How to look "more like yourself" in snapshots.
May 17, 2006 12:31 AM   Subscribe

Do you "pose" for snapshots? Should I? It has been kindly brought to my attention that I look like crap in photos--worse than in person.

Apparently, photographs of me (when I'm looking at the camera) look nothing like the way I look in person. I guess it's the angle of my face. I also have a few devastatingly (wink) good photos taken mostly when I was caught off guard or unaware of the camera. While I think these misrepresent me, my friend says they are closer how I actually look to other people.

Now that it's been brought to my attention, I notice that I tend to tilt my head back when looking at the camera. I naturally do this when looking at anything, so this is how I see myself when looking in the mirror.

So... my "natural" pose looks like crap. Can any of you naturally or unnaturally photogenic people suggest any tips to ensure more flattering photos? And how exactly do you get into position when posing with someone or when it's group photo time? Thanks!

Related question: my friend (male, FWIW) says that most people practice smiling and posing in the bathroom mirror to determine their most photogenic look. Is this true?
posted by QueSeraSera to Grab Bag (19 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I get this, too. Why don't you take lots of pictures of yourself in private and try out some poses and how you look in certain lighting and angles? It's not a narcissistic thing, but if you are aware of how you look when others take a picture of you, then chances are you can get a picture that's closer to how you see yourself.

I don't think I look like myself when I see pictures or movies of myself, but I think it's because there's this feeling that I'm being watched, so I tend to look less natural.

So chin up, or down, or whatever makes you look good.
posted by i8ny3x at 12:47 AM on May 17, 2006

Not all faces translate well to photographs. If you're talking about a typical point and shoot camera, then the flash will flatten features and render a result that's inaccurate. I stopped posing for photos years ago - the kind where you're expected to stand facing the camera and slap a forced smile onto your face. If someone is adamant about taking a shot then I do it on my terms, usually looking away from the camera. I miss the kind simplicity of how our grandparents look in old photos. The shots were in black and white and perhaps a tad blurry depending on exposure, but nearly everyone looks swell. I look at old pictures of myself as a kid in the 70s and the results are garish.
posted by quadog at 12:54 AM on May 17, 2006

I have a big face and head (you know, to store that huge brain!) and I have found that the more I mug for the camera, the more the absurdity of the situation covers how bad I look on film. Pretend you're one of those 50s models demoing a new toaster, that kind of smile works for me every time.
posted by tweak at 2:21 AM on May 17, 2006 [2 favorites]

I used to always be a mess in pictures. My smile somehow involved my mouth hanging open, many times showing tongue. My senior year of high school, the school photographer told me to say "yes" instead of "cheese". I ended up with my best school pictures ever. Buoyed by the success, I spent a little time in the mirror practicing that smile so I could do it without actually having to say yes. Pictures taken of me during college have a nice smile but that's it.

One day I saw a celebrity on TV. She was signing autographs and did not look that pretty. Then someone would ask for a photo and she would change the way she held herself. All of a sudden, she looked beautiful. I started noticing it everywhere. Watch celebrities on the red carpet- when it's time for stills, they assume the position. Most celebrities are only photographed with their faces in one or two positions. Paris Hilton is the most obvious. Anyway, I took a little time in front of the mirror again to find a position that worked for me. Since then, I've rarely wanted to tear up a picture of myself and people actually tell me I'm photogenic. My husband has recently decided that he is tired of bad pictures too and is on a mission to find his pose. (I think he's working with better raw material, though!)
posted by wallaby at 4:35 AM on May 17, 2006

My husband has this problem. I can still re-call the first time I saw his reflection in the mirror, what a shock! He has quite an asymmetrical face and his mirror image is not as handsome as he really looks. Sounds weird but I realise that since he only has his mirror image to go by, he doesn't really see himself as we see him. Except in pictures.
I echo all the above, do not pose. We got some family shots done recently where we all just piled on top of each other on a floor, laughing. Best shots ever. Of course I'm sure the other 100 shots that were discarded were as bad as usual but posing tends to freeze everything.
posted by Wilder at 4:44 AM on May 17, 2006

Best answer: AskMe helped me have the best winter-holiday-candid season ever with this thread.
posted by headspace at 4:59 AM on May 17, 2006 [1 favorite]

Solely from my experience of watching America's Next Top Model, I think it's OK to practice in a mirror. Of course, the practice photos other people have suggested are better than a mirror.

