are a few “model’s tricks” you can use to your advantage:
- Determine your best angle. Finding the right angle for your face can be challenging. Experiment using a digital camera so you see the results of each pose immediately. It will very quickly become obvious which angles are most flattering for you. Once you’re aware of this, use the best angles as much as possible in the future.
- The classic model’s pose is to arrange your body three quarters toward the camera with one foot in front of the other and one shoulder closer to the camera than the other. Women tend to do this naturally, but it’s harder for men, who tend to present a square angle front-on to the camera. If you turn your head slightly to the side and look straight ahead, you will appear to be looking straight at the viewer of the photo no matter the viewing angle (like George Washington on the US one dollar bill). Making it appear too like a model isn’t the best pose for everybody, however, and it can look a little overdone when used in a family photo right next to your Uncle Wilbur.
- If sitting, slightly angle yourself.
- Try looking slightly above the camera when the picture is taken. If the photographer is at a lower level look more or less directly forward, not at the camera, so your eyes aren’t mostly closed. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis always used this technique for photographs and portraits. Additionally, it helps reduce the “red eye” effect.
- Lean slightly toward the camera; it adds interest, improves facial definition and helps to minimize the appearance of wrinkles and flabby skin. Just keep your chin tucked down.
Get rid of a double chin. Tilt your head up slightly and try to position yourself so that the camera is a little above, or at, your eye level. This will hide a double chin effectively. You can also put one hand under your chin as though you’re resting your head on your hand (keep the thumb side of your hand out of the camera’s view, if possible). Don’t actually rest any weight on the hand, however, or you will push the skin into an unflattering position. Also, try resting your tongue against the roof of your mouth.
Focus on your posture. Not only does this matter for photos but daily good posture makes everything easier in life, including your confidence. Good posture can dramatically improve your appearance in pictures. Sitting or standing up straight will make you look healthier and more alert and, if in a group setting, and more attractive than your slouching companions. Breathe normally and relax your shoulders. If you usually have bad posture, it may be difficult to stand up straight and not look stiff, so practice this in the mirror, working toward improving your posture in the long term.
Relax. The more comfortable and relaxed you appear, the better the photo will turn out. Many people end up looking odd in photos because they freeze into odd facial expressions with a “say cheese” type of smile on their face. When smiling, try a relaxed closed-mouth smile or an open-mouth smile with the lower lip relaxed and down, not up for a smile that gets oddly narrower toward the middle–practice in front of a mirror. If you’re used to having bad pictures taken of yourself, you probably get nervous in front of the camera, and this can make things even worse. If you know a picture is about to be taken, take a deep breath and exhale naturally, relaxing your arms and shoulders. As you exhale, smile or strike whatever pose is appropriate.
- Don’t hold your breath, either in or out, otherwise you’ll appear as though you’re tense or suffocating.
- If you see the photo coming too late, don’t panic and try to strike a pose. Keep doing what you’re doing and try to ignore the camera. It may not turn out perfectly, but you’ve got a better chance than if the camera catches you quickly trying to change your facial expression.
- Relax your lip (mouth) region and don’t have any delirious thoughts filled with gloom. It’s a natural way to appear fresh and appealing in photographs.
- Don’t be so relaxed that you appear distracted. Distraction or annoyance always shows in the photograph. Just relax and your picture will be perfect.
Think happy thoughts. An unnatural, forced smile can make you look stiff and, frankly, weird. When people are smiling and waiting for a photo to be snapped, their facial muscles can be caught in all sorts of strange positions. To remedy this, try to time your smile so that you don’t have to hold it for too long. Also, imagine something funny (don’t be afraid to laugh a bit, even) or think of someone—your spouse or child, for example—who makes you happy. By doing so, you’ll get a genuine smile. If you don’t like your smile or your teeth, try a more subdued, closed- or partially-closed-mouth smile. Regardless of how you choose to smile, the happier and more relaxed you are, the better.
- Smile with your eyes. Nothing projects happiness and beauty like smiling eyes: a happy, somewhat mischievous expression of the eyes. To achieve this effect, imagine that the camera is a person you have a crush on walking into the room. This will create wider open eyes and a relaxed, three-quarter smile. Think about your crush or lover; this will make you blush making your cheeks rosy red. Chances are you unconsciously do this all the time; the trick is to be able to bring it out on demand, so practice the smiling eyes in front of a mirror, and creating a smile “trigger”.
- Fake it till you make it. People are often photogenic because they like having their picture taken. They are therefore relaxed and happy when the camera appears. If you cannot muster up genuine love of the camera, pretend you like the camera. Imagine the camera is someone you love, a long lost friend, an old flame, your child at age three, or whatever you need to look at the camera lovingly. Try it — it really does work.
Improve the photography situation itself. Whether it’s the location, the photographer, or the after-photo skills, there are some external things you can change to improve your chances of appearing photogenic.
- Pick the right location. Obviously if you’re having your picture taken on vacation, you can’t randomly decide that you want to have your picture taken somewhere else entirely. However, you can guide your photographer to where you want the photos taken. Sometimes, it’s best to have a photo taken against a plain background but if you’re on vacation, make allowances to capture some of the scenery. In this case, try to take it outside with natural light. You’ll naturally look radiant and still stand out from the stunning background. The best times for good light are early morning and evening; a golden glow on your face can work wonders.
- Get a better photographer. (Or, find a friend who is a photo hobbyist and help him or her make better pictures.) Professional photographers know how to bring out the beauty in every person. You can’t always choose your photographer, but sometimes you can. If you need headshots for modeling, get the best professional you can find. If you’re going to put up a shot for an online dating service, choose a photo that is recent, that flatters you, but most importantly choose a photo that actually looks like it is you. Suggest a photographer friend:
- Use a telephoto lens or zoom out, and move back. This avoids the nose being proportionately much closer to the camera, and being overly magnified relative to the rest of your face. This also will make the background more defocused and less distracting. (To accentuate that, have him set a wider aperture if possible.)
- Optimize the lighting. Try fill flash (set the flash at a weaker level than the primary light source, such as sunlight) or multiple lights at varying power (such as with slave flashes; special kinds are necessary for digital cameras which often make a weak “pre-flash” to check exposure before opening the shutter and firing at full power) for soft but varied light for a pleasant rounded appearance of face parts. There are many web sites and books about portrait and fashion photography lighting. The basic arrangement of the lights, not the cost, is what matters.
- Use more contrast for men (the wrinkles and pores are often considered interesting or tough), less for women.
- Ask the photographer to have the camera at eye level or only just above eye level. This allows for the most natural, flattering photo. If the lens is lower, your shot risks showing a double chin.
- Edit or enhance photos. If you’ve tried everything, but you still can’t seem to get a good picture of yourself in any environment, try retouching your digital photos. Changing the lighting effects or filter effects, for example, can dramatically improve the appearance of your complexion.
- Choose Side Lighting – photographers know this trick, so be aware of it! Indoors try to stand where the lighting falls on your good side. Outdoors try to get your picture taken in the morning or afternoon, not noon. Don’t face the sun or get backlit by it unless the photographer asks you to. Backlit effects can look good, but you can’t tell how it looks, so trust the camera person (or check on a digital camera). Side lighting makes everyone’s features pop out better than front lighting. Try to talk your friends and relatives into taking pictures without flash, the front lighting from flash is the number one offender for unflattering family photos. You can demonstrate this by snapping their photos with or without it. (If they know more than average about cameras, ask for subtle “fill flash”, particularly for women, or “bounce flash” with a fancy removeable flash.)