Monday, December 3, 2012

How to Look Good in Every Photo.

Over the past few years I’ve heard every kind of excuse as to why some people feel they can’t take a great picture, or why they don’t take pictures. After years of experience, and hearing every kind of excuse I thought I’d share my personal guide to improving the outcome of your pictures. 

I, for one truly believes that everyone has something to bring to the photographic table. I think every person has something beautiful to offer and it is my task to harness that beauty, that sensuality, masculinity, pride, strength, or that confidence into something visually striking. I’m not changing you. I’m making a perfect facsimile. As flaky as it sounds, that light and camera can reach far deeper than what is seen on the outside. 

Now are there people that are physical masterpieces of Godly perfection? I’d be the first to say YES. Let’s be real about it. Beauty might be in the eye of the beholder but there are certain types of beauty that are as certain as gravity. If you don’t believe that, you’re lying to yourself and probably lacking a bit of self esteem. The big surprise is, they’re not all walking in the Victoria’s Secret show. They’re your neighbors, friends, workmates and relatives. I see it every time I leave the house. She’s in the grocery store, she’s your barista or your bank teller. He might be your physics professor or your landscaper. It doesn’t matter the source. There are some gorgeous people on this planet. I don’t know if they are nice people but if it’s eye candy, it’s just plain eye candy.

“Yeah she’s hot.You may not be as tall as that (eye candy) barista, but you should stop comparing yourself to other people. She doesn’t have your smile, your hair, or your eyes. That is something unique to you. Despite what you believe, you have the most insanely gorgeous cheekbones I have ever seen. Your skin is like baby oil on glass; smooth and supple making light literally slide around you as you move; and you move so confidently without trying and project regality and a powerful confidence making you extremely sexy.”

Have I said that to anyone before? Of course I have and it was entirely true. I had a client which complained incessantly about her hips and kept comparing herself to someone else. Was she hippy? I don’t really know. Where she saw hips, I saw dunes and lines. I saw curves of highlight and shadows with a cascading terrain of canyons and hills. I saw a dance and play of light as she strode into a room and smiled; something my camera would absolutely love. 

When we did finally shoot, she saw it too after viewing her images. Thru tear soaked eyes she thanked me for allowing her to see how I saw her, how everyone saw her. The lesson here is that your excuses are just that...EXCUSES. After decades of staring at yourself in the mirror, your idea of what you think you look like is not likely shared by anyone else on Earth. In fact, I’d say your own opinion of your physical self is probably shared by less than half the people you know whether that be good or bad. But my experience suggest that most people probably think better of you physically than you realize so stop beating yourself up. For everyone not in the Godly perfection crowd, well... that’s just sad.

Leave the Excuses

I’m too hippy, I have a pot belly, what about my muffin top, I want to grow my hair out, I’m too old, I’m short, I’m a lumbering giant, I’ve put on weight, I have no coordination, blah blah blah. No one is asking you to walk a tightrope. So you think you’re heavy? Guess what? So do runway models, and singers, and actresses. Most of them think they are heavy too. Yet, they are on billboards, magazine covers and all over the Internet. Why? Because they get paid? Would being paid to take a photo make you feel any better about yourself? I think not. 

When someone tells me that they are too heavy or have put on weight I take it as saying “I don’t trust you to take a good photo of me right now because I’ve put on more weight than I’m comfortable with; thus, giving me a less than ideal view about myself. You’re great but not that great. No amount of light will rid me of my self loathing. No amount of makeup will make me feel beautiful right now. Next year when I’m at my goal weight you can take shot after shot of gorgeous images of me because I’ll be thinner. Your talent is solely dependent on my thinness. You’re only as good as how thin and fit I feel. I’m just not happy with myself because I’m fat and ugly and have no confidence.”  

When you word it like that it sounds horrible doesn’t it? But isn’t that what you just told me? Is that not what you said? It may have been paraphrased but that is exactly the meaning when someone says, “I’ve put on too much weight.” You told me that my talent and ability to take a mind blowing gorgeous photo of you is associated directly with how you feel about yourself. Until you feel great about your body I am damned to a career of utter mediocrity and talentless wandering. 