When pro photographers take your picture, the make your body face one way, your head face another, and your eyes yet another. Working with a mirror or practice photos will help you find what those funky angles are that look good even though they feel weird. Then you can practice those so you can bring your A-game to future snapshots.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 6:41 AM on May 17, 2006

Smile with your eyes. Yes, this takes a little practice - in front of a mirror, pull your mouth into a something of a smile. It will look fake; now chuckle at nothing at all. Notice how your eyes closed a bit? Smiles look more natural that way. (if you're wanting to smile in pictures)

My great aunt used to mutter "chin out" repeatedly when the whole fam got its picuture taken - mostly for herself, but I picked up on it, and now that I'm an adult with a less than perfect jawline, I know what she's talking about. If you bring your whole head forward, at least one chin will disappear.
posted by notsnot at 6:47 AM on May 17, 2006

I am a tall female with broad shoulders, and I always feel like I look too big in pictures. Someone told me about a year ago that super models squeeze their shoulder blades together in the back as hard as they can. Wow! it makes me look so much more in proportion.
posted by kgn2507 at 7:37 AM on May 17, 2006 [1 favorite]

I notice that I tend to tilt my head back when looking at the camera.

I had this problem. My friend Mark said I routinely looked "chinly" in pictures.

I found out through trial and error that I need to open my mouth a little more...not just smile with my teeth showing, but actually open my mouth. This has resulted in the "South Park smile" which everyone seems to like. (It looks like a half-circle, akin to when the kids on South Park smile.)
posted by nekton at 8:01 AM on May 17, 2006

Best answer: To me, people are most attractive when they are engaged in an activity. That could mean typing, playing a game, flirting or having a conversation. As-soon-as they become self-conscious (more aware of themselves being photographed than the activity they're doing), they become less attractive and less interesting.

If someone wants to take your photo, try asking them to wait and take it while you're doing something. In the best case scenario, they really wait and you forget all about them. But if the photographer is in a hurry, pick up a book or a sketchpad and focus on it while he takes your picture.

If it needs to be a photo of you looking into the camera, flirt with the camera. By "flirt," I really mean form ANY kind of relationship with the camera or photographer. It's fine (perhaps best) for it to be a fantasy, totally in your head. But make it about the camera/photographer -- NOT about you.

If you can speak, you can talk to the photographer. Ask him questions (not about you). If you can't speak, use your psychic powers to rip the photographer's clothes off, turn him into a frog or make his head explode.

The camera will capture the fact that you're thinking interesting thoughts and you'll look both attractive and interesting -- and maybe also mysterious.
posted by grumblebee at 8:52 AM on May 17, 2006

In case you couldn't tell, I'm against the "practice in a mirror" school. That will make you MORE self-conscious, not less. But I'll give the disclaimer that I HATE most celebrity photos. They all LOOK posed to me.
posted by grumblebee at 8:53 AM on May 17, 2006

Ignore the camera. Think about someone who makes you happy (your sweetie, your cat, your dog).
posted by matildaben at 9:12 AM on May 17, 2006

Response by poster: Hey, thanks everyone. This has been really helpful. I didn't consider myself bad looking to begin with, so the looking like "crap compared to" comment was a real compliment. Never even realized. Didn't know this was so common. And now I can look even hotter in staged photos.

I'll try checking out my face from different chin up/down/out angles, note what doesn't work for me, then ignore (or flirt with) the camera when it's showtime.

I completely agree that candid = more attractive. Though for reasons unknown, many people specifically request the boring look-into-the-camera thing.
posted by QueSeraSera at 9:44 AM on May 17, 2006

Do people practice?

I think so.
posted by Kickstart70 at 10:04 AM on May 17, 2006 [1 favorite]

As a photographer-be careful of 'chin out' this works for a very small amount of the population, angles are better than straight on, most people look better being shot down on than shot up on, ditto to the eye smile (i get people to say 'i hate pictures', 'are we done yet', 'money', and for the adults 'beer').
posted by nadawi at 10:32 AM on May 17, 2006

I used to make goofy, ridiculous facial expressions whenever anyone had a camera out. It was funny at the time, but no one has any pictures of me not looking like a moron. Oops :)

I was recently going through a bunch of old family photos. I was struck by how my grandfather almost always looked good in photos, and eventually figured out his trick--he has a great smile in all of them.

I've never tried practicing, but it might not hurt. But I think the key is to not be so self-conscious. Just give a friendly (genuine!) smile. At worst, people will think you were too busy having a good time with friends/family to pose.
posted by fogster at 12:56 PM on May 17, 2006

Never look dead-on at the camera, always turn your head a teeny bit one way or another (which is what those damn school photographers always tried to get you to do but it doesnt work when someone does it for you!).
posted by radioamy at 7:23 PM on May 17, 2006

A good tip I keep in mind - many people tilt their head back in a photo, with the idea that it thins out their neck and prevents double chins, as well as looking better. It actually makes your jaw look too big.

Tilt your head forwards a little, look up a bit into the camera. It really makes a difference.
posted by tomble at 10:38 PM on May 17, 2006

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