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6 Tips For Looking Photogenic In Every Single Shot

Think you can't take a good photo? Then read this.

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photo collage of 2 female ladies posing for pictures and hands holding a camera, how to take better photos, how to pose for pictures
Alice Lagarde
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When I was younger, I loved being photographed. My mom has albums filled with me posing as a child, teen and young adult. In my 30s and early 40s, I was still okay being in a photo, especially alongside my three children, husband or friends.

But sometime in my 40s, I sensed a shift. I became self-conscious and started disliking how I looked in photos, often preferring to be behind the camera instead of in front of it.

The iPhone camera is partly to blame. It’s easier to take a picture (everyone has a camera in their pocket at all times) and the results are in real-time. I’ll look at it and immediately start disparaging my appearance. My inner critic becomes louder and louder with every passing year. It’s hard to resist the urge to press the “garbage can” icon and make the image disappear.

I find I am not alone. The comment I hear most after my peers see photos of themselves is, "I look terrible." Of course, they do not.

“Women tend to be critical of their appearance, especially as they age and not just in photos,” explains Melani Lust, a professional photographer from Connecticut. "In their minds, they often have a vision of how they look. Then they see themselves, and it doesn't match the vision they had in their heads."

Beyond being critical in general, many of us do ourselves a disservice. “Lens choice, harsh lighting, certain poses — all of this can contribute to accentuating perceived flaws,” says Lust. “The result is a ‘bad’ photo that makes a person feel bad about themselves.”

The good news is that there are things you can do to take a better pic.

Let There Be (Natural) Light

"Good lighting is key," says Lust. "High-contrast lighting makes you look older than you are. Recessed lighting is especially unforgiving. It enhances the contrast and creates shadows, emphasizing wrinkles, laugh lines and dark circles."

Lust suggests posing by a window. The person with the camera should have their back to the window, and the subject should face it.

"Soft lighting when the sun is not too bright is the best. If you can't pose in front of the window, another option is an open door,” says Lust. “The photographer should stand in the entrance or outside, allowing the light to be cut off by the building."

Strike a Pose

“The body part facing the camera will appear the biggest because the lens will distort it,” says Lust. “Get in the habit of putting your eyes forward and hip back. Also, keep your chin flat, neither up nor down, to prevent the appearance of a double chin."

Up in Arms

I have a friend who always poses with her hand on her hip because she believes it’s the most flattering stance. When I do that, I feel like it looks silly.

“Many older women are self-conscious about their arms in photos,” finds Lust. “If you pose with your arm touching the body, it will appear spread out. However, posing with an arm jutting out from the hip can look awkward, so I advise people to put their arms down slightly off the body. Better yet, try to hold a drink or link elbows if it's a group photo."

Center Stage

In group shots, the people on the ends tend to look the largest. So, if you can get a spot in the middle, take it. If you are on the end, Lust suggests standing at a 45-degree angle (not sideways but not totally straight) with your hip back and don’t have your arm completely against your side.

A Real Smile

Directions such as “smile” or “say cheese" are likely to cause an expression that looks fake and forced rather than genuinely happy. Lust suggests telling a dumb joke or asking a silly question instead. "I like to say, 'Who do you think has the sexiest underwear on?' or 'Which friend is the funniest?' to get people to laugh, and I can capture a natural expression of joy."

Silence Your Inner Critic

Rather than immediately nit-picking your appearance, take a step back and give it time. In a day, week, month or year, you may feel very differently about how you look in that picture and what it represents. Johanna Kandel, founder and CEO of the Alliance for Eating Disorders, says, “When you look at a photo of yourself, connect to the memory, the moment, the people around you. Instead of ripping yourself apart, lean into what was happening and the good that surrounded that moment in time. Instead of being critical of how you look, be complimentary — such as saying, ‘I look happy.’”

Recently, actress Valerie Bertinelli posted an Instagram throwback of herself in a bikini from 2014. In the caption, she wrote that, at the time, she was considered overweight by societal standards. "It's stupid, and I believed them for far too long," she wrote. "I now, finally, know that I am a kind, considerate, funny, thoughtful woman." In other words, she was beautiful regardless of what she weighed — and with time, she realized just that.

Bertinelli’s sentiment resonated with me. I will definitely use Lust’s advice to improve the quality of my photos. I will also try to change my “focus” and view myself through a different lens.

I may not be able to fully appreciate how I look, but I can appreciate that I get to be in the picture, enjoying life with friends and family or in a silly selfie that captures my wrinkles — but also my joy.

Do any of you actually enjoy getting your picture taken? Let us know in the comments below.

Follow Article Topics: Lifestyle