Nearly every adult I meet tells me that they hate having their photo taken, and I confess that I never used to be that keen on being photographed either so I sympathise. That’s why I spend time with my clients so they can relax in front of the camera as that makes a positive difference to the results. However, when family or friends want a quick snap of you for their album, they don’t necessarily know how to use light and position to make the best of your assets. If they get it wrong, you could look a lot heavier and/or older than you really are – not surprising that we’re not eager to have a lens pointed at us then! But all is not lost – implement one or more of my top tips below and you’ll greatly improve the chances of them producing a flattering photograph of you.
- If you think you look too thin, standing face on to the camera can make you look broader and heavier than you really are. This can be a good pose for men in particular – keep your weight evenly on both legs though for that strong look.
- If you think you look too wide, make yourself look narrower by standing with your body at 45 degrees to the camera and putting most of your weight on the leg furthest from the camera.
- Think tall – draw yourself up to your full height and you’ll find yourself naturally pulling your stomach in and your shoulders back.
- If you’re worried about having more than one chin, try sitting down and looking up at the camera. Men tend to look good sitting on the edge of the chair and leaning forward with their arms on their knees, while a good pose for women is leaning your arm or arms on the back of the chair while sitting sideways on it – both poses stop you slumping too. Alternatively, you can rest your chin on your hands – but don’t put any pressure on the side of your face as it can distort your features; just touch your face lightly with your fingertips, or rest your chin on the back of your hand. If it has to be a standing pose, stretch your neck out slightly to tighten the skin – it might feel a bit odd but it will usually look fine if you’re looking directly at the camera. Resist the temptation to tilt your chin up – it rarely looks natural and you’ll give the camera a view up your nose. You can also try forcing your tongue into the roof of your mouth to tighten the skin under your chin – it does work but I’ve never met anyone who can do it without it creating a weird expression on their face, so try it out in front of a mirror first!
- If you’re concerned that your arms always look too wide, don’t position them close in to your body – it can squash the top of them and make them look chunkier than they really are. Instead, try putting your hands on your hips or hooking your thumbs in your trouser pockets or, for men, try crossing your arms with the hands on top to break up the area at the top of your arm. On a similar theme, crossing your legs over so your thighs aren’t parallel to one another can make a more flattering silhouette for women.
- Smile with your eyes too – Most people can spot a forced smile. If your eyes aren’t smiling you won’t look truly happy, even if your mouth is fixed in a broad grin. Think about something funny or engage in a bit of banter with the person behind the camera.
- Find flattering light – Knowing how to make the best of the available light is one of most important skills a portrait photographer can have. It’s a huge topic so I can’t cover it all here, but as a starter for ten, avoid standing in direct sunlight – you’re likely to squint at the camera. Instead, stand in the shade or somewhere where you’re only lit from indirect light from the front, like in a north-facing doorway looking out. Light from directly above casts a shadow over your eyes and accentuates any wrinkles you might have, so avoid standing in the midday sun or under downlighters.
Everyone’s different so I suggest you practise in front of a full length mirror to work out what suits you best. Then hopefully you’ll feel confident next time you’re in front of a camera, and that confidence will shine through in the photos too.