If you think that being photogenic is like being beautiful, is time to demystify this assumption. While the latter is defined by your DNA, becoming photogenic is a skill that can be learned through constant practice.
I was lucky enough to spend the past two decades combining two careers that I am passionate about. One in corporate, recruiting and training professionals; and another as a photographer. I have shot portraits, professional headshots, fashion and fine art. By paying attention to hundreds of people from different ages and body types, I developed an eye to what made anyone look great on camera, and it comes down to charm and engagement with the viewer more than good looks. Most importantly, I discovered a path one could follow to acquire this set of skills and look their best in photos and video, for personal and professional development.
Here are some effective tips from my PictureCure® Methods.
1- Lights: The word, photography, itself comes from “lights”, so the first principle of being photogenic is minding the environment where your photos are being taken. It’s impossible to look good if you have the wrong lights. Shadows or overexposure may change the color of your complexion and makeup, accentuate skin flaws, dark circles or make you look older. After you check the other tips, click HERE to learn how to get the best out of natural and artificial lights.
2- It all starts with your eyes: Sometimes you look at a photo and the subject seems about to jump out of the screen or the page. His or her eyes are vivid and you can see their joy, sadness, hatred. This is common in photojournalism, when photographers are capturing real facts with real emotions; or in advertising, where subjects are acting out emotions. When regular people come to my studio for portraits or professional headshots, the emotion I sense is normally tension and discomfort. Most photographers try to relax their subjects with conversation to “catch them” in a flattering pose or while delivering a good smile. That’s too casual and you don’t want to depend on the photographer to look great. The way you can control this process starts with facial exercises. Daily practice ensures fast, everlasting results, and an efficient way to get used to doing it is incorporating a 5-minute practice to some routine activity you already perform in front of the mirror, like shaving or brushing your teeth.
Try this: Look in the mirror and squint as if you were trying to read something far away, just to identify those tiny muscles around your eyes that control this movement. We hardly use them consciously, so feel them. Imagine summoning them at will. Once you have done that, your daily exercise will be simply raising your lower eyelid a few times (without also lowering the upper one or your eyes will be almost closed). Raise the lower eyelids and hold them in place a few times.
The purpose of this exercise is to help you recreate this eye movement whenever you are in front of a camera, replicating the looks of someone “paying attention” to something interesting. The effect in photos is that you look engaged, comfortable and most importantly, confident. People tend to open their eyes wider than normal when they are tense. That happens frequently in studios and the result is that you look uncomfortable and intimidated. If you learn to squint a little, you engage your viewer with your eyes as if there were no cameras between you. Look at the center of the lens, imagine the final viewer and try to forget about the photographer.
3- Smile! That seems simple and for most people it is, but here are some important aspects to consider.
If you are not happy with your smile, take this tip. If you are, skip to section b.
a- A perfect smile requires that one’s lips curve both sides upward forming a half-moon. Some individuals, out of discomfort or lack of practice, do not curve both sides or deliver a flat trembling smile. The trembling of some muscles, normally the cheeks, is evidence of minor atrophy of such muscles due to lack of use. If you have this problem, practice smiling big when you are alone. It will look fake and uncomfortable, but this is not your goal as a smile. The purpose is stretching and gaining elasticity in areas of your face that are currently dormant.
Try this: Look in the mirror and deliver a large, exaggerated smile – as wide as you can and try to hold it in place for 15 seconds. Some muscles can hurt a little from the effort. Don’t worry, with practice, they will grow stronger and the discomfort will cease. Pay attention to the design of your smile. If you are not using all the right muscles, practice until you have both sides curving up equally. By repeating the new movements, your facial muscles will adjust and you will be able to get to a natural, perfect smile.
b- Another problem that may afflict even those who can deliver a perfect smile is not being able to hold their smile when the photographer takes took long to shoot. To hold your smile in place and avoid having your picture taken right when your smile starts to fade, I recommend that during the previous eye exercise in the mirror you add a few extra seconds to work on your mouth area.
Try this: Offer the mirror your best smile.Then try to hold it for 20 seconds. Do it a few times and when you can do it without trembling cheeks, do it every day for 40 seconds. This is an incredibly helpful exercise. It will give you immense control over your smile, and also keep your facial muscles strong and firm. Regardless of photos, this helps you look young!
4-Know your body and face well, so you can discover what truly works for you. In my PictureCure Method this is called Body Mapping®, the foundation of looking photogenic for life. There are tons of videos about how to become photogenic and most try to convey that it is a one size-fits-all experience. That’s a common source of frustration to people who try superficial tips and getting little or no results, ultimately label themselves as “not photogenic.”
Try this: Take several photos of yourself, smiling and serious, with your face turning to the left, to the right and facing forward. Try three smiles: a tiny one, showing no teeth, a full smile and one in between.
Analyze your photos to see what you like and dislike and why: pay attention to every part of your face: smile, eyes, cheeks, eyebrows, forehead and lines forming with each facial expression. See which angles and smiles are more flattering.
Write down what you like and dislike about each facial expression and angle you tried. This will help you identify: the great assets you should highlight, the features you dislike and should downplay, and which poses and expressions work and which don’t. Elect one or two best expressions/poses and dissect them to remember exactly what you did to achieve them. How wide was your smile? What were you doing with your eyes and eyebrows? Was your chin up or down?
Photograph yourself more often, practicing only those best poses and facial expressions and they will become second nature.