Most of us don’t like to see ourselves in photographs, because we don’t like to see our imperfections. Here are a few tricks anyone can implement to look better when the shutter clicks.
There’s no need to be ashamed of your body, and posing for photos doesn’t have to be painful. We’ve talked about how to look your best in photos, but there are certain things you can do better depending on your body’s shape or your features.
Look Slimmer by Changing Your Angle
They say the camera adds 5kg, but how you angle your body can change how you look. If you stand or sit straight-on, the camera sees more of your body. Instead, angle your body 45 degrees away from the camera, push your weight on to your back foot, tuck your “away arm” behind your back, and remember the golden rule: If it bends, bend it.
Renowned photographer Peter Hurley, who used to be a model himself, says looking good in headshots is all about the jaw. He shared his favourite technique to make your jawline appear better: Stick your chin out and tilt your head forward. His video demonstrates how to use this in different scenarios:
- Rule #1: Never pose beside a thin person. Especially if you’re wearing the same dress.
- Rule #2: Never be the closest person to the camera.
- Rule #3: Use whatever props are on hand to hide protruding body parts. And by protruding body parts, I mean your stomach.
For more tips, the SLR Lounge points to this great hour-long video by portrait photographer Sue Bryce. Bryce has several tips for different positions. One insightful example: use your hands to define your waist. Instead of placing hands at your sides, use them to cinch your waist — you don’t need to squeeze it in, just make sure your thumbs are at the sides while the hand and fingers come in. Here’s how the difference looks:
One final but easy tip: When you can, wear black or dark colours.
Maximise Your Presence in a Photo
If you are skinny, turn your full body to the camera so that you appear as wide as possible, says Bill Hurter, author of the Portrait Photographer’s Handbook. The ideal angle is the seven-eights view:
The Seven-Eighths View occurs when the subject is looking just slightly away from the camera. In other words, you will see just a little more of one side of the face than the other when looking through the camera. You will still see both of the subject’s ears in a seven-eighths view.
Hurter adds that what you wear is important. Light-coloured clothing and a light-coloured background is best. Avoid sleeveless shirts or blouses. “For a man, a light-coloured sports coat will help fill him out; for a woman, fluffy dresses or blouses will disguise thin arms,” he says.
Don’t be nervous and get out of the mindset that you hate to have your picture taken — those emotions translate into the photograph. The Photojojo blog recommends that you meditate for three seconds before smiling:
Ask the photographer to count to three before taking the picture. Close your eyes and breathe in. Then, just before the shutter clicks, breathe out, open your eyes and smile. Your face will look relaxed and your smile will be real.
Trick the Camera into Making You Look Taller
If you’re posing with someone taller than you are, don’t give a frame of reference. For example, don’t stand next to objects with a familiar height as reference (for example, a standard mailbox).
When you can, sit down. A viewer’s brain does not look for height when the photo is of someone sitting. Similarly, cropped shorts can work in your favour, especially vertical profile photos; avoid full-length body shots.
Full-body photos have their place too, but only if the photographer will listen to you. In that case, tell them to shoot from a lower angle — the camera lens should be at your waist or below). The Chriselle Factor advises filling the frame’s height with your body, which creates an optical illusion of vertical length.
Like with any photography, how you dress plays a part in how you are seen. Hurter talks about this advice in his book, but an amateur photographer in a discussion on Stack Exchange explains it better:
The more of the legs that are visible, the longer they will tend to look — just for example, the shorter of skirt she wears, the longer her legs will generally look. Regardless of whether they happen to be popular at the moment, swimsuits that are cut really high on the hip tend to have the same effect — it tends to give the illusion that most of what you’d usually think of as “hips” are really part of their legs.
Likewise, almost anything that makes her legs look thinner will also tend to make them look longer. “Skinny” jeans (for one example) can do wonders, and some styles that “flare” out at the bottom can enhance the effect even more.
Finally, in a group photo, make sure you stand at the front of the group and closer to the camera. And don’t take photos when you go to a basketball game.
Fit Your Tall Height in a Photo Frame
Surprisingly, most of the tips for short people also hold true for tall people. When you can, sit down. Cropped photos that don’t show your full body length work in your favour. For full-body photos, the lens should be at your waist and the frame filled with your height.
In group shots, do the opposite of what short people are advised. Stand at the back of the group and farther away from the camera. Of course, if you want your height to be more pronounced, then it’s best to add a frame of reference so people can tell just how tall you are.
Choose the Right Colours and Show Activity to Look Younger
Many of us try to hide our wrinkles and smile lines with makeup when we get older. Don’t go overboard. They add character to your face and to your photos.
For portraits, stick with modest colours and a subdued background, so you stand out with your clothes being a distraction. Similarly, avoid harsh light, but make sure you have your three-point lighting down.
This isn’t a steadfast rule though. Tuts+ says colours can sometimes work wonders for an image, especially those taken outdoors. The best option is to shoot in colour and then ask your photographer to give you a black-and-white version to choose the best of the two.
One of the main things that I strive for in posing my seniors is to convey movement and fluidity in the image. That doesn’t mean that they need to look like they are in motion, but rather just convey that they are a living, breathing, moving person… not a static creature!
That’s a photographer’s perspective, but you can adopt that as the subject. Just make sure you are looking active and alert. A good way to do that is by asserting your most active hobby in the photo, whether it’s baseball or baking. As Digital Camera World notes, it gives you something to do with your hands, immediately makes you seem confident (after all, it’s your hobby) and brightens you up.
Apart from these tips, every photographer has one universal advice if you want to look good in photos: enjoy yourself. Lack of confidence comes across. Not wanting to be seen in a photo comes across. Once you realise that it’s just a photo and enjoy having your picture taken, without the worry of how you look, you start looking better.