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A Photographer's Guide to Looking Great in Pictures
Posted: Fri 08/30/2013 09:54 AM
The truth is that bad photographs happen to good people. I recently went to a wedding in Hungary with my husband's family and was absolutely thrilled to see image after image of me tagged on Facebook by his lovely aunt, taken with reckless abandon on her iPhone. Let's just say they weren't my best (UNTAG!!).
Sometimes, it's just out of your control, but when you do have some input, there are things you can do to improve your photogenic factor. Here are my top eight tips to help increase your confidence in front of the lens, especially when the person taking the photos isn't a professional.
1. Think happy thoughts. Life looks better from behind a smile, but if you feel like your smile doesn't look natural, then fake it. Crack up. Get someone to tickle you. Think about that funny video you watched on YouTube yesterday. Anything to avoid looking like you're at the dentist, showing off your pearlies. And whatever you do, don't say “cheese.”
2. See the light. How many photos of yourself do you have where somebody used a direct flash on your face and you ended up looking a little bit like a creature from a horror film? If you want someone to take a truly nice photo of you, avoid on-camera flash and go where the light is. If you’re inside, find a window. If you’re outside, that’s great, but avoid harsh direct sunlight, which creates unpleasant shadows. Go find a tree or shadow and do it there instead. Skin’s best friend is direct soft, natural light.
3. Pay attention to posing. Do you ever notice how people on the red carpet generally look fabulous in photographs? It’s not just because they are wearing expensive outfits and have had their hair and make-up done (although that definitely helps). It’s because they know how to pose in a way that the camera loves.
In my experience, men always worry about how their stomachs and chins look in photographs; women worry about how everything looks. Here are a few pointers on how to make different parts appear their best:
Chins—My mantra when it comes to chins is “Look up!” especially if you are sitting down. Asking your friend with the camera to take a few pictures of you from above will help to stretch out any extra skin, thus giving the appearance of a slimmer face.
Arms—There are a number of ways to hide arms. The easiest is to wear a wrap or a top with sleeves. When being photographed, don’t hold your arms close to your body, as this will only make them look bigger. When in doubt, put your hands on your hips. And put your hand where you’d like the camera to perceive your waist to be, not necessarily where it is.
Waists—If you aren't happy with your waistline, there are tricks to help make it look slimmer. Look at yourself face on in the mirror. Now turn slowly to the side. Do you see how your waist starts to look smaller, or less wide, as you turn? Stop at 45 degrees, put your hand on your hip as above and voila!
Legs—The important thing is that you have shape. A good trick to try is to do what we in the industry call “Barbie toe.” Put your weight on the hip furthest from the camera, lift your other leg, bend the knee and touch the tip of your toe to the ground.
Height—f someone is taking a full-length photo of you, ask him to bring his shooting position down a little bit (around waist height is best). If he doesn't, your upper half will be slightly exaggerated and you will look shorter than you are. Every inch counts!
4. Choose sides. I am totally picky about which side of my face goes towards the camera. I remember doing an experiment in science class at some point in my life where we were told to hold a sheet of paper in front of half our face and compare the two sides. Since that day, I've decided that half of my face must have been slightly squashed in the birth canal (FYI that’s the side I don’t put towards the camera). If you are having trouble deciding which side is your best side, then look at photos of yourself both ways and that should give you a clue.
5. Shine in photos, but don’t be shiny. We always keep powder at the studio to help pat down the old T-zone. Keep some handy, especially as it’s likely that the majority of these photos of you will not be Photoshopped.
6. Dress for success. If you know you are going to be in a photographic situation, then wear the right clothes. Cameras don’t like baggy, shapeless clothes because the viewfinder can’t see what you look like. The camera prefers defined waists, even if it’s not a tiny waist. And whatever you do, if you’re being photographed with others, don’t go all matchy matchy (white oxford shirts and jeans, I’m looking at you). That was done in the '90s. You can wear clothes that either complement each other, are shades of the same colour, or the same colour, but not the same clothes. That’s all I’m going to say about that.
7. Mind the gap. Unless Annie Leibovitz has arranged you into a perfect group shot, then here’s what you need to do in photos where you are sharing the limelight. Try to close up any gaps. You can do this by hugging people, turning everyone slightly at an angle and packing them in, or by simply shouting, “Everyone hug Bob!” and seeing what happens (assuming Bob is in the photo). If you want to get really advanced, try to arrange your group of five or more people into a triangular shape and create levels (stairs are great for this).
8. Go forth and be shot. Nothing will show you how you look best in photographs like being photographed by a pro. During the shoot, pay attention and take notes. The only word of caution is that not all professional photographers are created equal, so look at the website first to make sure you trust them to make you look fabulous. And if you are travelling to London and you’d like me to help you strike a pose, book our I Love London shoot. They’ll be the best tourist photos you've ever had.
Finally, remember that the most important ingredient for great photographs is having fun. Not every photo of you needs to be a masterpiece. I may have cringed at the images of me emerging from Hungary on Facebook, but you could tell that I was enjoying myself and they were taken with love. Just remember that looking perfect isn't everything.
Follow Julia and James on Twitter: @juliaboggio, @jamesderbyshire, @boggiostudios, @hbmidnight