How to look better in group photos?
February 18, 2012 9:21 AM   Subscribe

i don't want to be tagged in ugly pictures of myself

so, i have lots of picture-happy friends who are always trying to get me in group shots but i hate the way i end up looking in them. i don't have the easiest face to translate to film and with bad lighting at school or elsewhere with someone else holding the camera, i just look awful.

if you want a picture of me for reference, i'll send it over. i just don't feel like posting up here. but if a description will suffice, here it goes. i'm 5'1 with a very huge, pakistani nose and a skin color that does great in natural sunlight but awful in florescent lighting and dark brown eyes that don't really pick up light. i wear glasses but take them off for pics but that makes me feel disoriented and like i can't see. also, no matter how much make-up i wear, it never shows it off. i emphasize that because i've tried make-up to get better pictures and it doesn't really add anything to the photo. me being shorter than most of my friends also makes it awkward for posing.

oh, i also wear braces and i've had tmj forever. before braces, i had extremely crooked teeth and always avoided pictures so i'm aware that i've carried that complex but a wide-eyed smile actually physically hurts my jaw and i have braces pushing on my mouth already.

the thing is, i really love sharing memories with my friends and i feel like i'm missing out by taking pictures with my friends. but any time that anyone wants me to take a picture, i tense up and already imagine that the picture will end up awful (i know that reasoning contributes to the picture being bad but i can't stop it). contrary to what you may be thinking, i actually am not insecure. when i look in the mirror, i think i'm pretty and i love myself and i recognize just not my physical beauty but my inner, emotional, and spiritual beauty too. i just don't know how to convey that to photos.

all suggestions/advice are very much so appreciated!
posted by thischarmingirl to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (15 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
oh, if it wasn't clear, i would like tips on how to be more photogenic in group photos. even though i am very resistant to getting my picture taken, i don't want to be like this and i'm trying to resolve the issue. so, thanks again in advance for any of the suggestions/advice to be given!
posted by thischarmingirl at 9:24 AM on February 18, 2012

Begin with great posture. Stick your neck up high and push your chin out and down (it feels funny but photographs well). Too make my arms look smaller, I place my hand on my hip instead of hanging it by my side.
posted by JacksonandFinch at 9:34 AM on February 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

The standard female trick for taking nice photos is to tilt your chin down and look upwards toward the camera. If you're standing at the side of the group, put your hand on your hip - your upper arm will look slimmer.

On preview, what JacksonandFinch said.
posted by michelle lightning at 9:36 AM on February 18, 2012

I'm surprised you feel makeup doesn't help in pictures. I can definitely tell the difference between pictures where I am and am not wearing makeup; it's not a miracle worker but it can help highlight my eyes, cover up dark circles and blemishes, add a little color to my face. Do you feel confident in general in your makeup application skills?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:36 AM on February 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

not to threadsit but since you asked a question, i'll answer it. i was referring to eye makeup. i don't wear foundation and/or concealer (can never find my shade but that's a different long story to ensue) . my skin though doesn't come off as bad in pictures but really, the issue at hand, is that my general expression does. but yeah, my eyes are really dark and my lashes are already long (so to me mascara doesn't make much a difference) so unless i put lots of eyeliner, it doesn't come off in pictures.

i think my expression comes off as bad because the spontaneity of a picture throws me off really bad. i ave no time to gain my composure, to convince myself the picture will be alright, and to remember how/what to pose and whatnot.
posted by thischarmingirl at 9:41 AM on February 18, 2012

The fact that you're 5'1 is a good thing as far as being photogenic. I am 5'5, but I have a bunch of friends who are 5'1 who are picture-happy, and I always look like a giant next to them. They always look cute and tiny, and I just look huge, even though I am average. So I guess what I am saying is, keep in mind that when other people look at the picture, they don't think "oh, that girl is 5'1, how awkward is that posing!" In fact, your picture-happy friends are probably thinking "man, I wish I looked more like thischarmingirl instead of looking like an elephant next to her. Everyone judges themselves more than they judge others in pictures. It's like hearing a recording of your voice. I've had people show me pictures of myself and say "this is a really cute picture of you!" and I look at it and think "really? THIS is cute?" When others look at your picture, they don't see a frozen image of you, they know what you really look like when you're not posing and they picture you as if you're moving and smiling, if that makes sense. You, however, mostly only see yourself in frozen images. What I am saying is that when other people see a picture, their brain processes it as more than just a snapshot, and they are not judging you from the picture only.

My only real advice, is to NOT to the tight lipped smile that people who dislike their smile use for picture. Show your teeth a little, even with braces it's a lot more attractive than someone who has the same expression in every picture, where it is obvious that they are not smiling on purpose.
posted by at 9:43 AM on February 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've found that lifting the chin up works, it also puts your gaze up, and you can focus on other things. Also, laughing seems to help with photos.
posted by corb at 9:44 AM on February 18, 2012

I read somewhere that people are used to their own faces that they see flipped in the mirror. So when you see yourself in photographs, the image is almost-but-not-quite identical to the familiar mirror image (because faces aren't perfectly symmetrical), and that not-quite makes the photo seem "off" somehow. The same article suggested mirroring your pictures in Photoshop to test whether you still hate how you look.

I'm not sure how much study this has gotten, but it's an interesting idea. I wonder how people felt about their images before photography / reliable mirrors were common.
posted by nicebookrack at 10:10 AM on February 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just try to deal. Be a better person than I am. I've thought about asking this very question - because like you I do see it as a good thing when friends invite me to share the moment at their kid's christening or their passed-the-bar party or just hanging out. I want to look happy and like im having fun, yet, I always look like a bad mug shot.

