***This is another ‘tips and tricks’ type article: I don’t normally write so much on my blog as it is mostly a photo blog for showcasing my work =) Occasionally I will write an article/give some personal background if I feel it is helpful or if it is something I get asked about a lot for my sessions etc….. So here you go:
Growing up I HATED having my photo taken and as a result, existing photos from my early teen years until my mid twenties are few and far between. While I have been an avid photography lover from an early age, I definitely was always sure I was on the other side of that lens, taking the photos and not in them. There was reasonable cause for my detesting pictures of myself. The person I saw in the images that came from a camera looked nothing like the person I saw in my mirror. A photo would come along of me and I was horrified at the harsh angles, shadows, flat looking eyes and grotesquely huge-looking nose that glared back at me.
When I was 25, I met my future husband by chance and he started me on a long journey of learning to believe that I was beautiful. While my husband helped me start this journey, all of the unlearning of my negative self-image and relearning self-confidence was something I had to do alone. I started allowing more photos of myself to be taken and even played around with ‘selfies,’ and self-timer shots, and experimenting with light and angling my face and body to reflect the woman I saw in the mirror. Gaining a background in physique training as I trained for bikini competitions in 2011 also helped me discover better angles for posing. Bikini competitors walk across a stage and stop to hold several poses designed to flatter their body. This was another step in my journey; to be confident enough to rock the stage in a bikini. However, I ended up getting pregnant with my son in the middle of my prep! I still train regularly and I do hope to compete one day when I have finished having children. Anyway, over the years, (although it’s still a work in progress,) I figured out more and more how to make myself look like, well, myself in images. I also learned when I started taking portraits of people 5 years ago that my situation is not at all uncommon, and that many people feel the same way I used to.
It occurred to me that images are a lasting solid thing to keep that hold memories; you can look at them years later and be taken back to a time and place that might otherwise fade or lose detail in your mind. There is no reason not to take as many photos as you can to keep your memories: not to live in the past, but to hold your unique life experiences, those that have helped build the person you are, close to your heart.
SO, I thought I would share some of my ‘research’ with you to help if you struggle with having your photo taken or are not sure what to do when faced with a camera lens:
- It is usually more flattering if you turn your body slightly to one side and bend one leg slightly so your hips are not even. A slight angle to your body will make you appear more slender and is more appealing to the eye. It helps hide the slight asymmetry that we all have in our bodies.
- Holding your arms slightly away from your body while having your picture taken help what I call the ‘smoosh effect’ where your arm smashes against your body and looks twice as big as it actually is.
- The same angle principle applies to your face in photos. Most people’s faces are not perfectly symmetrical and it is more flattering to see your face slightly to one side than straight-on. Most of the images you see in magazines or media that shows famous people from the front, looking straight are photoshopped to look more pleasing to the eye.
- Getting an angle slightly above or at eye-level will help your eyes look larger and your nose & chin look smaller.
- Lighting is key. Finding good light, where there is ambient natural light with no direct sunlight to cast shadows will help your features look proportioned and like they ‘should.’ Heavy shadows or uneven light can cause your eyes to look deeper set, your nose to look larger and your forehead to appear too big. While the amateur photographer would have you pose facing the sun, the experienced will have the sun behind you and adjust the camera to soften the glow and bring out the subjects. Shade is preferable light, but when there is no choice: keep the sun behind you. Indoors, find a place near a large window, but without direct light shining through. White backgrounds illuminate & black or dark absorb light.
- Makeup can go a long way to help your face appear as you see it every day. There are a ton of tricks available to help you with ‘problem features’ if you need it. I recently discovered a nifty trick of shadowing in the sides of my nose and tip with a contour stick (slightly darker shade) & highlighting the bridge and in between my brows to make it appear smaller for example. There are a few general tricks in my article: PRO TIPS: Last-Minute Beauty Fixes for Portraits or I would recommend searching in Pinterest or on Beauty Blogs for tips & tricks to help you with specific features (i.e. how to make dark circles disappear etc.) until you find something that works for you.
- Breathe and relax! Especially when you are getting your photo taken by a professional and you need to pose for a long period of time. Your face will start to get stiff and your arms and legs may too. Don’t be afraid to tell your photographer (if they don’t ask) that you need a break. Drink some water, even jump up and down a couple times to get your blood flowing, stretch a little, puff out your cheeks with air & blow it through your lips to relax your face muscles. Whatever works to get you feeling fresh again and your face feeling moveable.
- Most people have a side of their face, or an angle they like better than others. If you haven’t found yours yet, I recommend figuring it out before your start your session with a professional. Look at photos you have of yourself and find the ones you like the best and figure out what you were doing with your face in those that you really liked. You will want to get a few shots with this ‘fail-safe’ to be sure there are a couple you like and also to get you comfortable. I often have clients start with this, so they can get used to how I shoot and what to expect.
- The previous being said, you will also want to get various expressions and angles in your session. There is no reason you need to be smiling, or at least not smiling the same smile in every photo. Try a variety of faces, including your ‘fail-safe.’ Often, clients will find that they really like an unexpected expression rather than a traditional smile. I often love these photos because they reflect depth & the person more; maybe showing a wistfulness or a mystery in the subject’s face, making it more of a story.
- Lastly, I always tell clients to not stress too much about any of it! The makeup, the outfit, the posing. The most important part of the images you get whether by a professional, or just by yourself is YOU. You want your photos to reflect yourself & if you are worried about posing just perfectly or positioning just right, you may come across looking stiff and uncomfortable. In my sessions, I guide and help clients throughout the whole process. I listen to ideas they have and want to try and I also help them get positioned with my own ideas. I am constantly stopping, adjusting and cross-checking the images to make sure I like the way they are translating without interrupting the flow of the session. The same applies for your personal photos. If you are taking family photos or photos with friends or just photos of yourself: take many, stop and check to make sure you like them & fix what you don’t like about your pose/face/lighting, and have fun!