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How to look great in photos

Updated: Jan 16, 2020

Branding headshot in Dunedin

Why is it that some people always look so amazing in photos, but when you see them in real life they look just the same as the rest of us?

They say the camera never lies, but here’s the thing; if you know how the camera sees you, then you can so make it tell a better story.

Here's some simple guidelines to have you looking fabulous the next time someone points a camera your way.

Love the camera

Not in a pout your lips and try to make love to it kind of way, but more of a don’t be scared of it way. Most people instinctively lean away from the camera, especially if they hate having their picture taken or they’re feeling a little uncomfortable.

Trust me, leaning away does not do you any favours at all! You want to think about bringing your chest towards the camera.

Be tall

When I’m coaching somebody into a flattering pose I always start with the spine.

I don’t wan’t you to stand stiffly to attention, I want you to gently pull up from the top of your head and e…lon…gate…

A simple elongate does amazing things. It instantly makes you two sizes smaller, and gives you an elegant, confidant air.

Lose that double chin

Ask anybody I’ve photographed and the one thing that’s probably stuck in their heads is ‘chin out and down’. I say it so often I feel like a stuck record.

This one feels downright weird so practice to get the hang of it. I call it the chicken neck. Push your chin out a little, which tightens all the skin under your neck, and then drop your chin a little. Voila!

Don’t stand flat-footed

Put your weight on your back leg and really push that hip back and away from the camera. Unless, of course, you’re posing for a middle-page spread where it’s all about the booty if you get my drift.

Bend one knee. This helps to give you the beautiful shape and curve that you want.

Stand side-on to the camera

Ladies go stand in front of the mirror and try this, and you will see exactly what I am seeing through my camera.

Stand facing straight towards the camera, or in this case the mirror. Put your hands on either side of your hips. Now leave your hands where they are and turn your feet sideways – ta da! It’s like magic. The camera simply sees how wide you are and you’ve just make yourself a whole lot less wide.

Generally being at about 45 degrees, with your shoulders turned towards the camera, is the most flattering. Experiment with what works for you.

Don’t do the potty pose

Right, stand up, now sit down in your chair. Let me guess – you’re sitting right to the back of the chair, you’re kind of slumped over and all those middle bits of your torso are, well, scrunched and bulging. Not your best picture is it?

Now move yourself so you’re perched right on the edge of your chair. What happened? You automatically sat up straighter and pushed your chest out without even thinking about it.

If someone is taking your picture while you’re sitting down, just remember, don’t sit like you’re on the toilet!

Pull your arms very slightly away from your body

Take note, this tip is especially important if you’re wearing a sleeveless top or have bare arms.

Arm smush, as I like to call it, is one great way to make your arm look twice as big as it really is. That’s all fine and flattering if you’re a gym-junkie who wants bulging muscles, but for most of us, ummm, no!

Usually all that’s needed is to slightly shift your arm away from your body. Don’t believe me – head back to the mirror and try it out.

Have hands, not claws

Hands can make or break a picture. Give them a good shake out to relax them. Clench your fists then let them fall open naturally and stay in that moment. Channel ballerina thoughts. You want soft, gentle curves in the fingers.

If you’re feeling a bit awkward give them something to do like putting them in your pockets or holding onto something.

Work on that expression.

The first place we always look in a photograph is the face. Here’s a couple of little tricks to help coax out a better expression.

Say ‘money’, not cheese, to lift the corners of your mouth.

Smile with your eyes as well as your mouth.

For a much more natural-looking smile let rip with a big, belly fake laugh. You’ll get everyone else laughing too and everybody will look fabulous!

Portrait by Dunedin photographer Edith Leigh

When I’m working with people to create beautiful portraits of them, comments I get all the time are “but it feels really unnatural" or "this is so uncomfortable”. Well now you know that modelling is hard work!

Models and celebrities don’t walk around looking naturally fabulous with what they were born with. They get in front of the mirror and practice, practice, practice……

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