Help me look good in a newspaper photo.
January 23, 2008 5:54 PM   Subscribe

Help me look good in a photo accompanying a news story.

I've just been interviewed for a business story in a big daily paper based on the East Coast. Huge audience. Enormous. (In fact, I might have chickened out of the whole gig, except I thought I was originally to provide just one pithy quote... and then after I got further into the phone call with the journo, he went a different direction and asked more and more questions.)

Then, the paper calls back the next day and asks if I am willing to have my picture in the article, and can they send a photographer over. I calmly said, "Yes, of course," but now I'm basically peeing myself (I keep trying to settle down with the reminder that they might not use my pic or even my quotes in the final story.).

So, tomorrow afternoon I am meeting with a photographer from the newspaper. The location they've selected is indoors and non-descript. Tell me what to wear, what not to wear, what they're looking for, the etiquette of the whole deal (I'm guessing I can't ask the photog to let me see the photo, and then reshoot it if I look dumb?). Normally I always smile in photos; do I smile for this or not? If it helps: I am middle-aged and female, with a wholly average look. I'm not ordinarily afraid of the camera, and I looked through this previous AskMe question... but this isn't a wedding or a candid at a MeetUp, so I don't know what to do.

Personal experience on either side of the lens is welcomed, as is any experience with being interviewed by or appearing in a national publication.
posted by anonymous to Media & Arts (15 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Ever gone to a make-up artist at a salon? Get your hair done, where the clothes that are apropos to your position, and have some make-up done by a professional in a salon and depending on what the article is about, remember to smile.
posted by parmanparman at 6:04 PM on January 23, 2008

Those photographers are usually pretty good at this stuff, but the salon advice is still valid.

The photog will tell you what to do, whether to smile or not and such. Relax.

No you won't get a reshoot or a chance to see it before it runs.
posted by rokusan at 6:05 PM on January 23, 2008

I think parmanparman has it covered pretty well. Also, if the photographer is decent he/she will give you some direction. And.... be glad you had some notice. The one time I was interviewed for a major news story, I had no idea I'd be photographed - needless to say, I'd have at least shaved and not worn an old black t-shirt.
posted by blaneyphoto at 6:10 PM on January 23, 2008

Are you a man or a woman? Will it be color or black & white?

What are you hoping to get out of this? For example, are you a grad student who wants to impress future bosses? Get air time on a local tv station who notices you can talk and look decent simultaneously? Basically, do you just want your Mom (and neighbors+friends+co-workers) to notice you were in the paper and looked nice, or are you hoping that this might lead to future opportunities?

All of those matter as regards what you should wear. If you can't be more explicit, dress well but simply, wearing something that is both "nice" and you're quite comfortable in. If you're not comfortable in your own skin (or clothes) you likely won't be comfortable in front of the camera. I'd second getting your hair dried and styled, hopefully by your regular stylist (who won't make you look like a chihuahua- or if s/he does, you should have been expected) and just wear simple, minimal/normal makeup. No big jewelry.

And smile!
posted by arnicae at 6:11 PM on January 23, 2008

Wear something you feel good in. A solid color (or black) may reproduce better than white or a small, busy pattern.
posted by scody at 6:13 PM on January 23, 2008

i remember reading somewhere that when you take a picture, smile with your mouth only. when we smile genuinely, we crinkle our noses and squint a little--great in face-to-face situations, but not in professional portraits/pictures.

so practice smiling with just your mouth. you'll feel really fake, but the picture will look better.
posted by thinkingwoman at 6:19 PM on January 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

a bit in posing for a professional portrait
posted by LobsterMitten at 6:27 PM on January 23, 2008

Don't wear any more makeup than you normally do, but getting your hair blow-dried (by your regular hair person) is a good idea.

To wear: business attire, but not too severe. A suit jacket that doesn't require a blouse or shirt underneath is best, and looks neatest. Don't wear a turtleneck. One piece of jewelry only, either a simple necklace or simple earrings. Alhough black is OK, a color like navy or grey or brown will soften your look, even if the photo is black and white.

Make sure you don't have to squint because of the lighting, that just shows the crow's feet. Also, you want to be able to look up a tiny bit, rather than straight or down -- keeps the neck from looking crepey.

Also, a lot of publications will just accept a head shot of your own, if you want to offer that, you will have much more control, because you then submit a photo you like. You could probably get a shot taken tomorrow with the ease of digital. This is what I have done for the past few years, since the shot I allowed to be taken by the newspaper photographer made me wonder if he had flunked out of police mug shot school.
posted by mmf at 6:45 PM on January 23, 2008

As a professional photographer I have to say I disagree with the comment about not smiling with your eyes. A smile with just the mouth can look very unnatural. I would practice in the mirror, though.

