How to look your best in Photographs ..
Hands up if you remember the excitement of receiving your newly developed Spectra photos back in the post ? . . Opening the envelope, flicking through the 6” x 4” photographs, 24 memories . . . most probably out of focus, always someone with their eyes closed or looking the wrong way . . . but they had charm!. We selected the best ones, wrote the date, event and names of everyone on the back and then either framed them or put them into photo albums. True story.
Once a upon a time … less than 40 years ago - getting your photograph taken was something you only did on special occasions - to document your life - such as birthday parties, weddings, graduations or a foreign holiday. You certainly did not document every night out, let alone every moment. Thankfully, with the exception of the annual school line up, graduation and debs, I have no photographs of my teen years. So by and large, growing up we were happily un-aware of how we looked and certainly didn’t consciously ‘pose’ for photographs. You simply stood still and smiled ! Yes … the good olde days.
Today, it’s very different. Narcissism on speed. Depending on your age, occupation, inclination, you may take a photo every day - sometimes hundreds of times a day ! . Multiple images taken to select just one, all carefully posed, curated, filtered, face tuned, photo-shopped …
I personally dislike filters. As I work in fashion, filters tend to distort colour and blur the image, but the real reason I dislike filters, is that I am fundamentally opposed to the idea that your digital self is somewhat more perfect than your real self? However, I live in the ‘real’ world, and understand the importance and impact of a good photograph - both on your own self confidence and recording your own personal history. So this blog post is all about sharing tips to make you look the best version of your real self in photographs. As always PM me on Instagram or Facebook if you have any questions :}
Having worked in media for over 30 years, I deal everyday with people on both sides of the lens. I hear all too often “I don’t like having my photograph taken”, or “I don’t look good in photographs” - or more recently ”don’t tag me!”.
The good news is that absolutely everyone can look good in photographs - it just takes a little know how, time and self confidence and acceptance that you want to look the best version of yourself - not someone else.
So here is the Every-Human’s guide to looking your personal best in photos :}
You are getting a photo taken - not being literally shot ! The biggest problem I see is that people stiffen their jaw or widen their eyes - or worse again - pull an odd pose and stick their hand on their hip ! (No teapots please). So just smile and be your normal lovely self.
Once you just stood still when having your photo taken - now everyone (consciously or not) strikes a poses ! The trick to ‘posing’ is to keep it as natural looking as possible and unless it is a night out - don’t pull faces !
Take photos of yourself (note your phone camera reverses your image, but Instagram camera does not) and decide if you look better straight on or at a left or right angle (if at an angle, you need to work out which side of your face is more photogenic - and angle this towards the camera. All of us have a ‘good side’ ). If you are in a group and can’t angle your body, then just angle your face.
Red Carpet Poses . . . to help you along the way - it can be useful to copy celebrities … Trust me celebrities have rehearsed and know their best angle. Most have perfected just the one ‘go to’ default pose - that works every-time. So if you find one pose that works for you - then stick to it.
Where to look?
It’s a trend now to look away from the camera . . . but unless you are shooting a fashion / blog editorial I recommend looking directly at the lens. As a lot of images are now taken on smart phones - the lens is on the phone (obviously!) but people still tend to look at the person taking the photo (circa pre 1990 - when you held the camera to your eye) - leading to their eyes pointing upwards in the photo. So look at the lens - not the person taking the photo. “}
Ask to be counted down … 3, 2. 1
It may sound odd, but ask whoever is taking the photo to count you down … so that you can both keep your eyes open and smile. This is particularly important for group shots and allows everyone (hopefully) to have their eyes open and be looking at the camera.
We tend to look better in photos if we smile - so you need to work out what type of ‘smiler’ are you? Are you a big toothy grinner, a closed mouth smiler or a pouter. Whatever it is, go for what makes you feel more comfortable - then you will look good.
Lighting is everything! It can make you look very good or very bad! If taking photos during the day, natural light is best (slightly diffused, not direct sunlight). Stand where the natural light is on you (ie don’t stand against the light - stand in front of it). If it is evening / night and you are in-doors, don’t stand under strong indoor lighting as it can cast hard shadows.
Just as in everyday life - how you ‘hold’ yourself is important as it visually communicates how you perceive yourself. So stand straight and open you body up to camera (ie don’t slough inwards). Keep your chin up and look straight down the camera lens.
What you wear matters …
If you want to stand out wear a strong colour (red is best), fitted clothing and heels (men can wear heels also if they wish !). Black may be elegant - but it rarely translates well on camera. If you are wearing black, then ensure that you wear strong make up to give a contrast - so define the lips and brows and tame the hair (regardless of style) for any flyaways.
For men the same principles apply as blue suits shoot better than grey and a bright tie or sweater makes more of a visual statement than a dark blue v neck.
Composition and background
Shoot from below to make you look taller
Shoot from above for more flattering look (and makes you look slimmer on both body and jaw line)
Step one foot forward in a group shoot - it allows you to ‘own’ the shot and makes you look more confident
If it’s a group shot, and you are shooting on an i-phone or similar - just remember that it will distort the shape of those on the edge (ie make them look bigger - not in a good way)
Backgrounds matter. If you are wearing print, a neutral background is generally better. Colour works best against a muted background (or carefully co-ordinated block). Either way, if you have control, choose your backgrounds to complement your photo not distract from it.
You are not limited to 24 roll film, so take lots as you will relax more as they are taken and can select the best images. It’s also good practice.
Other general tips
1. Fake Tan . . . can look terrible on camera with your body one colour and then your face a slate grey above it (caused by flash back)
2. Heavy false lashes can make your eyes look closed in every shot
3. Practice makes perfect. Take your time and work out what makes you look your best and feel most comfortable.
Note: I have not covered selfies . . . as this is an entirely different subject :}
Orla Diffily has worked in media for over 30 years. She is a former PR consultant and today works as a model agent, fashion stylist with RTE Today and offers Personal Style and Brand Consultancy. She has also styled and advised numerous celebrities and public figures.