You don’t have to look perfect to take a perfect picture. “The most photogenic people are not necessarily the most attractive,” says wedding photographer Denis Reggie. “They’re just not intimidated by the camera.” How do you overcome intimidation? Whether you’re nervous about wrinkles or a double chin, the following eight tips will make solving photo issues a snap.
"Engage the photographer in a conversation about some topic you both may find of interest," says Los Angeles-based head-shot photographer Michael Calas. If your mind is focused on something other than the photo, you'll appear less rigid. You can also lean against something, interact with a pet or a child, or intertwine your arms with someone else's. Also, never keep your hands right by your sides, says Chuck DeLaney, dean of students at the New York Institute of Photography, in New York City. Clasp them in the front or in the back, or hold on to a glass or your eyeglasses to help relax your body.
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Fake Flawless Skin
Foundation and translucent powder are quick fixes, but it's equally important to get as much light on the face as possible. If you're indoors, pose near the closest light source, like a window. Also, use a flash inside and outside because "the light of the flash will bounce off the skin, illuminate it, and conceal facial imperfections," says Jim Janis, Walgreens photo-finishing specialist in Chandler, Arizona. Finally, make the most of your scenery. "Photographs taken on a white sandy beach or a snow-covered surface tend to be more flattering because the reflective qualities of those surfaces help de-emphasize wrinkles and pockmarks," says Reggie.
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Avoid a Double Chin
Pay attention to the camera position. "If the lens is at your eye level or above, you're in the right frame," says Calas. "If the lens is below your eye level, then you run the risk of looking like you have an extra chin." Bend your knees so you're at least on an even plane with the photographer (assuming it's not a full-body photo). If you're significantly taller than the photographer, sit in a chair and look up toward the camera. Finally, project your chin out an inch or so more than you normally would. You may feel a bit awkward, like a giraffe, but "you'll have a long, thin neck in the photo," says Suzy Drasnin Orduna, owner of the Beach Ambience Studio & Gallery, in Sag Harbor, New York.
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Keep Eyes Open
Close your eyes and have the photographer count to three. On three, open them. "Works every time," says Janis. If you're outdoors, remember that noon is the worst time to take a photo, because that's when the sun is harshest and you're more likely to squint. Head out at 4 or 5 p.m., when the light is more amber.
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Turn your head. Most people have asymmetrical features (for example, one eye is larger than the other or the right ear is a bit higher than the left). So DeLaney suggests posing with two-thirds of the face in view and the remaining third turned slightly away from the camera. That way, facial asymmetry is not as obvious. This particular angle also has a slimming effect, as it draws the eye up and down (forehead to chin), not left to right (eye to eye).
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Don't look straight into the lens. "Focus your eyes just above the lens instead of staring directly into the camera," says Patrick McMullen, a celebrity photographer and author of InTents (PowerHouse Books, $75, amazon.com). "I usually look past the lens, over the photographer's shoulder," says Miss Louisiana 2004 and first runner-up, Miss America 2005, Jennifer Dupont. "And show some personality. Sometimes all it takes is the slight raise of an eyebrow."
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Keep Your Smile Natural
Don't say "cheese," which usually conjures an artificial smile. Instead, ask the photographer to throw out an unexpected word, like "money." This will usually elicit a genuine laugh, and your expression won't look forced. "I always think of something funny, like my disastrous attempts at cooking, to achieve a natural smile," says Dupont. "If you're self-conscious or critical of your smile, practicing before a photo shoot might be helpful, too."
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Avoid appearing possessed in your next photo by affixing your eyes on a lamp or the nearest light source right before the photo is taken. (Red-eye usually occurs in a dim room when the irises have opened up so much that the retinas, which are red with blood vessels, light up when the flash hits them.) When the pupils fix on something bright, they shrink, reducing the potential for red-eye.