There was a time when an unflattering photo could be your secret shame, hidden in a drawer forever. Then along came Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, you name it—and now every double-chinned, shiny face can be immediately broadcast to family, friends, and the world at large. Armed with these expert tips on makeup, hair, and strategic posing, though, you’ll be picture-perfect in no time.
For Planned Pictures
Conceal lightly. A face masked in foundation will look flat and pasty in photos, says Morgen Schick, a beauty expert and the author of Your Makeover ($10, amazon.com). For a more natural effect, use concealer only to hide imperfections (say, redness around your nose) and shadowy areas, both of which may be amplified by the glare of a flash. Not sure where your facial shadows lurk? Look in the mirror while tilting your chin down an inch or two. You’ll probably notice darkness around your eye sockets and the folds that bracket your mouth, under your lip line, and on your chin.
Tap concealer over those areas with your pinkie until the makeup melts into your skin, then use a puff to press a translucent matte powder on your forehead, down the center of your nose, and onto your cheeks and chin. “These areas tend to look greasy when light hits them,” says Schick. Stay away from foundation and powder with sparkly mica. Allover shimmer will just look allover shiny in photos.
Enhance your eyes. To make sure yours pop when the flash does, focus on defining your brows and lash lines. Fill in your brows with a pencil or a powder (taupe if your hair is light, brown if it’s dark). Then intensify your upper lash lines by working liner into the bases of your lashes, says beauty expert Carmindy, the makeup host of TLC’s What Not to Wear. (Skip lining the bottom lashes or your eyes will look closed in.) Follow that with mascara on the upper and lower lashes.
Add some color. Without blush, your face can look pale or washed-out in a photo, even if your skin is naturally dark. Lightly apply a warm rose, pink, peach, or coral to the apples of your cheeks, starting from the point below your irises and working out to your temples. (Don’t go any closer to your nose, as this can make your eyes appear close-set.) Keep the blush sheer (think of creating a watercolor effect), so the look is romantic, not Raggedy Ann.
The camera’s flash can make objects recede visually, which leaves your features looking flat, says Carmindy. “That’s why you want to highlight the planes of your face only with a touch of shimmer, which will cause the light to bounce off in a way that creates depth,” she says. The three places to target: below your brows, along the tops of your cheekbones, and right above your Cupid’s bow. (Keep it light or you’ll risk the aforementioned greasy look.) Use a cream or a fine, shimmery powder and blend well.
Lighten your lips. Avoid taupe and brown lipsticks, which can look like, well, the kiss of death in photos. Instead, opt for a warm pinky rose or peach. Matte or slightly shimmery is best. A super-glossy finish can make lips look drippy or waxy, says Schick.
Pump up the volume. When it comes to photo-friendly hair, “a softer, natural style is more flattering than a set, hard one,” says Mark Garrison, the owner of the Mark Garrison Salon, in New York City. And keep at least some of your hair off your face. “Just tucking it behind your ears can help make your cheekbones look more lifted,” says Ted Gibson, the owner of the Ted Gibson salons, in New York and Florida. If you’re wearing your hair up, stay away from severely pulled-back styles or anything too coiffed; go for a low ponytail or a loose bun.
Tame flyaways. Natural light or a flash can pick up flyaways, which “are distracting in a photo,” says Garrison. To tame them, spritz a lightweight hair spray on your palms, then smooth your hair from roots to ends. If your hair is curly or coarse, use something a bit heavier, like a wax or a pomade.
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For Spontaneous Photo Ops
When you have minimal prep time, focus on potential photo bombs.
Get lipstick off your teeth. The old model trick works: Put your finger in your mouth and pull it out. Excess color transfers to skin, not teeth.
Take a powder. If no blotting papers are on hand, a single ply of tissue or a paper napkin will work. Dab your forehead, nose, and chin.
Pinch your cheeks. This creates a temporary glow.
Tame frizz. Don’t redo your hairdo. Instead, use the time to tamp down frizz. Breathe into your hands and rub them together to create some moisture, then run them over the top of your hair.
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Show your “good” side. Chances are, one side really is better, says Peter Hurley, a Los Angeles–based portrait photographer. To find yours, hold a piece of paper vertically over one side of your face, then the other, says Ian Spanier, a photographer in New York City. Your better side is the one with more upturned features—for example, the corners of your eyes and lips.
Control your chin. When you pose, elongate your neck and push your forehead and chin forward a bit. It may feel awkward, but “this position helps define your jawline and gives your face a more angular, lifted look,” says Hurley.
Pass the cheese. Despite what we’ve told generations of kindergartners, saying “cheese” doesn’t create a genuine smile. “A real smile forces the muscles under the eyes to contract,” says Hurley. To make that happen, squint slightly with your lower lids, Clint Eastwood–style, as you smile. (You might want to practice this in the mirror.) And aim your gaze at “the top of the camera lens, which will draw your eyes up and make them look brighter and bigger,” says image consultant Holly Ernst, the owner of Sparkle!, an image-consulting firm in Minneapolis.
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Angle Your Body
For full-body shots, don’t face the camera head-on. “It’s the least favorable stance, because you’ll see the widest parts of the body in the photo,” says portrait photographer Aaron Gil, the owner of FotoNuova, a photography studio in San Marino, California. Instead, assume the Oscars pose: Turn your body about 30 degrees to the right, then turn your head left in the direction of the camera, looking toward your left shoulder. (If your right side is better, reverse the direction.) To look your slimmest, put your weight on your back leg and turn your front foot toward the camera.
If you’re sitting, perch near the edge of the chair and sit up straight. Or, for a more casual pose, rest your elbows on your thighs and lean slightly forward. In a big group shot with people of different heights, avoid crouching, a position that flatters no one. If you can’t stand, try sitting on the floor with one knee up, crossing your legs yoga-style, or sweeping them to the side, like a mermaid’s tail.
Do something with your hands. If you’re standing, place the hand closest to the camera on your hip; this adds definition to your upper arm. If you’re sitting, clasp your hands in front of you (gently—no white knuckles) so your arms form a soft arc.
3, 2, 1, and… Right before the snap, “take a deep breath and release it,” says Gil. “This will bring a relaxed, ‘I’m loving this, really!’ look to your face.” Now go back to having fun.