What guarantees a great photo these days? We asked style and photography mavens to share their tips for taking a picture that will get results. Below are eight of their suggestions.
1. Do your do. “Get your hair cut at least a few days before the shoot if you need it to ‘settle in’ before it looks its best,” suggests Jay Groccia, principal photographer at OnSite Studios in Boylston, MA.
2. Be bold. Gretta Monahan, style expert and author of Style and the Successful Girl: Transform Your Look, Transform Your Life, says wearing bright colors is key. “It makes your complexion look healthier and gives you a more youthful, spirited glow. With a bright color, you’ll certainly pop on the page.” Avoid wearing all white; it makes you look pale and pasty.
3. Mind your makeup. “A tiny hint of bronzer always helps to warm up the face,” says celebrity makeup artist and Love, Lashes, and Lipstick: My Secrets for a Gorgeous, Happy Life author Mally Roncal, whose clients include Beyoncé and Jennifer Lopez. “Use eyeliner on your top lid, and define your eyebrows. Avoid wearing lipstick that’s too dark — you can’t go wrong with a pink lip gloss, which makes lips look fuller and healthier.”
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4. Strike a pose. “Looking directly into the camera makes for a very boring looking photo and makes the nose appear very large,” asserts Chris Paxman, a photographer based in Mesa, AZ. “Try pointing your chin ever so slightly to the left or right, and look back to the camera with your eyes only.”
5. Watch your back(ground). “Too much going on in the background increases the chances of getting lost in the portrait or looking like you have strange lines emerging from your body,” cautions Tarah Cranford, a photographer in San Francisco. Stand in front of a wall that contrasts well with what you’re wearing, or hang a solid-colored towel or sheet behind you. Or find backgrounds with interesting but subtle textures like garage doors, columns or wallpapered walls.
6. Get comfortable. “You want your photo to convey that you are warm and inviting,” says Nicole Braun, owner and chief photographer of Wink in New York City. “So have a light and happy conversation and your body language will fall right in line. Another way to relax is by watching a TV show or movie that you know makes you laugh and smile. Listening to a song that puts you in a positive and happy place is great, too.”
7. See the light. Cold or harsh lighting is seriously unflattering. Natural light is the best, according to Richard Brown, a photographer in Seattle. “Try to use a good window light. If you take the head shots outside, avoid pure sunlight on your face. Use anything from a white sheet to a white wall to reflect and add fill light to your face.”
8. Forget the flash. “Never use flash, especially when shooting yourself in the mirror,” says Roman Gabriel, who’s photographed the Dandy Warhols and James Brown, among others. “Full-frontal, nondiffused flash is the most unflattering image you can take of yourself. It creates red-eye, overexposes skin tones and highlights flaws. If you must use the flash, try placing a small piece of tracing paper just over the front of the flash to soften up the light, giving the photo a pleasing, slightly airbrushed appeal.”
Finally, have plenty of photos taken of you in different locations, clothes and poses, and in varying light. “Let’s cancel out the myth that some people always take a good picture while others don’t,” Monahan says. “Even celebrities and models take hundreds of pictures during a shoot. If you don’t like the first few shots, don’t settle. Keep going until you feel comfortable and relaxed. That will be the best photo of the bunch.”
Margot Carmichael Lester’s photography has appeared in TravelAge West, the Carrboro Citizen and DialTone.