Hands up, who thinks they're photogenic?
Yeah, not many hands. I know the feeling, you get home from a night out and see the pictures your friends have been putting up, and you just shudder in horror. Every single picture makes you look like a total car crash, and you just can't handle it. Clearly, you're not photogenic.
You know what? I'm going to tell you a secret that only us photographers know, but you've got to promise not to tell anyone else.
Everyone is photogenic.
Mind blown right? There are some people out there that never seem to have a bad picture taken of them and it rags us off because we think that they've got some sort of gift. But they haven't, they just know how to make the most of what they've got!
So here we go, some little hints, tips and secrets that'll help you make the most of your time in front of the not-so dreaded lens.
Step 1: Breathe
What's the first thing you think when someone points a camera at you? I'm guessing it's "ahhhh I'm gonna look horrible!" You freeze and tense up in that split second from noticing your reflection in the glass, and it looks like my ugly mug over there. So calm down. Breathe a little. Don't let the "deer in the headlights" look hop on your face and start playing that music from Psycho all over the place!
Step 2: Know Your Face
One of the most glorious things about the human race is that everybody looks different. Well, except when you find that person who looks exactly like you and you've no idea why. That's just weird.
But to be on point, you've got to know your face. Here's an exercise to help you: get a friend to sit in front of you and take some pictures. Start with your face looking straight on into the lens, then swing your head to the left so it's about 45 degrees away from the camera. Before each shot, lower and relax your eyes, then look into the lens for the actual shot. After each shot, move your head slowly more and more to the right until you're facing the opposite way.
What you're doing is figuring out what your "good side" is. If you want to shake it up a little then try tilting your head upwards or downwards a little and have the camera a little higher. This works wonders for those of us with double chins (like me!) Raising the head stretches the skin under your chin and leaves it more taut, plus the higher angle means you see less of the underside of your chin. Result!
Step 3: Smile!
Okay, so you're pretty sure you've got your game face on, but you still can't shake the wide-eyed look! The problem is that you might not be genuinely smiling, and that's perfectly natural if you're nervous in front of the camera. You get that rictus toothy grin with the wide eyes and end up looking daft. Not to worry, there's another trick you can use here and it's all about the squint.
See, when we smile naturally, we scrunch our eyes up due to the muscles in our faces making way for that big ol' grin. When we're not doing a real smile, you don't have that total movement so your mouth is on point but your eyes are letting the side down. So squint! Not too much though, you ideally want the lower lid of your eye to just touch the bottom of your iris. Enough to make it look real, but not so much that you look like a numpty.
Extra tip that will look to totally daft at first but trust me on this: motorboat your lips before the shot. This loosens them up and helps stop that rictus look. Plus, if everyone starts laughing, chances are you'll laugh too and really smile!
Step 4: Posture!
The head's right now, but the rest of your is still stiff as a board. This ain't happening, not while I'm around! If you're in a formal shoot and your photographer is waiting around, try shaking your limbs a bit and loosening up. Remember to breathe and calm yourself down. If you're sat down, imagine there's a string holding you up straight. Hunching doesn't do a lot for flattering your figure.
If you're stood up and you're of the female persuasion, try angling your limbs a bit. Stick your hands on your hips, get your elbows and arms out at a triangular shape. Guys, if you don't know what to do with your hands, stick 'em in your pockets and stand wide legged. Experiment with different poses in the mirror and see what makes you look good: it's different for everybody.
Side note: Looking Slimmer
If you're a woman carrying a bit of extra weight, try this little tip on for size: place your hands just above your hips on your waistline, and then slide them slightly forward so they're kind of resting on either side of your stomach. This helps you look a little slimmer! Also, never be the one closest to the camera in a group shot: the lens always makes the closest person look gargantuan, so fight for a spot towards the back of the group if your size is really going to bother you.
Another pose to try: lean with your back against the wall, then arch your back slightly and push your chest out with your arms against the wall. Not too much, it'll look like you're trying too hard if your back is close to snapping! This natural stance stretches your tummy out a bit more, plus the gap between the wall and your back adds more slimness to the angle.
Step 5: Lighting!
Right, so your pose is looking sweet as all hell, your face is on point, you've got that cheeky grin going, and everything's looking smoother than ever before. Only then you've got a light shining in your face and it's making you scrunch up. Or someone's fired an on camera flash and suddenly your spots have emerged to glint in the harsh light. Argh!
Not to worry, what you've got to do now is look around you at your lighting situation. As I mentioned in one of my previous blog posts, the key for the best pics is knowing where your light is coming from and what kind of light. Try standing next to the window with a net curtain over it, this helps diffuse the light so it's a bit softer, plus you can angle it so it's a bit more flattering by changing your position in front of it! Try it out and see what works best for the shape of your face: the classic would be Rembrandt lighting, which is just to your side and slightly above you. You'll know you've got it when there's a little triangle of light on the darker side of your face. If it worked for a legendary portrait artist, it'll work for you!
A tip for those of us desperate to hide some wrinkles, try to make sure that the light your photographer is using is coming from above them and directly behind. We call this butterfly lighting (because there's a tiny butterfly shaped shadow beneath your nose) and it's fantastic for filling in wrinkly bits! The softer the light, the better: harsh lighting highlights every imperfection on the skin.
So that's it. Hopefully you can use these tips to absolutely smash it when it comes to having your photo taken. Try them, and post the results in the comments or on my Facebook page, I'd love to see how you get on!