If I’m allowed to toot my own horn for a second, I was rated the number one headshot photographer in Seattle for several years and I was very much into working with my clients on their expressions. More on that in a few minutes. But, during my time as a photographer, I photographed everyone from actors, to comedians, authors, public speakers, magicians, kids, lawyers, Plastic surgeons, local TV personalities, architects, real estate brokers, artists, and regular people who wanted to spice up their dating profiles. And even some high profile people from tech companies based in Seattle that you may have heard of.
Commercial advertising photography
A few years later, when I moved to California, I started doing a lot of commercial advertising and product work for larger companies. This continued for a few years and when my largest client changed ownership, my contract wasn’t renewed. Which at the time sucked a little bit, but in reality, my heart just wasn’t in the game anymore.
So, all of that is said is to provide background and credibility with today’s subject of how to look better in front of the camera. Because, that was sort of my specialty. But think about it. When somebody points a camera at you, it’s weird right? Like, we can’t see ourselves so we don’t know if we look cool, or if we need to move a little bit to the left, or rotate our faces this way. It’s unnatural, and if you don’t have someone giving you direction, you have no idea what looks good or you’re supposed to do.
Let me show you something. I’d have people walk in my studio looking scared and unsure of themselves, and walk out a completely different. Here’s a before and after to prove it.
Changing people’s faces
I was basically changing people’s faces because very few people know how to give an expression that conveys confidence with approachability on their own without direction. So, do me a favor, pause this video and go look in the mirror, or at some point today go look in a mirror and make an expression on your face that conveys confidence with approachability. This is very important… I’ll wait.
Alright, you’re back. Pretty difficult right? Okay, if you found an expression that worked, make it again right now without the mirror. Are you doing it? How do you know you’re doing it right? This is where a good photographer comes in. So, I’m gonna give you my number one, most valuable, tried and true, never fails trick you can use to look better in photos, so don’t go anywhere. but first, I wanna let you know about today’s sponsor, Slick Collar.
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My most valuable technique
Okay, I promised you my most valuable technique, but I’m gonna do you one better. I’m gonna show you the technique you can use with your facial expression, and also some that you can use with your body. Okay, are you ready… The number one thing I wanted people to do when they were in my studio, was to squint. Stay with me on this and let me explain.
Okay, who remembers Tyra Banks talking about the “Smize”, or smile with your eyes? Regular people have no idea what that means or even how to do that. I’m gonna let you in on a little secret. The Smize, is a squint. I’ll show you right now. Okay, I used to have this photo album in my studio. I put tear sheets from different magazines in it and I would always show it to clients to help coach them with their expressions. And it would also help with why I was asking them to do something so wired that no other photographer has ever asked them to do. Please see the video above this article to see more.
Okay, now listen, all that stuff is great, and it’s nice to be aware of new techniques, but this isn’t something you’re gonna perfect right away. It’s a little advanced and it will take some practice. But as you can see, it absolutely works. The next thing you can do is when you’re doing a ¾ or full length body shot, is to turn your body slightly away from the camera and not square up to the camera. A photo is only 2-dimensional, so it’s easy to look heavier than you actually are in photos. It’s not your fault.
Angle shoulders away
If you’re a bigger guy, angle your shoulders away slightly, and turn your head back towards the camera. This also works for women. And, since I just mentioned women, we can learn something from how women are posed. Okay, we like to pose women to show curves and a waistline. One of the best ways to do that really quickly is by turning her body slightly, and creating air space between her arms and her torso.
Create air space
If we pose people with their arms down by their sides, they appear to have less shape…. and appear larger. Remember, photos are 2-dimensional. However, if we let the elbows fly out a little bit to create air space, we instantly gave them more shape and helped to slim them down slightly. It’s a subtle move and nobody should catch on that you’re doing it as long as you don’t go too crazy and chicken-wing it.
Hand towards camera in pocket
Another thing you can do, is to always remember that the hand that’s towards the camera, goes in your pants pocket. And, not only that, but don’t stuff your hand all the way in and smash your arm against your body. Remember, we want some space in there. So go hand in the pocket, only about half way, then move your elbow away from your body, slightly to help create space. Like I said, nobody should even know what you’re doing because, like I mentioned, it’s subtle. It does not have to be a big move.
Okay, last one because I gotta let you guys go at some point, and I could probably go on for another hour on this stuff. But the last one is to tighten up that double chin. Here’s how I like to do it. Okay, it’s no secret that I was not blessed with the chiseled jawline DNA. Even 8 years ago when I was at the gym every day and I was as lean as I’ve ever been, I still have this trash. So, the easiest way to get rid of it in photos is to go forehead towards camera like a chicken, then go chin down.
You can think about the tip of your nose towards the camera if you want, but the whole idea is to keep your shoulders where they are, and only push your face towards the camera. Then, lower your chin. We’re basically stretching skin here and hiding it by lowering your chin slightly. Do this in the mirror and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about. It’s uncomfortable, and it feels super awkward, but it works every time.