Some of the advice I here is similar to what I've been told by professionals. I also been told that I'm simply not photogenic and I should try to "express myself."

One thing I have noticed is that I tend to look less like a serial killer in work photos - group shots at a project dinner or here-we-are-at-the-sports-event type things. I suspect this is because at work I go along to get a lot and don't let my actual feelings affect me so much, and I don't care about how I look.

So far, this insight has not enabled me to be more relaxed and less psychotic on film and facebook, but I'm hopeful that in time I'll get better.

FWIW, people who know me, people who were at an event with me, sometimes don't even recognize me in the photos. That's how different I look in photos!

I'm really trying to concentrate on being happy the photo is being taken and hope that comes through.

Camaras change things. The add 10 pounds, or they take away ten pounds, depending on how you are shaped. If you ever get a chance to talk with someone who photographs people, they can give you a lot of insight. If you ever have to have a professional mug shot, that photographer will be able to tell you your best poses and angles.

Or maybe everyone will start using really high-speed cameras that are better at catching expressions that show your personality.

Sometimes things change. Many of the women who were famously beautiful in the US and Europe at the turn of the previous century became un-beautiful as photography caught on.

Good luck.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 10:22 AM on February 18, 2012

I noticed that my Japanese ESL students put on a photo-face for each photo. I copied that idea. It worked. Find the best photo of you that you have. Probably has a 3/4 pose because few faces look good straight-on. Get a feel for how to imitate that expression in every further photo. I found that thinking of a particular thing will bring a certain expression. Maybe someone/something you love that gives you a half-smile and open eyes. I got compliments on my photos after that, surprisingly. I am not photogenic.
posted by Listener at 10:41 AM on February 18, 2012 [5 favorites]

I used to be bothered with this and looked uncomfortable in group photos, but then I saw a few pictures of myself where I wasn't paying attention to the camera and looked really happy to be in the moment and hanging out with my friends, and it all went away. What i'm saying is that it will be more noticeable if you look "uncomfortable" in the picture than if it's technically "not flattering" but you look like you're enjoying yourself.
posted by sarahnicolesays at 10:43 AM on February 18, 2012

Tag approval.
posted by oceanjesse at 11:24 AM on February 18, 2012

First I thought this was a facebook question, and I was going to say change your settings so no one can post tagged photos of you without your approval. But then I saw it was a "I ruin group shots" question and I thought "hmm, I can relate to that!"

I am also unphotogenic so often just avoid group shots or offer to take the photo. The only way I can look good in pics is if i am ACTUALLY HAVING FUN and standing in a group crouching while someone tries to figure out someone else's camera phone and knowing in the back of my head that they will want to post this somewhere later is NOT my idea of fun.

So basically I try to avoid the pictures. I hear what you are saying about group shots and memories though, I had a good photo of myself and 5 or so friends from some function years ago (pre-digital, probably why we were all given a copy) and it was really nice to have that shared moment in time. BUT the photo was good, and we were all happy in it. I have since wondered why I didn't get a copy of some wedding pics I was a bridesmaid in, and I think it's for that reason- unphotogenic! (Hint: Do not be bridesmaids with two 5'10" blonde sisters if you are not so attractively presented).

I am going to try the Japanese ESL student trick though. Good luck to both of us! PS just to stress it once again-generally, it's how you feel that gets transmitted in the 'average person's (non-model-like)' photo.

PS Ten years later when you look back though, you will realize you were wayy cuter than you think now!
posted by bquarters at 11:58 AM on February 18, 2012

First of all, no one else will have the same reactions to your photos that you do. The only time you get to see yourself from the perspective of a few feet away is in photos and the mirror (although studies have shown that people see themselves as more attractive in the mirror for some reason). Everyone else sees you on a regular basis. They know what you look like, and when they see a photo of you, they will just see you as they always do (with the exception of if it is an amazingly terrible or wonderful photo). 99.9% of the time, no one is going to think about it at all. What people will think about and remember are the times when someone doesn't want to be in a fun photo, or complains about how their photo's always come out badly.

Think of it this way: You probably have friends who think the exact thing that you do about themselves. How often do you look through photos of your friends and think "wow, this person really isn't photogenic, their photos always come out badly"? You probably never think that, because you know what your friends look like, and don't over analyze every photo of them.

Now, with that being said, I have found that there are a couple of things which can improve photographs. First, try to stand at a slight angle to the camera. You will want to practice to find what works best for you. Most "bad" photos end up with the person standing straight at the camera, which loses all sense of depth. By standing at an angle, you get some movement to the photo.

Sticking your head forward a little bit to extend your neck can help to define your chin a little more (or to reduce a double chin somewhat). Also, you can try smiling more with one side of your mouth, so your aren't doing a full sized uncomfortable smile (think of it more as a smirk). This can work for posed pictures.

Try looking for the photo's that actors use for their head shots. You will see a variety of different looks, some serious, some happy. Try to find a look that you like, and spend time practicing it.

Lastly, if you try to smile really big, you are going to look like someone who is trying to smile really big. Always hold back a little bit, until you practice enough to know exactly how much effort you should be putting into your look.
posted by markblasco at 12:33 PM on February 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Right, you're used to seeing your mirror image, so when you see photos of yourself you might think you look odd. Logically it would seem impossible that somebody could be less attractive than their mirror image but I swear our brains play tricks on us like that (at least mine does, and I'm not the only one). Of course for other people it would be your mirror image that looks different.
posted by moorooka at 3:02 AM on February 19, 2012

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