Not everybody is comfortable posing in front of a camera.
It can add 10 pounds to your figure, make you look older than you really are or accentuate any number of perceived flaws. Good news: You can do many things to make yourself look better when the camera gets pulled out, and they won’t cost you a dime.
As we all get together for family reunions and outings with friends, you can put your best self forward in front of those pesky smartphones.
1. Stay away from morning photo shoots. In the mornings, our eyes can appear droopy and saggy, says Charlotte “Ginger” DiNunzio, 50, a Morro Bay, California-based photographer whose specialty is photographing families. You’ll look better later. “The face needs to relax,” says DiNunzio, who makes it a point to meet with clients in the latter part of the day, “when lighting is so much softer.”
Shade does more than protect from sunburn
2. Keep out of direct sunlight. “It accentuates the wrinkles,” she says. In the shade, the features that bother most people, including lines and body marks, are less visible.
3. Get that camera at eye level or above. Being photographed with the camera at an angle underneath you will make you look fat, old and monsterlike. The classic shot of the Frankenstein monster from the 1931 horror film was taken from this angle. The camera needs to be at either eye level or looking down at you so your jowls won’t be emphasized.
“Anyone with the slightest hint of a double chin will look fatter when shot from below,” DiNunzio says. But with the camera looking down at you, “the chin and body look slimmer.”
4. Twist toward the shooter. Turn at a slight angle to the photographer. Why? Because it will make you look thinner.
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Groups don’t have to be disorganized
5. Take charge and arrange everyone for a group photo. Don’t leave the order to chance. The heaviest person goes in the middle, and the slimmest people go on the outside so the largest person doesn’t stand out.
“I know this from experience,” says DiNunzio, who recalls a shoot when she was heavier. “I was once photographed with three friends who were all slim, and I was on the outside and looked 5 feet wide. Never again.” She has since shed 50 pounds.
6. Grab some chairs. Want a family portrait, not a police lineup shot? Use chairs to break up the monotony. And if you are larger, stand. Have the skinnier people take the chairs, since they don’t have to worry about their stomachs sagging. Large people look even larger sitting in a chair.
7. Go for the classic lean shot. This one, revered by the great photographers of Hollywood’s golden age, makes you look thinner, relaxed and refined. Vintage portraits of stars including Cary Grant, Barbara Stanwyck and Jimmy Stewart were regularly shot this way. You can do it, too. Lean back against a wall or forward onto a railing, as in this classic shot of Grant from 1947.
“Always bend at the hips and keep the back straight,” DiNunzio says. And if you want to look like a great Hollywood star regularly in rotation on Turner Classic Movies, a man can add a nice suit and tie with some pleated pants and a woman can don a gown before leaning against a wall or pole.
Backgrounds shouldn’t divert attention
8. Ditch the clutter. A spare background without distractions keeps the focus on you and makes you look better. Don’t let anyone take your picture in a room where things like candlesticks and lamps can grow out of your head.
9. Hug your kids or pets. This is especially appropriate for a person with a larger body. Wrap your arms around your children or fur babies. This will tilt the chin up and accentuate the jawline. But make sure that no part of your face is obscured. “The head must be out to the side enough to be seen clearly,” DiNunzio says.
10. Bring the heads together. Most families feature people of different heights. They look great and closer to each other when they are on the same plane. Have parents lean in with the kids, or have everybody sit together on a stoop to level the playing field.
DiNunzio says she gets calls every day from people looking to book her services. Then they say, “Can you make me look younger?”
Her response? “I often say a good picture is one where they are so happy and showing the love they have for their family. It’s most important to concentrate on the feeling of the love,” she says.
But following some of her favorite tips, such as avoiding direct sunlight, scheduling shoots later in the day and angling the camera downward, will always make people look better, she says.
“If somebody wants to photograph me, I will immediately sit down, turn slightly sideways and look up,” DiNunzio says. “I’m aware of what I would look like if I didn’t.”
Jefferson Graham is a contributing writer who covers personal technology and previously was a technology columnist for USA Today. He hosts the streaming travel photography series Photowalks and is author of Video Nation: A DIY Guide to Planning, Shooting, and Sharing Great Video.