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Tips to Help You Look Great in Photos

December 20, 2019

“Let’s all take a picture!” You know you’re going to hear those words over and over throughout the holidays. Does the call for a photo cause you to 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 two years now, I have learned some tips that help me get the job done. So today I’m sharing a dozen tips that will help you look great in pictures.

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 six to ten that I could use on the blog confidently.

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 30 photographs of an outfit, and 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!)

What about you? Do you dread the moment at holiday gatherings when someone whips out their phone or a camera and ask for a photo? I totally get it. Remember, when I shoot photos for this blog I’ve put some time and effort into my makeup and hair, chosen a location with good lighting and put on something especially pretty and well curated. But I rarely look that “perfect” in real life.

Still we live in a time when learning to take a good photo isn’t vanity; it’s a fact of life! Your kids and grandkids all have a camera in their hands 24/7. We might as well learn to stop whining, strike a pretty pose, snap the sweet shot and get on with life!

So let’s learn 12 tips that will help us pose for the camera so that we look…not just okay…but beautiful in pictures!



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.

What to Wear to a Casual Christmas Party
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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. #lifeinthe21stcentury

#2 – Put on some lipstick

Whether you have on a full face of makeup or not, take a moment to put a little color on your lips if possible. Adding just a touch of color will help you look brighter and more youthful.

Hostess Outfit
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But if you do have the opportunity to do more, here are a few makeup tips I often employ:

  • add false eyelashes if you’re up to it
  • add a little contouring just under your cheekbones, but blend well
  • add a touch of white shadow to the inner corners of your eyes, just between your eyes and the bridge of your nose
  • shape your brows
  • take a comb to your hair, but then let it fall naturally

#3 – Look for the Light

I know it’s hard to look straight into the light, but your photos will turn out better if you are facing soft, natural lighting. You may not be in charge of the photo session, but, if possible, encourage the photographer to situate you and/or the group so that natural light is making you glow.

Fall T-shirt with jeans and corduroy jacket
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The best time to take photos on a sunny day is around sunrise or sunset, but you can also seek out shade in the middle of the day and face toward the sun. You just don’t want to be squinting directly into the harsh rays of the sun.

#4 – RELAX!!!

We’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…threefold. You’ll look disengaged, angry, tired and/or old. Bleh.

Easy Black and Gold Holiday Style
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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.

CATIBA Low Metallic Silver/White Leather Sneaker Women
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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. Take some cleansing breaths. Laugh a little. When you look relaxed, you’ll look younger, happier, more inviting and approachable.


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.

Monochromatic Outfit
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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.

red puffer jacket
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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.

Green Sweater Dress
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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.

Dark Floral Print blouse
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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.

Style and Etiquette Tips for the Mother of the Groom
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You don’t need to sit or stand with soldier-like erectness. That could come across as tension (see #3) and doesn’t look natural. But simply try this little exercise just before the cameras start snapping.

  • Take a deep breath and raise your shoulders up toward your ears.
  • Roll your shoulders back so they line up with your hips.
  • Slowly release your breath and drop your shoulders to a natural position.
  • Now from this place of good posture, strike your pose.
Style and Etiquette Tips for the Mother of the Groom
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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!

Black Turtleneck
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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. At this time of year, hold a Christmas gift or ornament, a cup of hot chocolate, a poinsettia or a Christmas cookie. 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.

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

#9 – Look away

Some of my favorite photos are of subjects looking away from the camera. I think these look the most natural. Of course, if you’re in a group photo, you’ll generally all want to be looking in the same direction, at the same object. (Unless it’s one of those fun photos where everyone is looking at each other and all different directions! Those work, too.)

Red and black sweater
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The only drawback to this pose is that it won’t be quite as engaging. When your eyes lock with the camera, it definitely looks more engaging.


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!

See the full post for details. (My friends are definitely smiling with their beautiful eyes!)

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?

What to Wear at a Fall Retreat
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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!”

Black and blue Christmas Holiday Look
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See the full post for details.

#12 – Laugh it up!

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.

Go Wild with Animal Print
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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.


Okay. Let’s make it a baker’s dozen!

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.

Chic Camel Cashmere Cardigan
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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.

The Most Modern Way to Wear Your Blazer
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You can also walk, move up a step or two, do a little dance or…go ahead and jump!

All that said…

With all those tips, you can still hate seeing yourself in photos. But that, dear friend, is where we gals need to give ourselves some grace. Undoubtedly, we are our own worst critics. Let’s remember that ultimately our friends and family members just want to see us looking happy and engaged in the photos they save on their phones or in their albums.

They like remembering that we were there! That we all laughed and talked for hours.

After Wedding Brunch

That we loved on each other. In the long run, that’s what makes a good photo. It’s filled with lots of love.

Style and Etiquette Tips for the Mother of the Groom

Did you find these tips helpful? I hope so. Let me know if you use any of them during the holidays. I’d love to hear from you!

If You’re Visiting from Pinterest…

I hope you’ll take a few moments to look around Dressed for My Day. You might want to…

  • find out more about me here.
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Blessed for My Day

Good news. That’s what we have to share with others. We have good news. The very best news. A Savior has come to give us life, to fill our days with joy, to give us peace in the storm, to give us hope for a future.

As we go about our shopping and shipping and baking and party-hopping and bustling around, let’s remember to share the good news of Christmas. As much as I love a good Hallmark movie, even most of them get it wrong. Christmas is not about opening your heart to love, hoping for miracles or kissing under the mistletoe. Christmas is about the good news of Jesus Christ. Let’s tell it on the mountains!

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” ~ Luke 2:10-12

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xoxo, Kay
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19 thoughts on “Tips to Help You Look Great in Photos

    1. I really enjoyed this one. Great advice for good photo outcomes. Lovely photos of you and your family and friends. And, sharing the good news of Christ, our Savior and King! Thanks, Kay!

  1. Fantastic post Kay! Thanks for the great tips that I need to recall and implement. Oh, my mammogram is scheduled for 12/30. As uncomfortable as they are, it is a very important appointment that I have done every year. God does expect us to take good care of the vessel He has given each of us. I hope you have a cozy, hot chocolate kind of a day!

  2. Thanks for the great tips! The “Facebook pose with the duck face” are so unrealistic! More people need to read these tips! I hope you and your family have a Merry Christmas & a Blessed New Year!

    1. Hahaha! I’m glad you liked the post, Anita. Don’t forget you can always share my posts on Facebook or Pinterest with the share buttons at the end of the post. That way “more people” will see the tips! ?

  3. Super great photo tips! Thanks for sharing them with us! You are beautiful and inspire me daily! Christmas blessings to you and your family!

  4. I’m the oldest sister in law so I always get plopped in the middle, arms linked, facing camera dead on. At a family reunion it’s hard to get a good picture. I’ve learned to just relax and let them at me. I’ll never like pictures of me but with your tips maybe I’ll look a little better. I no longer throw my chin up and squint at the camera since I got cataract surgery. That’s a plus. LOL. Have a beautiful Christmas dear heart. God bless,

  5. Best blog post I’ve read in a long time!! Great tips for looking our best in photos. Enjoy a Cincinnati Christmas, maybe you’ll see snow!

    1. Thanks so much. We actually have snow on the ground still from Sunday to Tuesday. But it’s not supposed to snow again anytime soon. We are enjoying Cincinnati. ?

  6. I think most of us find ourselves putting our hands on our hips….I know I do. Will try another pose though.

    Such great tips!


  7. Loved the photo tips. I guess I’m just to critical of myself and will now just relax when having my photo taken. So enjoy reading your blog.