More than 25,000 photos are taken every second. So if you’re going to get snapped and tagged, you might as well look your best. We asked two top portrait photographers—guys who make their living making people look great in photographs—what they do in the studio that will make you look like a model … or at least like you’ve shed a pound or two. Here’s what they had to say:
Move somewhere you won’t need a flash
The light from a camera’s flash is harsh, gives you red eye, and with how great many cameras (and phones) perform in low light, you don’t necessarily need it, says Kevin Jairaj, the author of “Stylish Weddings,” a photographer’s how-to guide to creating dramatic shots in not-so-ideal conditions. If you’re at a dark party or bar, convince the group you’re with to move towards a source of light—even if it’s a streetlamp or another option that provides a small amount of light because it will be more flattering, Jairaj says, than the harshness of a phone flash. In group shots, move to the back and avoid the edges The subject closest to the lens will look the biggest, Hammer says, so if you’re bigger, get slightly further from the lens. “Make yourself taller and lengthen your body or torso,” he says. In other words, stand up straight. A bonus of being in the back: The harsh light from the flash can dissipate a little before it reaches you. In spread out, team-style group shots, avoid the far edges, says Jairaj. “Wide-angle lenses can distort you on the very far outside,” he says. Aim to be in the middle or somewhere inside the group, “and turn to the side a little so you’re not straight on.” Get below the lens—unless you want to look bigger
“If you see girls taking selfies, the ones that know what they’re doing put the phone up in the air—it’s a more flattering angle,” Jairaj says. Being shot from above will make bigger guys look more trim, and can mask if you’ve got a little double chin going. Try to get positioned so the lens is above your eyeline.
One exception: When you want to look bigger, get shot from below, says Rob Hammer, a sports and fitness photographer and author of “Barbershops of America,” a photographic look at shops in every state. “If you’re going for that superhero look, if you shoot from a lower angle, it gives [the subject] a larger-than-life look.” Hammer says that when shooting fitness photos, he’ll sometimes shoot from below to make his models look bigger—if you’ve been lifting and want to show it off, get above the lens.
Don’t stare down the lens
“Unless you’re a supermodel, you don’t want to be straight on to the lens,” Jairaj says. To avoid the mug shot look, he suggests pointing your nose slightly towards the main light source—like a window, or a lamp that’s nearby. This creates “short light,” which can actually take a few pounds out of your face. If your nose is pointed slightly away from the light source, it’s “broad light,” which can make you look heavier.
If there’s a pair, don’t make them parallel
Just as your eyes shouldn’t face directly into the camera, anything on your body that’s paired—feet, shoulders, elbows—will look better if they aren’t facing the same direction, Jairaj says. “Shift your hips and put your weight on your back foot,” he says. This will make your hips and shoulders go uneven, which creates more flattering angles. Do your thing
If you need a new profile picture and want to look natural, Hammer suggests having the photographer document you doing something you’re comfortable with. “If you ask an athlete to stand and hold a pose, they can be pretty awkward. But if you give a basketball player a basketball, it’s a different world,” he says. They’re comfortable holding the ball, moving it around, and they forget to be so stiff. Ask a family member or friend to do the same for you. “Whether it’s basketball, running, cooking, anything. Do your thing and have someone document that. It can really take your mind off that awkward photograph.”