It's so nice to meet you!
Get to know Kay...

How to Look Great in Photographs

December 3, 2018

“Let’s all take a picture!” You know you’re going to hear those words over and over throughout the holidays. Do those words cause you tense up and maybe even run for cover? Or do you feel confident about posing for a photograph with family or friends?

You might assume I love being in front of the camera, but you’d be wrong. Like many of you, I don’t really enjoy looking at pictures of myself. And I can always find fault when I do. But, after working on this style blog for almost a year now, I have learned some tips that help me get the job done. So today I’m sharing 9 tips that will help you look great in pictures.

9 tips to help you look great in pictures

My experience

Seriously, when James and I first began shooting photos for this blog, we’d shoot about 200 frames of each outfit. I know. Crazy, right? And then we were hard pressed to select 6-10 that I could use on the blog confidently.

You have to remember, James was just learning fashion and portrait photography. Better yet, he was just learning how to operate his camera optimally. And I was just learning how to pose and how to make sure we got shots that showcased the clothing and not so much me.

But over time we’ve both spent hours on free Internet photography courses, learned from some pros and just gained some practical experience. Now we usually shoot about 60 photographs of an outfit, and it’s getting harder to toss photos because we simply don’t need that many. In other words, we’re getting more than enough good photos for each post. As many of you have commented, my husband has become quite proficient at taking good portraits and I’ve gotten a little better at posing. (Trust me, I ‘m still the bigger problem!)

Do you dread the camera?

What about you? Do you dread that moment at family gatherings or holiday events when someone pulls out their phone or camera and wants to start snapping photos? Or maybe you have a love/hate relationship with the camera. You want to have photographs of these precious moments and the people you love, but you squirm and fret when others insist that you be included in the frame.

I totally get that. Whether we tend to squint or close our eyes, we feel self-conscious about our _________________ (you name it…weight, teeth, nose, crooked smile, etc.) or we just don’t like a lot of attention focused on ourselves, taking pictures can be daunting.

But I’ve discovered that when I fight it…I later regret it. If I get tense in front of the camera, my tension shows. If I try to hide in the background or behind someone else (what are we thinking???) I still end up in the shot and I look like, well, like I’m hiding!

The solution? Ladies, we all need to learn how to take good photographs. In this day of cell phones when every. single. person. has a camera at their ready, we are going to be in photographs. Like it or not.

So let’s learn 9 tips that will help us pose for the camera so that we look…not just okay…but beautiful in pictures!

9 Tips to Help You Look Great in Pictures:

#1 – Do some homework

Before the holiday fun begins or the family gathers and pulls out their phones, spend some time in front of the mirror. Discover you better side. We all have one. Practice posing at different angles. Consider what you’ll do with your arms, hands, chin, feet when the cameras come out. Figure out your best features and think about showcasing them when it’s time to pose.

Title Nine Hiking Clothes + Gift Guide
Will Power vest in blue jade // Spotless Tunic Top // Indestructible Hiking Pants as originally seen in this post.

Look, this is not about vanity. This is about putting your best foot forward so that your family’s or group’s photos look good and you can enjoy posting or framing them without embarrassment. Am I right?

#2 – Relax!!!

You’ve got to relax. I know. You’re thinking that’s easier said than done. But if you are uptight when the photographer is snapping the photos, your tension will come across in the final product. You will look disengaged, angry, tired and/or old. Bleh. And a little bit of tension comes across magnified into a boatload of stress in the final photo. So you really need to loosen up.

Before James starts snapping photos, I always get in position then take some deep, cleansing breaths. I raise my shoulders as I inhale and lower them into place (more about that in a minute!) as I exhale. Sometimes, as the photo session goes on and I start tensing up again, I take more deep breaths or close my eyes and decompress a little.

Caramel Pullover and Silk Floral Scarf
Comfort Stretch Denim Jeggings // Ribbed Crew Neck Sweater in classic caramel // Sam Edelman Leopard Print Flats (similar and at a great $$$) // Floral Silk Scarf (similar or similar) // Fossil Kendall Large Satchel as originally seen in this post.

Look, even top models and photographers usually spend the first 10-15 minutes of a photo session shooting the breeze and joking around just to get loosened up. So do whatever it takes to relax a little in front of the photographer. Close your eyes and then open them just before the photographer snaps the shot. Take some cleansing breaths. Laugh a little. When you look relaxed, you’ll look younger, happier, more inviting and approachable.

#3 – Pose at an angle

Now look. This doesn’t mean that every woman in the photo needs to turn exactly three quarters, put one foot out, cock your hands up on your hips and line up like the Rockettes. Please don’t do that this Christmas. Okay? Okay.

Instead, you can throw one shoulder just a little forward or step back with one foot a tad or turn just your chin a little to one side. The real goal here is to minimize the wider angles on our bodies – like our stout waistlines or hips – and to create some visually interesting curves.

