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How to Be More Photogenic: 8 Practical Tips

If you’ve ever been caught unaware at a social gathering and had your picture taken, you’ll know just how unflattering some of these photos can be. It’s hard to be photogenic in a candid setting. But what if you take the time to smile and get the angles just right—simply for it to look just as bad? 

Despite popular belief, being photogenic isn’t a trait that someone is born with. Practice makes perfect and you can pose, adjust, and tweak the final photo in several ways to have an end result you’ll be happy to post on social media. 

How to Become More Photogenic

1. Practice posing in the mirror 

If you’ve never taken the time to see how your face and body looks at different angles in a full-length mirror, now is the time to do so. When it comes to becoming more photogenic, the mirror is your best friend. You should have a deep understanding of what poses you feel comfortable doing and what feels most natural to you. After all, if you find it uncomfortable to strike a few poses in a private setting, it’ll feel even more uncomfortable doing so in front of a camera. 

Stand perfectly upright with your arms by your side and legs straight, facing the mirror. While this pose might be comfortable, it can look stiff or unnatural in a photo. 

Move your body from left to right and observe how this changes the appearance of your body. Do you prefer it if your side is fully facing the mirror, or does it look better when your body is only slightly turned? Which side looks best? 

Adjust different parts of your body to incorporate some flow to an otherwise static pose. You can hold an object in your hand, place one hand on your hip, run your fingers through your hair, tilt your shoulders back, or place one leg in front of the other. Observe how these micro-changes in posing affects how your body looks. 

2. Find your best angles and features 

We’ve all got facial features and parts of our body that we love the most. Showing them off can help you be more photogenic and give you a nice confidence boost. While you can’t technically “hide” any features you don’t love as much (especially in a full-frontal headshot), highlighting your favorite features will help to detract from them and shine a light on the areas you want the viewer’s eyes to get drawn to. You can do so with the help of styling and angles. 

Identify your favorite features of your face and body. If you need another opinion, you can ask the people closest to you. Perhaps you have several features that you love the most, like your eyes, lips, hair, and legs. The more features you like, the more you can play around with different angles and poses. 

If you like to wear makeup, now is the time to highlight these features that you so love. You can add a bold lipstick to draw attention to your lips, eyeshadow that compliments the shade of your eyes, or even add a colorful scarf or headband around your hair and neck. 

If you don’t wear makeup, you can still incorporate some styling tweaks. Comb or style your hair with mousse, hair oil, or a serum to bring out the shine and wear clothes that highlight your favorite body parts. 

Adjust the angles of where the photo is taken to highlight these features even more. For example, if you love your eyes but feel self-conscious of your jaw area, taking a selfie from a higher angle can make your eyes look even bigger and reduce the risk of a double chin. If your hair is your best asset, try angling your body to the side or slightly looking down so the camera can capture more of it. 

3. Soften your face and mouth area 

Whether you realize it or not, your face can tighten up and become tense around the mouth area while taking pictures, especially if you’re feeling nervous or inexperienced in front of the camera. By making a conscious effort to relax your eyes, mouth, and cheeks, you’ll most likely get a more natural end result. 

Remind yourself (or get the person behind the camera to remind you) to periodically release tension around your jaw and forehead. This will help soften your mouth and eye area while taking away that infamous “deer in headlights” look in the photo. 

If taking photos isn’t the most relaxing thing for you, try not to focus on how uncomfortable or stressed you are. Instead, inhabit a persona of a super confident person that you know, or imagine the camera is the face of a loved one. In this case, “fake it ’til you make it” is 100% the attitude to have.

4. Incorporate movement 

Have you ever met someone that looks great in real life but it doesn’t look as good in photographs? This is actually more common than you think, and it’s because humans are dynamic creatures that can’t be properly captured on a 2D printed image. In real life, how we walk, talk, and gesture can make us more attractive. But unfortunately, animated behavior is hard to capture in a simple photo. To combat this, try incorporating movement to be more photogenic. 

Have someone take a new photo every few seconds and treat it like a mini-photoshoot, by changing up your expressions. Grin widely, then smile with your mouth closed. Look down, then look at the person behind the camera, then behind them. Move your face at different angles. It might feel strange at first, but you’re bound to discover new expressions that you didn’t realize you liked the look of in a picture. Even if the end result is a bit more goofy than you’d like, it’s a good exercise to help you work outside your comfort zone. 

Next, you can try moving your face and body simultaneously as you get your picture taken. Rather than just standing in one spot or smiling awkwardly as the camera shutters go off, take the time to play around with the positioning of your arms and legs. 

5. Consider the lighting and background 

It doesn’t matter how well you pose, if the lighting and background isn’t ideal, you’re likely to get unflattering shadows and harsh beams of light hitting at awkward angles on your face. This can make your skin look sallow or sickly, wash out your features, and result in a low-quality final picture. 

While professional photographers love to take portrait shots with a clean and neutral backdrop, there’s no official rule about only posing in front of plain walls. In fact, having some interesting focal points behind you can add visual interest to the photo. Popular backgrounds include a nice piece of artwork, nature (like the ocean, flowers, or trees), or simply a cool street, building, or place. Plus, if you happen to capture the occasional passer-by or some other messiness, you can edit these out in the photo editing stage. 

Having the proper lighting is an underrated part of being photogenic. There’s a reason why social media influencers invest in studio-ready ring-lights or why photographers love to schedule “golden-hour” photoshoots. Avoid standing directly in front of or under light, including the midday sun. It can be extremely harsh on your features and even cause you to squint. Instead, play around with the angles of various lighting sources and intensities to see how that changes how your face and body look. 

