“Oh, they’re so photogenic.” You’ve heard the refrain and surely used it yourself, probably served with a twinge of envy. The phrase, popularized by legendary film executive Samuel Goldwyn of the Metro-Goldwyn-Myer studio, is defined by Merriam-Webster as a person who is “suitable for being photographed especially because of visual appeal.” Yes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder; yes, it feels like every “pretty” famous person has a jawline that could cut diamonds (*cough, Timothée Chalamet, cough the beloved Jennifer Garner, cough*). But I assure you that anyone can be photogenic because it’s about confidence, not your physical features. I should know—I’ve photographed plenty of portraits over the years. Here are my top three tips as a portrait photographer on how to look better in pictures.
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1. Lean Forward
Of all the posing advice I’ve ever given, this tip always raises the most eyebrows. I get it. It feels unnatural. You’d never do this in real life. You’re not a contortionist or Cirque du Soleil acrobat in training. But it makes the world of a difference.
When you lean forward, you separate your head from the rest of your body, drawing attention to your face. As humans, we’re most drawn to the eyes in photos, so bring them front and center. Additionally, when you lean forward, you’re making the rest of your body appear smaller because of the distance between your head and torso.
How to Do It
- If you’re sitting: place your elbows on your knees and lean your torso forward so your weight is supported by your elbows.
- If you’re standing: lean on something. Place your hands/arms on a chair and lean forward on them. If you’re free-standing, go for the teapot pose. Yes, I said it. Gen Z might hate it, but it was ubiquitous for a reason. It separates your arm from your torso (because honestly, even the most beautiful person’s arm would look terrible squished against their body). Once you have that position, twist slightly towards the arm that is acting as the teapot handle, and lean forward just a bit. You will feel like a contortionist. You will also look great.
2. Shoot from Above
My dad’s favorite way to take a picture? Crouched on the ground with his camera angled up my chin and nose. Big no, people! Instead, opt for a downward angle. It doesn’t have to be extreme, but when taking the photo, aim to have the phone or camera high enough that the subject has to raise their chin slightly to meet its gaze. This elongates the neck and gives the chin more shape. Surprise, surprise. You do have a jawline!
How to Do It
Start with your camera eye-level with your subject. Then, raise it until their chin is forced to extend to meet the camera’s gaze.
3. Bisect Yourself Whenever Possible
No, this is not a Wednesday Addams-sanctioned experiment. The only gruesome thing is that this tip plays into the prevalent beauty standard that we want to look…skinny. The goal of this technique is to create an illusion of proportions, because practically speaking, doing so will look like there’s a lot less of you than if you are facing the camera full head (or back) on.
How to Do It
- With clothes: try a side French tuck with your sweater. Unbutton your coat and put a hand in your pant pocket to keep one coat panel back, letting the other drape half your body. Throw your blazer over your shoulder so it partially covers your arm.
- With people and things: Hold your partner’s arm and stand behind them so their arm bisects you vertically (aiming for your sternum is a good guide). This applies to inanimate objects like doors and windows, too.
While these tips aren’t going to make you the next Karlie Kloss, they can boost your confidence in front of the camera by giving you some ideas for how to move and manipulate your body to its highest photogenic potential. Now, it’s time to slay your next iPhone photoshoot.