Holiday Fashion Accessories
Red A-line Skirt (similar) || Black Cardigan with Black Stretch Cami underneath || Hue Black Tights || I.N.C. Black Riding Boots in Wide Calf || Holly Berry Plaid Silk Scarf || Gold Shimmer Bangle as originally seen in this post.

And here’s another example with a different angle:

Classic Fall Plaid Pants and Soft Cashmere
Bi-Stretch High Waist Straight Leg Pants // Audrey Cashmere Sweater in Hawthorne Rose // Gold Layering Necklace // Michael Kors Large Scalloped Benning Satchel (similar) // Kelsey Block Heel Pumps in indigo as originally seen in this post.

That leads to the next tip.

#4 – Create some space

You’ll look thinner, but also more relaxed and less staged if you use your arms and legs to create a little visual space in your silhouette. Don’t hold your arms straight down your sides; that immediately makes you look wider and heavier. Instead, find some natural ways to hold your arms so that there is light between your side and your arms. And that doesn’t mean you always put your hands on your hips.

Red Plaid Perfect Button Up Shirt // Comfort Stretch Denim Jeggings in Leo Wash // Francesca Driving Moccasins in Gold Buckle Metallic // Gold layering necklace (now only available in silver) as originally seen in this post.

Study photos in retail catalogs such as Talbots and Chico’s. See how their models create space between their bodies and arms naturally. I know you’re not posing for a catalog or a fashion shoot, but the principles still apply to your family photo or the pic you take at your gal pal’s party.

#5 – Check Your Posture

Many of us don’t really carry ourselves or sit with good posture most of the time. Shame on us! Let’s work on that. But it’s definitely important that we stand and sit with good posture in photos. Slouched shoulders will immediately age you in the photograph, but poor posture will also make you look heavier and less engaging.

Fall Fuchsia Cashmere Sweater + Corduroys
Fall Fuchsia Cashmere Sweater // Straight Leg Cords (similar) // Gold Layering necklace, now only in silver // Sam Edelman leopard print flats (similar) as originally seen in this post.

You don’t need to sit or stand with soldier-like erectness. That could come across as tension (see #2) and doesn’t look natural. But simply try this little exercise just before the cameras start snapping. 1) Take a deep breath and raise your shoulders up toward your ears. 2) Roll your shoulders back so they line up with your hips. 3) Slowly release your breath and drop your shoulders to a natural position. 4) Now from this place of good posture, strike your pose.

#6 – Do Something With Your Hands

Remember, we don’t want listless hands hanging down to our sides because then we don’t have that optimal space between our arms and our bodies. So then what do you do with your hands? Well, certainly don’t just stick them out! Ha, ha!

Ribbed Crew Neck Sweater In classic caramel // the Madison Trouser in Check // Tasseled Leopard Print Foldover Clutch // Tortoise Shell Chain Necklace (similar) // Eryn Suede Pumps in toasted sesame as originally seen in this post.

Honestly, figuring out what to do with my hands is often one of my biggest dilemmas in posing. So I’ve learned some “go to” hand positions. Use your pockets, hold your sunglasses, hold a purse, join hands with another person or touch them gently on the arm. Tuck your hair behind your ear (or pretend to), touch your necklace gently, put one or both hands on a hip. Once again, check the sales catalogs. These ladies are masters at doing something with their hands that looks natural, engaging and elegant.

By the way, try not to flay your fingers open (I confess, I often do this).

#7 – Smile with Your Eyes First

A good smile begins with your eyes. A lot of beautiful women come across looking plastic, disengaged or a little goofy because they paste a smile on their mouths. Then you look at the picture and think something like, that doesn’t look at all like her! That’s because you know her real, genuine smile…and that’s not it!

Black high-waist straight leg cords // holiday plaid button up top // red down puffer vest // reversible leather belt // gold shimmer bracelet // gold layering necklace (similar) // gold hoop earrings (similar) as originally seen in this post.

Instead, think (really think!) about beginning the smile with your eyes. Don’t let your lips curve up or part until you feel your eyes brighten. Do it right now and see what I mean. Can you tell a difference?

#8 – Do the Happy Squint

While you don’t want to squint as though you can’t see well or as though the sun is in your eyes, there is a squint that actually looks beautiful in photographs. It’s a subtle little crinkling around the eyes that says, “I’m so happy!”

Fall Floral Dress for Any Occasion
Matte jersey floral sheath dress // Microsuede Sling Back Pumps in Beige // Michael Kors large Scalloped Benning Satchel (similar) as originally seen in this post.

You’ll look your most beautiful in a photo in which you look genuinely happy. If you have a hard time mustering up a genuine, happy smile, get yourself to laugh. Go ahead. Out loud, chuckle or laugh just before the photographer calls for the shot. If I’m getting tired or the photo session is going long and I feel my smile fading, I’ll often just laugh. Your shoulders may also draw forward a little and your smile may be a little bigger than you meant for it to be. That’s okay. A little laughter generally evokes a genuine smile that looks natural and engaging.

