How do I learn to be photogenic?
September 30, 2005 9:11 AM   Subscribe

How do I learn to be photogenic?

I'm a reasonably symmetrical person, and I take a pretty good studio photo. Candids, however, reveal that I am really the Elephant (wo)Man.

I've tried finding my good side and ignoring the camera to no avail- somehow, I'm always captured with my head lolling one side, one eye open, one eye closed, wearing a smile that shows more gum than teeth.

I understand that I'm not Pamela Anderson and no amount of photography will change that, but it would be really nice to have some family pictures with my kids that don't look like mug shots.
posted by headspace to Grab Bag (22 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
People have "micro expressions" all the time, and some people have much busier faces than others. The only thing I've ever found for that is to keep shooting and pick through the frames until you find a reasonable one.
Disclaimer: This may have nothing to do with your problem.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 9:23 AM on September 30, 2005

look directly into the lens, work on a smile that shows fewer (what you think are) teeth (because they're actually gums), and keep your head straight. if possible, you could try putting the photographer in front a big mirror, so you can see and learn what you're doing.
posted by bonaldi at 9:32 AM on September 30, 2005

If someone is about to take your picture, close your eyes for three seconds before it is taken. Helps prevent the blinking problem.
posted by Sara Anne at 9:46 AM on September 30, 2005

practice. get a camera that auto shots, make home videos of yourself, preferably clothed.

watch them, watch them, watch them. very quickly you will noticing annoying little habits, moments, etc. learn to control them, and soon it will be "bond, headspace bond".
posted by ewkpates at 9:46 AM on September 30, 2005

I'd always heard that angling your shoulders slightly, cocking your head just a tiny bit to one side, smiling a little less widely than you normally would (like bonaldi said) and, when the photographer counts to 3, blink on "2" so your eyes are open for the camera click (similar to what Sara Anne said) all help. Also, try to be mindful of relaxing your shoulders -- not bunching them up high around your neck -- and make sure you're holding your head up, not allowing your chin to droop which can result in an unfortunate jowly look.
posted by justonegirl at 9:56 AM on September 30, 2005

Practice posing in actual photos. Not in front of a mirror. There are degrees of asymmetry we don't notice (and often think are grossly exaggerated) until confronted with a "reverse" image of ourselves.
posted by Sangre Azul at 10:12 AM on September 30, 2005

Exactly what justonegirl said, and finally, have an attitude towards the lens. Just think something to yourself other than "I'm having my picture taken." Like "I love my family" or whatever is appropriate. It'll come through.
posted by rainbaby at 10:13 AM on September 30, 2005

Marlene Dietrich went to a photo booth and practised holding her head at different angles to find out how to best manage the shadows on her face. Worked for her.
posted by orange swan at 10:34 AM on September 30, 2005

When you're having your picture taken, straighten your back, and take and let go of a deep breath. Consciously relax your shoulders. Smile. You look better smiling, even if you don't think so, although you don't have to grin. Your photo will always look odd to you because you are used to seeing your mirror image and your actual image looks inexplicably wrong.

When you look at your photos, consider holding them up to view them in a mirror, or if they're digital, "flip" them. The mirror image reversal makes a big difference.
posted by theora55 at 10:47 AM on September 30, 2005

Go take a look at your old photo albums and look at the people who always look good in their photos. You'll notice they have the same exact smile in every one. People who take bad photos never do. They are always in the middle of smiling or blinking or smiling too wide etc - they have no plan. What you need to do is find your face. get yourself a digital camera and a tripod and practice your picture face. It might be a wide smile (very rare is this someone's best look), it might not be a smile at all. Just find the face where you look your best and practice it until you can do it at will, then you will be one of those people who always takes good pictures.
posted by any major dude at 10:48 AM on September 30, 2005

Drop your chin just a bit. A lot of people arch their neck to raise their chin and head as their photo is taken. They mistakenly think this makes their chin look stronger (or less double...). In reality, it gives the camera a huge, exaggerated expanse of neck to look at. That isn't flattering for anyone. So drop your chin as if you're being a little bit coy. It looks more natural and more flattering.
posted by Miko at 10:52 AM on September 30, 2005

and my I disagree with Miko - don't drop your chin, because it will make you look like Three Chin Charlie

Full-face shots work, profile shots work - but I would suggest following Sangre Azul's advice - practice posing, and see what works for you. If you have a digital camera, so much the better!
posted by seawallrunner at 11:17 AM on September 30, 2005

"find the face where you look your best and practice it until you can do it at will" -- and you can be as photogenic as this girl.
posted by Tubes at 12:01 PM on September 30, 2005

I'm with rainbaby.
Pretend that you're looking into the eyes of the person for whom you're taking the picture.
That person could be your mom, your kids, Brad Pitt -- whoever.
Your expression will just happen.
posted by Methylviolet at 12:08 PM on September 30, 2005

Get a good photographer to take a photo. I can get pretty good photos out of people who don't normally photograph well.
posted by BobsterLobster at 12:39 PM on September 30, 2005

A friend calls the drop-chin thing everyone's "meatbeard". To prevent meatbeard in photos, keep your head level, but have the photographer shoot above you, and down at an angle.

Taking a photo of someone's face, from a 45 degree down angle exaggerates the eyes and minimizes the rest of the face and body. Basically it results in really flattering shots of just about anyone, and especially those with weak chins or growing meatbeards.
posted by mathowie at 2:21 PM on September 30, 2005 [1 favorite]

don't drop your chin, because it will make you look like Three Chin Charlie

That's what people think, and then they do the exaggerated chin-raise, which makes it look as though it's just as much neck as face. That's not good either. Your saying "Keep your head level" is probably what I'm getting at with "Drop your chin a bit" -- that is, don't arch your neck artificially or you look like you're all chin.
posted by Miko at 3:18 PM on September 30, 2005

I found THIS a while ago, and never thought about using it for what you've got in mind, but it'd work pretty well, now that I think about it.
posted by richmondparker at 7:11 PM on September 30, 2005

As soon as I started reading this thread, I was humming the song from
posted by quiet at 10:48 PM on September 30, 2005

Response by poster: Thank you guys for all your great suggestions! I was definitely doing the Stretch the Neck manuever, and smiling too big- with the holiday season coming up, I'm going to give your tips a whack, and hopefully cringe less when the prints come back.

I will also strive NOT to become Expressionless Girl. :) <--- see, an expression!
posted by headspace at 10:35 AM on October 1, 2005

Response by poster: Update now that the Christmas (and photograph!) season is upon us: not stretching out my neck and deliberately smiling smaller than I normally would has *greatly* improved my appearance in pictures. Thank you guys again for all your suggestions; my scrapbooks will be a much less scarier place next year!
posted by headspace at 12:07 PM on November 30, 2005 [1 favorite]

Seconding mathowie's suggestion - always get the camera above your eye-line and conversely the worst photo you will ever have taken of you is when the camera is at ground level looking up at you.
posted by meech at 4:18 AM on February 11, 2006

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