Looking photogenic

photographerVery few people have total confidence in front of a camera. Most people, unfortunately, think they don’t look good in pictures. A belief like this can quickly become self-fulfilling: whenever we see a camera pointing at us, we get a little tense, and we look a little defensive… violate all rules of looking photogenic… and further entrench our belief.

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Take a look at two pictures of beautiful Blake Lively. If you only saw the picture to the left, would you maybe think she’s not all that photogenic?

We can probably all agree that the picture to the right is much more flattering.

Is it a learned skill? Are there certain rules that we can follow? You bet. These rules apply to both women and men, by the way.

Stand tall

If there is only one thing you will remember… your spine must be straight as an arrow. Make it as tall as possible. This is the cornerstone of your confident look. Ignore this rule, and – it does not matter what else you do – the camera will not do you justice.

3 rules apply: photograph-blake-lively-3

  • Never compress the neck. Lift the back of your head to the sky. If you want to move your head, by all means, move your chin down, to the left, or to the right, or tilt your head. Don’t move your chin forward, like Blake on the above left picture.
  • Your entire mid-back, from neck to the curvature of the waist, must be straight and long. This lends you confidence and strength. Breathe in to elongate the back further – yes, you can even time your breathing to match the timing of the photography.
  • Exaggerate the curve of the lower back / hips to look sexy and elegant. Pregnant Blake shows us how slimming this look is (see picture to the right).

Position legsphotography legs.jpg

Models, like flamingos, are never caught dead standing evenly on both legs. Shifting weight between legs not only feels better – it looks relaxed on photographs.

Here’s how photogenic people stand:

  • Bend one leg or cross your legs. Even if you have a big puffy dress, the posture will look more relaxed. Take a look at the picture to the right and notice how the model’s hips and shoulders bend into an elegant S-curve.photograph-blake-lively-4
  • Avoid pigeon-toeing if you can. It is impossible to bend your knee if your toes point inwards (on the picture to the left, Blake shows us what it looks like).

To walk, photogenic people imagine they were on a tightrope or a thin line – overlapping front foot in front of their back foot (see the picture above).

Avoid distractions

photography-focal-points-2Unlike the liveliness of real life, still photographs are notorious for confusing the viewers’ attention. You want your face to be the focal point of the photograph – but something strange or unnatural about your pose could distract the eye.

Take a look at a couple of pictures. There’s the Duchess of Cambridge to the left. You keep wondering what she is looking at, who amused her so much, who did her hair and how it is holding up in the rain. photography-focal-pointsThen, there’s a picture of a purse to the right. You keep wondering what’s so special about the purse, why it is so big and heavy, what could be in it. Fashion photography is designed to draw attention to the clothes or accessories – rather than the model. Notice how you are not even looking at the model’s face.

photography-focal-points-4This next picture is a thriller. An expensive purse is hanging on by the fingernails to her careless owner, wind in its ears, while whizzing through the great expanse of United States. You get anxious about the purse’s chances of survival in this terrible world of heavy cars and long winded highways. You can’t help looking back and checking if it’s still there.

photography-handsNow, you won’t have a fashion photographer in front of you, so you may rest assured your pictures will convey no thrillers… but you can still unwittingly distract the eye with an unnatural pose. Especially your hands. Especially if you are tense or tired. Try to relax your hands and let them curve gracefully, in soft unbroken lines, while being photographed. Try for yourself what a relaxed hand looks like: push fingers very close together, or make a fist, and then relax completely. See how fingers flare out just a bit, curve a bit, and all point in the same direction? Avoid sharp angles of wrists and elbows, avoid spreading out your fingers too much or, on the contrary, sticking together too closely. Also, if you are posing with your spouse, don’t put one person’s fingers inbetween the other’s or interlock fingers – otherwise, the viewer’s brain will be busy trying to count the fingers to make sure there’s not too many. Instead, hold hands lightly, and superimpose fingers. Finally, hug each other lightly. You don’t want hands sticking out from unexpected places. And since you are already watching your hands… Viewers will assume that hands are placed intentionally to point out important information. Notice how Stacey Solomon’s hand points to Sir Richard Branson’s tummy, and you can’t help wondering what he had for dinner yesterday. Use this power of the hands and fingers to emphasize flattering features.OPR060114_021 For example:

– put your hands close to your waist or hips to accentuate the curve,
touch your hair to show off the beautiful look, or
bring one hand close to your heart or collarbone to show off your exquisite dress.

As you can see, you don’t need to be a negative-size model to follow these rules and look gorgeous in front of the camera.

In the spirit of Oprah… I hope that this advice will give you confidence to celebrate yourself – and be yourself – all day long, and forever.

 

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Now you just need to select a great photographer. Read about Wedding Photography and find recommendations for great photographers.

 

 

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