#9 – Take a turn or Make a move

Finally, if you have a photographer and/or a camera that is up to it, try moving a little when taking the photo. You’ve probably seen pictures of people all jumping in the air with glee. People have actually been using that technique for years (I learned it in my college photography class in the 80s!) because when the subject moves they look more natural and engaging.

Skirt and Cashmere Sweater in Soft Shades of Fall
Glen Plaid Pencil Skirt // Fall Fuchsia Cashmere Sweater // Microsuede Sling Back Pumps in Beige // Gold Layering Necklace // Tasseled Leopard Print Foldover Clutch // Gold hoop earrings (similar) as originally seen in this post.

But you don’t have to jump! James often has me turn away from him. Then I slowly, but naturally as possible, start turning toward him and moving a little. He’s taking shots all the while. You’ll need to stay in the same plane, not moving real far or the shot will appear out of focus.

You can also walk, move up a step or two, do a little dance or…go ahead and jump!

Ready? Action!

I hope these 9 simple tips will help you face the cameras with confidence and charm this holiday season. When everyone starts pulling out their phones or cameras, you just turn on the charm. And remember, equipping yourself to take attractive photos is not a matter of vanity. Really, ladies, it’s not. Learning to look beautiful in photos is a life skill these days. And because you’ve done the homework and know how to pose, you’ll help create memorable, engaging and beautiful photos that you, your family and friends will be able to enjoy for years.

Blessed for My Day

Having and nursing a poor self-esteem is not the same thing as being humble. So let’s not make that mistake. Having a poor self-esteem means we think less of ourselves than we should. True humility is thinking of ourselves…less. Do you see the difference? 

True humility rejoices in the success of others. Low self-esteem is envious of others’ successes. True humility draws us to others. Low self-esteem isolates. True humility is the fruit of repentance. Low self-esteem is a form of self-absorption. Humility is a mark of authenticity. Low self-esteem hides behind a mask. Humility is a quality which catches the attention of God. Low self-esteem is a characteristic that breaks the heart of God.

But let’s face it, most of us gals struggle with self-esteem issues either at certain points in life or even throughout life. I think a low self-esteem is a prison that the enemy locks us into with twisted words, vain imaginations, self-pity and loathing and lies straight from hell. But all along the key to that prison cell is right within our reach. The key? God’s Word. Jesus told His disciples, “the truth will set you free.” 

If a poor self-esteem has imprisoned you and kept you from participating in life to your fullest ability, search for the truths in God’s Word that unlock those cell doors. Memorize them and cling to them with tenacity. Yes, let’s be humble women. Let’s think of others more and ourselves less. But let’s not allow the enemy to deceive us into thinking we are worth…less.

And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free. ~ John 8:32

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…” So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. ~ Genesis 1:26-17

Spread the love
xoxo, Kay
Join the Conversation

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

15 thoughts on “How to Look Great in Photographs

  1. Thank you for these tips! They are all great and especially for the upcoming holidays! Have a blessed day!

  2. I hate having my photo taken. I always look like I have a wide top, like I am all top. I am going to reread these tips over and over and try some out so they become more natural before any photos are taken. It is hard to remember to do anything except smile in a photo. These tips should really help. Thank you!!!!

    1. I hear you! That’s really such a good idea to prepare ahead because invariably we forget half of what we learned when the pressure is on! Here’s to some great Christmas photos this year! ?

  3. My husband was just reading that there are more photographs in these last couple of years than in the whole centuries before this…crazy!!
    These are some great tips, Kay. You always look so relaxed and wonderful.!!

    1. Thanks Jodie. You gals obviously share a lot of laughter as you take your photos, too. You all look like you are having a blast and so relaxed. ?

      1. Jodie shared your post with me weeks ago after I commented on her blog about how stiff and unnatural/uncomfortable I feel being photographed. I think Jodie and her moms are so natural and fun in all of their photos. So glad she shared this post with me. Going to pin it and keep it handy to consult over and over. You are lovely! And relaxed and approachable. Like you could be friends with all of your readers. Great job!!

  4. As a photographer this post helps a lot with trying to pose clients to capture the best angles– even when I am in front of the camera I will use these tips. Thank you for the great advice!

  5. Hi, Kay
    This is so well written and explained in such detail. I appreciate this very much because I do not seem to be photogenic. Now that I am blogging, I have to get my picture taken quite often (although I avoid it as much as possible…lol). I can’t do those serious looks the models use; I only seem to look right when I am laughing. I am going to try to remember your advice.
    Thank you so much,

    1. Thanks for the comments, Angie. Yeah, I can’t do serious looks either, lol! I just have to smile. My more serious look just looks mad! 😉