Given time, a little patience and leaving your self loathing at the door you are already 50% there. Confidence, is one of the key components. Shake off that self defeating air you’re projecting and come in fired up and ready to have fun. Whether they are CEO head-shots, maternity shots or senior pictures matters not; shedding the apprehension and remembering that it is not the end of the world will improve your visual disposition. 

You ever wonder how someone that is stereotypically average looking in person looks like a supermodel in pictures? Yet, someone breathtaking in person looks like a train wreck in pictures. More than likely it’s confidence. They may have had one or two bad photo experiences and every photo shoot after that they met went a sense of foreboding and depression. Guess what? It translates. Your sense of dread doesn’t do anything for the image. Furthermore, you project it around you. Everyone feels it. The one you do not need to project onto is your photographer. Most photographers are business people. Sure they want to insure they capture the best shots of you, but they’re creative and fluidic which means they want to have fun and keep an uplifting atmosphere. It keeps their creative synapses firing and allow them to see potential in you that you may not have seen before. 

I’ve had all types; even the 5’10” proverbial bombshell with the angel face. But when the lights started to flash it all faded away. I struggled to bring her to life. There was no spark, no life behind the eyes. There was only a pretty face and just having a pretty face and/or a great body does not necessarily equate to a great picture. Just keep it positive and drop the expectations that you only have for yourself. No one is judging you and there is no one to impress.

Dress the Part

I think you’re mind blowing-ly hot; but that doesn’t give you a license to try and fit into a size 8 if you’re a 12. Dress appropriately and be realistic. Sometimes, your biggest fan sees you thru rose tinted lenses. Therefore, it would be prudent to get another opinion and check up on different styles and buy clothing and accessories consistent with your intent. My most used self made phrase is “just because they made a mini skirt in your size, doesn’t mean it’s for you.” Get a little help. Your photographer or a stylists would be extremely helpful in this case. Unless your best friend has won styling awards, they may not always be the best source of style trends and appropriateness. Best friends often dress similarly as you and you two seek conformity with one another. You and your friend may be wearing clown suits and think it’s still the s**t. But it probably went out of style with "hammer pants."

To Pose or Not to Pose  

Posing is a skill. If you’re not sure about it don’t try it. There are some basic stances your photographer will take you thru to insure great results for your shoot. Please don’t try top model stunts unless they’re part of your skill set. Basic considerations are poses that shift weight to one leg or another, or to one foot or another. It aids in the illusion of slimness and a shapely figure. 

However, the best shots I’ve ever taken are candid shots; shots where the subject appears to be in their own space or some other natural state. No posing required. A genuine laugh, a smile, or glance or tilt without them even knowing what they are doing is perfect. One of the best shots of my photographic career was a client brushing out her hair. Another was a client adjusting her earring. They are spontaneous and natural and they don’t look staged. If the theme permits, candid is the way to go to not look dorky. If works for almost every genre, especially wedding, portraits, boudoir, and glamour. 

My largest advice to women is Triangles and Curves. Most positions that put the body’s limbs in triangles and the core of the body as an s-curve relative to the limbs is gonna be awesome. Create space between the arms and body (refer to triangle). Bringing your arms in close to your body adds a visual sense of bulk thus adding the illusion of weight. Turn and twist, shift the weight away from the camera and bend the arms creating space between you and camera, as well as between the arms and body. Not to worry, it’s not something to remember. A good photographer will subtly remind you. 

Just Give Me the Light

Remember where the light is. We want the light to strike the key area of interest. Most often that area will be your eyes. Always remain mindful of your eyes and body relative to the light source. While we may not say look into the light directly, we might remind you to look toward the light or past the light. 

Your Good Side  

Some studies suggest that the left side of the face is statistically the visually favored side as it pertains to attractiveness. I don’t know about that. I have captured photos of beautiful people from all sides with varying results; sometimes it’s the left and sometimes it’s the right depending on several factors not all of them being pre-disposed to one side or another. 

In conclusion, stop insulting yourself and get out there and just take pictures already. It's a photo not a prostate exam or a pregnancy scare.