Look Better in Photos: Ten Tips from a Photographer

 
a photographer gives you ten tips to look better in photos
 

Show of hands. Who doesn't like the way they look in pictures? If I could look through this computer screen and see all of you, I'd probably see most of you have your hands raised. I've got good news for you. Any photographer worth his or her salt can help you with this. Here are my ten ways you can look better in photos.

1. Practice Your Smile

I know that sounds goofy. It's even going to look goofy, but you want to look better in photos, right? Then you need to put in the work. Athletes practice their moves until the move is ingrained in muscle memory. A smile is no different. You need to learn what a natural-looking smile feels like. Here's how you do that:

Find photos of yourself

The first thing you have to do is find photos of you with a natural-looking smile. Yes, it has to be photos of you. If you imitate someone else's smile, it won't be natural; it just won't look right on your face. I'm going to go out on a very strong limb here, and say there are probably more photos of you on Facebook than anywhere else, so look there first.

Go to your Facebook page. Then, click on Photos, and then make sure "Photos of You" is selected. This will show any photo in which you've been tagged, so hopefully, all the photos your friends have put of you on Facebook have been properly tagged.  Next, find two or three photos in which you think you have a natural smile, and save them to your phone, tablet, or laptop. If you don't have one of those, then you will need a handheld (or at least portable) mirror.

Watch Yourself Smile

You know how at the gym the walls are covered with mirrors. We all know you use them to scope out members of the opposite sex, but what they're really there for is to help you develop and maintain good form in your exercises.

Similarly, you need to look at those photos you've selected and look at yourself in the mirror. (This is why it's best if you have a portable device). Now, carefully, try to imitate that smile you like. Once you get there, or at least close, think about how it feels. Memorize how that tension feels in your cheeks. If you show teeth when you smile, count how many are showing. Imagine there are strings pulling up at the corners of your mouth. How far are the strings pulled? If you want to be able to do this on demand, you have to remember how it feels.

Memorize how that tension feels in your cheeks. If you show teeth when you smile, count how many are showing. Imagine there are strings pulling up at the corners of your mouth. How far are the strings pulled? If you want to be able to do this on demand, you have to remember how it feels.

Repeat

Practice your smile two or three times a day. You can do this before or after brushing your teeth; it doesn't take long. Within a few days, you'll begin to notice if something feels "off" about your smile. In a week or two—three at the outside—you'll be able to make a natural-looking smile on demand.

2. If You Want to Look Better in Photos, You Need to Stick Your Neck Out

 
 

via GIPHY

I don't mean like this guy, although you may feel like a turtle if you do this.

Many of us, either through age or because of some extra weight, have some loose skin under our necks. Call it a double chin, a waddle, or whatever you want. The plain truth is most of us don't like it. There is a simple thing you can do to reduce—if not eliminate—theloose neck skin'sappearance and make yourself look better in photos.

You need to imagine there's a string going through your ears, and the loose ends of the string are going through the camera lens. Now imagine that string is getting pulled tight. What would happen? Your head would get pulled forward and your neck would stretch.  If you act like this is happening and push your head forward toward the camera, that excess neck skin won't be so visible.

3. Look To the Light

Tired of looking like you're possessed in photos? Then look up at a light for a few seconds before the picture is taken. This will make your pupils contract and reduce the dreaded "red eye."

It won't totally eliminate it because, without getting too technical, the shorter the distance between the camera flash and the camera lens, the greater the chance of red-eye. The flash on phone cameras and point-and-shoot cameras is too close to the lens, practically guaranteeing red eyes in the photos.

4. Pump it Up

 
 

via GIPHY

Are your upper arms exposed in a photo? Want to look more toned? Do some push-ups (either real ones or leaning against a wall). This will get the blood flowing to your arms and make the muscles a tiny bit larger for a few minutes—just long enough for your arms to look better in the photo.

5. Bring Flyaways in for a Landing

Depending on the light, flyaway hairs can be very visible in a photo. Try to touch up your hair right before the photo with some hair spray or pomade. 

From a photographer's point of view, there is nothing I hate more than flyaway hairs. They are one of the most time-consuming things to fix in post-production.

6. Embrace the S-Curve

The contrapposto, or s-curve, is a pose that has been known since the ancient Greeks. If you look at some statues from the Classical period, you'll frequently see this pose.

Stand with your weight on your back foot and point the heel of the front foot toward your back foot. This causes your shoulders and hips to tilt in different directions. If you stand contrapposto, facing slightly away from the camera, and twist your upper body toward the camera, this accentuates the s-curve and also makes you look slimmer through the hips. Want to have even more of a slimming effect? Tilt slightly toward the camera.

7. (Don't) Like the Back of Your Hand.

Try to keep the side of your hand toward the camera. The back or the palm of the hand just looks awkward, so try not to have them show toward the camera.

Ladies

A curved hand looks feminine. Try to keep some curve in your fingers.

Guys

While curved fingers look feminine, straight fingers don't look masculine. They just look wrong. This is why so many poses for men have one or both hands in pocket, thumbs in belt loops, etc.

Portrait of Leonilla, Princess of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn
Portrait of Leonilla, Princess of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn

8. Sitting More Attractively

(I couldn't think of anything humorous for that heading).

Ladies, generally, you want to elongate your body from the main point of contact with the supporting surface.  In other words, extend your body away from your butt. Imagine classical paintings.

Men, it's just the opposite. Generally, you wont to have your feet pretty close to the point of contact. This is why photos of men sitting are more "squared off,"

9. Don't Drink and Pose

I know that having your picture taken makes lots of people nervous, but lay off the liquid courage is you want to look better in photos.  Alcohol is a vasodilator.  Alcohol will make your eyes look bloodshot and make your face red. Additionally, your eyelids often start to droop before you even feel any other effects of the alcohol. That is not how to look your best.

10. The Squinch

I started with smiling, and my last tip on how to look better in photos goes back to smiling. "The squinch" is a saying attributed to photographer Peter Hurley for what is essentially "smiling with your eyes." Here's a video that gives the best explanation I've seen on how to squinch. Jump to 1:40 to get right to the explanation.

 

Do you have a go-to tip to make yourself look more photogenic? I'd love to hear it. Leave it in the comments.