Any photog worth his/her salt will know how best to pose you based on your facial structure/body. It will be a combination of pointing your body and face and directing your eyes. The most common is to tilt your chin down a bit and turn your head about 20 degrees away from the camera, but then look into the camera with your eyes. The photog may then take the photo from slightly above your eye level. This often makes for more flattering portraits. Anything is possible, though. You can see some of our portraits done this way at our website.
posted by mamessner at 6:58 PM on January 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

These are some tips I collected for a piece I wrote a while ago about how to look your best in photos:

Letting your arms hang at your sides can make your upper arms look “squishy” and fat. Placing your hands on your hips or slipping them into your pants pockets can make even flabby upper arms look toned.

If you tilt your chin downward just slightly and look directly into the camera, it makes your face “pop” and gives you what professional photog-raphers call a “presence.” However, if you have a double chin, it’s best to avoid this pose. Better to tilt your chin upward and turn your head ever so slightly, which will give you a more intriguing, haughty look.

Good posture does wonders for the camera. Stand or sit up straight and stretch your spine as if you want to touch the top of your head to the ceiling. This will help to flatten a not-so-firm belly and will elongate your body and keep your chest from drooping.

Want to appear slimmer in photographs? Rotate your shoulders three-quarters of the way toward the camera, while keeping the rest of your body in place. Women should tilt their head toward the near shoulder, and men should aim theirs toward the far one. Doing so creates different angles in the composition of the photo and makes it inter-esting, while also tapering down the appearance of your waist and hips.
posted by Oriole Adams at 7:01 PM on January 23, 2008 [2 favorites]

I wore a silly t-shirt (arguably offensive) when I was photographed for the New York Times, and as a result had a ton of people tell me they were amused, and even reconnected with some old friends because of the attention from what would otherwise have been a pretty mundane article. I had a blast, and it made the whole thing more fun.

You should tell the photographer the stuff you've said here; They're pros and will want you to be comfortable with the end result, too. Even if they're jaded daily photos, they'll likely understand that this is a Big Exciting Deal for you, and honestly you shouldn't worry too much -- just enjoy it!
posted by anildash at 9:55 PM on January 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

Our local paper runs an annual 50 Who Matter community profiles section, and I thought the portraits were fairly good this year. Generally a little bit of wit and a sly reference to an important trait of the person. This is probably NOT what your photographer is going for, but you can look at how a few dozen ordinary people ended up looking pretty darn good, each in their own way. The main key is confidence and looking like you're having fun.

By contrast a few weeks back they ran a photo of a guy who really, really should have had his hair cut, or maybe too desperately just had it cut. It stuck out in all directions. He also looked pasty and sweaty. I think he should have gone for a more natural pose (leaning on a cubicle wall, or something) instead of a head/chest shot, to minimize how much this stood out.
posted by dhartung at 10:03 PM on January 23, 2008

I'd avoid wearing white...depending on what else is going on it can make it harder to take a picture. Don't feel obligated to smile. People can look just fine without smiling. I like it when people look proud and calm more than faking a smile.
posted by sully75 at 3:37 AM on January 24, 2008

I just had to get some professional pics taken for my sewing.

Stand so you're ever-so-slightly at an angle to the camera. He had me lean slightly forward so my shoulders were angled at the camera (it would have been to bend at the waist but, well, I make corsets so that wasn't happening!), and to stretch my neck out and look up a bit.

But, I'm short and overweight, so what works for me might not for you depending on size/build.
Also, if you are wearing makeup, make sure to get the underside of your chin and neck. if you have a v-neck or lower cut shirt on, powder down any skin showing. otherwise the flash will glare and it will end up making that area much more distracting in the final photo.

I was told not to open-mouth smile since teeth rarely photograph well without a lot of retouching.
posted by Kellydamnit at 8:08 AM on January 24, 2008

I'm betting the photographer will use a digital, not film, camera, so you may be able to check your pics as soon as he/she has shot them. Nearly every news publication (even little Texas weeklies such as the one where I work) uses digital now.

Regarding how to "pose" -- I suggest not POSING, but looking at the camera and the photographer as a good friend. Be natural, be open and easy-going. You'll be more pleased with how you look. Also, don't overdo your makeup or you'll look like a 40-ish woman trying to look 20something. Wear classic clothes in a neutral shade; if you wear a blouse, a soft peachy shade is very flattering. White's too stark.

When I photograph folks for profiles or news stories, I chat a little as I take the first few shots. (After all, with a digital camera, I can delete them if the subject looks awkward or mouth-open-dumb.) After my subject has realized the camera is not going to kill him/her, the subject usually relaxes and I get great shots!
posted by Smalltown Girl at 12:56 PM on January 26, 2008

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