6. Wear your best clothes and makeup

If you know you’ll be getting your photo taken, it’s ideal to dress up in your favorite outfit and tried-and-tested makeup. This isn’t the time to experiment with an avant garde outfit or try a makeup look you have just learned from the internet. Instead, to be as photogenic as possible, you’ll want to wear clothes and makeup that make you feel confident and 100% yourself. 

Choose clothing that highlights focal points on your body. You can even play with the proportions, texture, material, and color of your clothes to add more visual interest. 

In general, makeup photographs extremely well. By adding some blush and a lip product, you can make your complexion look rosy and give a healthy flush. Likewise, contour and highlight can sculpt your cheekbones and jawline. 

7. Think of something that makes you happy 

It might sound simple, but happy people often look better in photographs because they have an open expression, a smile on their face, and eyes that sparkle. To be more photogenic, try to think about a happy moment you’ve experienced or even laugh while you’re getting your picture taken. 

If you can choose who’ll take your picture, choose someone you’re comfortable and close with, who will give you words of encouragement and support you in your mini-photoshoot. This will definitely make you happier than being photographed by a stranger or someone you feel judged by. 

Remember a funny moment that happened in the past or think about your “happy place.” This could be around loved ones, on a fun holiday, or when you achieved something you were proud of. 

8. Utilize AI 

As a modern alternative to hiring an expensive professional photographer for your headshots, AI can make you more photogenic by helping you compose photos and edit out mistakes. In other words, AI can be a lifesaver when you want good photos in a short amount of time. 

Hiring a professional photographer (with a proper lighting set up and location) can be relatively expensive and time-consuming. If you find it overwhelming to pose for several hours to get that one perfect picture, AI tools can make the process more convenient and comfortable for you. For example, our AI headshot generator at Portrait Pal can create exceptional professional headshots from existing photos of you. 

Frequently Asked Questions About How To Be More Photogenic 

Should I smile with teeth showing or without? 

Everyone’s face is different. For some, a closed-mouth smile can look sophisticated while for others, having a bit of teeth showing through makes the face look more friendly and open. Practice smiling with both your teeth showing and your mouth closed in the mirror. Is there one you like better? You can also ask your friends or family members for their honest opinion. 

The type of smile you choose to have can also depend on the circumstance. For example, a picture for a more professional setting, like a LinkedIn headshot or a photo taken at a networking event may suit a gently closed smile over a tooth-showing grin. 

And if you want to showcase your raw emotions at a more casual event, like a wedding or friend’s birthday party, smiling with your teeth showing can indicate feelings of joy and exhilaration. Plus, when you smile with your teeth, your eyes often crinkle and the side and your face is able to light up in a way that wouldn’t be the case if your lips were closed.

Avoid the forced open-mouth smile though. The number one rule of being photogenic is having that natural appearance, as if you were in motion when the picture was taken. 

What should I wear if I want to become more photogenic?

There’s no rule about the clothes you should and shouldn’t wear, but it’s definitely recommended to wear an outfit you feel comfortable and attractive in when you know you’ll be getting photographed. This will depend on your body type, hair color, and any other accessories you want to pair it with.

Comfortable is the key word here. There’s no point wearing the most high-end, off the shelf outfit if it’s ill-fitting, or not your true style. It will translate into your poses, your expressions, and ultimately, the final pictures. Pick an outfit you’ve worn before (and you know you look good in) so you can walk into the photoshoot feeling confident and 100% yourself. 

Did you know that the colors you wear can impact how you look? If you’ve never done a color analysis before, it’s worth considering. The simple explanation is that certain “families” of colors suit certain skin tones and facial features better than others. For some, darker and jewel-toned shades can make the hair and skin glow while for others, spring-inspired pastel tones can make their features pop. 

Can I become more photogenic over time?

The short answer? Yes. Becoming photogenic is a skill that can be cultivated over time. If you’ve ever looked back at old pictures of yourself, you may notice that your poses and expressions have become better over time. This is because we’re constantly learning and adjusting how we smile and take photos, even if you aren’t aware of it at all. 

Here are some tips to become more photogenic over time: 

  • Find a friend or two that can practice taking photos of you (a professional camera or a good phone camera both work). You can alternate the environment or backgrounds where you take the photos to diversify your experience. 
  • Attend more gatherings or social functions where you know your picture will be taken. If you see the photographer, don’t hide from them. Rather, take the opportunity to practice getting your photo taken in a more candid and spontaneous setting. 
  • Play around with different hairstyles, makeup, and outfits to see which ones you feel most comfortable in and suit the type of photos you want to take.
  • Selfies, professionally taken photographs, and pictures that your friends take will all be different. Ideally, you should have some experience with all three to see the right angles and how your face and body looks in different settings. 
  • Use tools to get a good picture. You can utilize minor photoshop tools from the convenience of your phone, like facetune, to smoothen out pores or add a filter. Otherwise, AI tools can streamline the entire picture-taking process to ensure an end-result you’ll be sure to love. 

What tools or apps should I use to become more photogenic? 

With so many apps and tools at your fingertips, why not use some of them to make the whole process a breeze? Editing apps like VSCO, FaceTune, or Lightroom can be easily accessed from your mobile to add filters or minor tweaks that can transform all kinds of photographs in your library. 

And if you already have a lot of selfies or casual shots, but you want headshots for more professional settings, try AI tools, like Portrait Pal. These tools save you lots of money and time, and you’ll receive a number of headshots to choose from. Pick and choose the ones you like the most from the comfort of your own home!

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