I love photographs but I generally don’t like having my photo taken. It’s a rare occasion when I actually like how I look in a photo. But, this is the time of year when you almost can’t avoid being in photographs. Graduations. Weddings. Vacations. All of them are picture-perfect circumstances to take photos.
To make matters worse, we are living in the age of social media sites where celebs and friends alike look fabulous. But think about it, how many shots were needed to get that one beauty and do you really think anyone would post an unflattering photo on Facebook or Instagram? And, unless you are a celebrity who has access to an on-call glam squad, assistant to capture all your fabulous moments, and professional airbrushing, you’re never going to look like a Housewife of anywhere or a model of anything.
But don’t worry; there are some things you can do to feel confident and beautiful in your photos. And guess what? They’re all free!
Strike A Pose
There are a couple of key things you can do to look your best in a photo. First off, stand tall and stand proud. Posture goes a long way so keep your head up, your neck long, and your shoulders back. Susan Street of “Susan After Sixty” and seen in the photo above, recommends imagining a string holding your head high and your body aligned beneath it. Nothing says “bad photo” or “no confidence” like a slouch so straighten up and smile right!
You never want to face the camera head on. Your goal is to create angles with your body…natural angles ladies. Too much posing looks like, well, too much posing. Keep in mind that whatever is closest to the camera will look the biggest so position those hands and feet right unless you want the impression of man hands and boats.
Speaking of hands; keep them relaxed. Street suggests pretending like your nails are wet. I also like the suggestion of making space between your arms and your body. Don’t go overboard though. Just a small and almost indiscriminate placing of your arms away from your body will prevent your torso from looking larger than it is. Another good tip is to rest your hands on top of your thighs. Again, stay relaxed though. Stiff equals bad.
The pose many are using today is the “hand on the hip” pose. For me, unless you’re 30 or younger this pose makes you look like you’re trying too hard to be 30 or younger. The pose is supposed to define your waist but if you don’t have said waist, it could be a waste of time. Millennials and sorority girls, hand on hip away. More mature ladies, steer away.
Now for the feet. Posing straight at the camera with arms straight down and feet together will make even the smallest of bodies look bigger. Instead, think “twist and shift.” Twist your body at the waist, turn one hip toward the camera, and shift your weight onto a slightly back positioned foot. Then, angle the foot that’s forward away from your body and turn your face toward the camera. Got it? I know awkward, right? Instead, just think:
One foot in front of the other or out to the side.
Weight on back foot.
Front toe pointed away from body.
Twist at waist.
Arms away from body.
Hands resting on thighs.
Turn face toward camera.
For group shots, I like to position myself at the end of a group. This way I can “edit” half of myself out of the shot if I want. But, this strategy doesn’t work when someone else posts or prints the photo without your edits! Your best bet is to stand slightly behind someone and at an angle. It also helps to avoid standing next to someone the same size as you. You will rarely find me front and center in a group photo.
If you’re hoping for a frameable photo, two other things you need to consider are light and background. We all want the beautiful beach behind us as we sit having an umbrella drink, but if the brightest part of a shot is behind you, those umbrella drinks and everyone drinking them will be silhouettes and the water will be super bright. On the other hand, if the light is directly above you, you will have unflattering shadows all over your face. Your best bet is to always face the light source.
As for where you stand and what’s behind you, unless it really doesn’t matter and you just want a quick snap, look for a background that contrasts with what you are wearing. If you’re wearing black, you probably don’t want to stand in front of a black wall. In most cases, the key in backgrounds is simple is best.
Where a camera is is equally important. The more eye-level you are with the camera, the better. Even better is to look slightly up toward the photographer and never, ever down toward the camera. This is something very important when it comes to taking a good selfie. Those, my friends, are a whole other story.
I generally don’t take selfies and if I do, I’m probably with my daughter or a friend and they impatiently grabbed my phone from me and quickly snapped one. Similar to throwing a Frisbee or turning a cartwheel, I cannot take a selfie for the life of me. My favorite selfies are the ones with filters on Snapchat and Instagram where I can put rabbit ears or glamorous sunglasses on me. You will never see me post a simple selfie of myself.
Maybe you’re like me or maybe you just want to get better at taking a selfie so here are some tips:
Most selfie “experts” (it’s a sad day when there really are such things) recommend taking them in natural lighting and to never use a flash. If you are outdoors, try to have the sun behind you so you get that “halo” effect or block the sun with your head.
There’s probably no bigger selfie (and self-absorbed) expert than Kim Kardashian, and according to “Allure” magazine, Kim K’s two tips are chin down and camera up. Where you hold the phone is indeed crucial and a good rule-of-thumb is to hold it so the bottom of the phone is level with your eyes. Never snap away with your face straight toward the camera. Instead, think angles once again and turn or tilt your head to the side.
As silly as it sounds, if you know you’re going to be taking selfies, practice doing so in the privacy of your own home. Move and tilt your head and shoulders in a variety of ways to see which positions are most flattering on you and think natural.
Practice makes perfect when it comes to smiling too. If I smile too big, I look awkward and my eyes become small. Tyra Banks may be all about “smizing,” but I more prefer “soft smiles.” Whatever works for you, natural is always best.
True expert photographers live by the “rule of thirds,” which can be helpful when taking a selfie. It’s all about composing your shot and this photo by Kristi Randal and from improvephotography.com is the perfect example of how to place your face in the top-right or top-left corner of the frame. They also suggest keeping your eye line one-third down from the top of the frame and off to one side rather than putting yourself dead center in the middle of the frame. As you’re taking the pic, ask yourself: do you want an attractive selfie or a driver’s license photo?
As for apps and filters, yes, use them, just make sure you keep things looking natural. Your goal is for someone to think “what a great or interesting photo,” not “I wonder how she really looks!”
Finally, even if you’re uncomfortable as someone snaps away, stay away from cliché hand or arm moves. Relax and don’t overthink a selfie. Listen to “Allure” when it writes “A trying too hard selfie will never be a good one.”
Have fun, strike a confident pose, and you too will be picture perfect!