Not photogenic? 3 techniques that will change your mind

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Have you ever heard the phrase "Everyone has a book in them"? Everyone certainly has a story to tell, even if they don't write an entire book! So why should it be any different for photos?

Why not "Everyone has a great photo in them"?

Great storytelling, and indeed writing, takes practice. You don't just expect the pen or keyboard to do all the work for you.

Photography is exactly the same, getting great results either in front or behind the camera takes practice, the camera doesn't do the work, the people do. I lose count of the amount of times someone has walked into one of my headshot sessions to tell me they're not photogenic. Well, I just see this as an opportunity to change someone's mind (and hopefully they'll leave with a smile!)

You see, I firmly believe everyone can look great in a photo, they just need to know how.

1: Get the right light

Photography literally means 'writing with light'. So to get a great photo that's the first thing you need to consider, the light. Everyone knows that facing the sun on a bright day will make you squint, and even worse, make your eyes run! Nobody wants that look in a photo. Equally, harsh light that creates deep shadows across a person's face isn't too flattering.

Getting the right lighting is absolutely key to a flattering photo. A nice, even, soft light across the face works best. On a sunny day this could be found in a patch of shade. If indoors, move toward the most powerful light source, usually a window, for best results. As  a professional photographer, I do this with studio lights for a headshot or portrait, or portable lights for PR. There's a reason we use 'soft boxes' to shape the light.

On a bright day this was taken in small area of shade. It made all the difference to the final expression.

On a bright day this was taken in small area of shade. It made all the difference to the final expression.

2. Work on your posture

Next, think about posture. Even if most of your body isn't in the final photo, it'll affect how you appear. Don't slouch, instead keep your back nice and straight and those shoulders back. Angle your torso away from the camera a little, don't be square on as it'll look confrontational.

For a more engaging shot, drop your chin a little and lean into the camera a little with whatever shoulder is closest. Sometimes it may feel a little odd, but it can look great on camera when done well! Working with your body is a very conscious thing, don't just stand there and expect the photo to work. Move yourself around to get the best look. Give it a go in the bathroom mirror and try to find a look that suits you.

This PR shot needed to look professional and approachable - no slouching!

This PR shot needed to look professional and approachable - no slouching!

3. Smile with your eyes

We're getting to the good stuff here! Now you've got your posture in the sweet spot, it's time to get a great expression. Sure, a simple smile can work some of the time, but we want to do better than that don't we?

Firstly, if you have a tendency to lean your head back in a photo, just drop your chin a little. Whatever you do, don't look down your nose toward the camera as it will make you look judgmental. You want to look engaged, not disapproving.

Next, let's work on the eyes. In a photo, confidence is all about the eyes. You want to look sure of yourself, so you need to look confident. The trick is all in your lower eyelids. I know it sounds strange, but stay with me here. Controlling your lower eye lids is key to exuding that all important confidence. If you have your eyes wide-open, you probably already know this can result in the 'deer in headlights' look. So we need to narrow the distance from your lower eyelid to your pupil. It's not a squint, it's about a third of the way. Bring them up a little, and avoid moving your cheeks and brow, then you'll see confidence come through in the photo. Go on, just give 'em a squeeze!

Now that you're looking all Hollywood, we need to break out a smile. Not a fake smile though, the difference between a fake smile and a real smile can be obvious - again, it's all in the eyes. Smile with your eyes! If this is tricky, try and make yourself laugh a little before the shot - this will go a long way to helping your smile look genuine.

Natural smiles change the whole personality of a photo.

Natural smiles change the whole personality of a photo.

This was caught just after a laugh - a great tool for photographers - laughter!

This was caught just after a laugh - a great tool for photographers - laughter!

Photos that are worth their weight in gold

A great photo can be highly valuable and used in a wide range of ways. It can boost your own self-esteem, it can give you a professional edge and it can help you to stand out. It can convey personality to someone who has never met you. You can look warm and approachable, or professional and trustworthy.

If you're looking to work with a professional photographer for headshots, portraits or PR they will take care of all of this for you. I make sure that the lighting is just right, that my subjects are posed well, and finally, I'll work with them to get a great expression for the final photo - sometimes this means doing my damndest to make them laugh! I want to make sure people are having fun during one of my sessions. Whether they think they're photogenic or not.

That's the real value of working with a photographer - it's not just the camera.

Much like a pen doesn't write a great book.

A camera doesn't make a great photo.


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