How to look great in photos
A lot of couple I talk to don’t like having their picture taken. They worry about how they’re going to look in their wedding photos. I think this is quite natural – the majority of us don’t like having our picture taken most of the time. Add all the wedding day nerves, and you’re likely to dread the idea of posing and smiling for a photographer.
My least favourite photo
When I graduated I had an awful photograph taken. It was one of the most confident and happy days of my life. I was glowing with pride for most of the day. Not in the photo. The photographer posed and prodded me;
“Move your chin a little to the left”
“no, don’t hold it like that, hold it more like a sword” (The degree certificate, which now I suppose was my only weapon in the forthcoming zombie apocolypse)
What I ended up with is a picture of me looking completely uncomfortable. It should be one of those moments that’s hung on the wall, but it’s buried in a box in the attic somewhere. I think I also gave my mum a copy (she doesn’t display it either).
Because our bodies rebel
If we’re uncomfortable our bodies tense up, our faces and our eyes – the windows to our soul – they just sort of glaze over. Our shoulders hunch, our body language becomes guarded. You can always see in a picture when someone isn’t enjoying the process. (Unless your photographer has turned you into a silhouette – theres a workaround for everything)
The Smize and the Squinch
I think Tyra Bank’s Smize is quite a well known technique for practicing in front of a mirror. If you’re unfamiliar with the technique – please see the video below.
The Squinch is a technique developed by headshot photographer Peter Hurley to get rid of the ‘rabbit in the headlights’ look that people develop when a camera is pointed at them. You can learn all about it in this video –
Here’s some famous people sexily squinching. Completely natural.
But there are always a million little ’tells’
If you’re not comfortable, no amount of adjusting your spinal curvature, moving your chin, smizing or squinching is going to hide it. We are made of so many physical tells, and if we’re feeling uncomfortable or guarded, it’s going to seep through into the photograph.
So how do you look great in your photos?
Trust me – you look a lot better in your everyday life than you do in most photos of yourself. Looking great in photos is more a process of letting go and trusting in the process.
I’m not just saying that. It’s inherent. We all have these characteristics and personalities that can shine through or be hidden. It’s only when we relax and let ourselves be ourselves that we are truly beautiful. You see the twinkle in the eyes. You see the true joy on someones face and it’s something you relate to.
Here’s one of my personal favourites of myself. It’s a crappy iPhone selfie taken in poor light, but it’s actually me (you have no idea how hard it is to capture yourself off guard!)
Trust your photographer
Any photographer worth their salt will know how to put you at ease. Go with them – we all have different techniques and they’re all very much reflections of our own personalities. They will have found flattering light and angles, and usually put together a composition that’s generally pleasing to the eye. Don’t worry about that part,. Finding a photographer you click with when there’s no camera in their hand will greatly improve your chances of wedding day success.
The Beloved Approach
I personally use a set of tools called beloved – which are about exploring the relationships between people using their own imaginations and memories. They can be fun, they can be moving – and it’s always an interesting and memorable experience for my clients. This works for me because it sits comfortably between portraiture and my more documentary approach. You can find out more about the beloved movement here.
In the photo above I asked Sarah about a time when Jack was kind to her. You can see the memories and emotions softening their body language and expressions.
I’m not going to be winning any photographic awards with this approach. Good posing is still seen as an important part of photography and part of our arsenal of techniques. Some photographers even claim “if a pose isn’t uncomfortable, it isn’t working”, To me, though, although it can help people look more ‘natural’ – it’s never the real deal. And what I want to see when I look back at memories is a reflection of how I felt at the time. If I felt uncomfortable it’s more likely the pictures going to be living in the attic.
( In fact, I’m going to add a caveat to that. Making people uncomfortable can lead to some very interesting and edgy images. Making people uncomfortable unintentionally, on the other hand, is a completely different issue)
Bringing your own tools
So, if you’re in the position where you’ve booked a photographer who you don’t click with, or you’re on a tight budget and have a relative shooting your wedding – are their steps you can take yourself
The good news is that there are things you can do to prepare yourself. Think about your favourite places, people, memories. Everytime you catch yourself smiling or laughing make a mental note. These are your list of resources. You can use them yourself or talk to your partner about them on the day (“remember that time….”). It will help put you in that good place you need to be to look fantastic.