Week of requests: How to look good in pictures

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“I’m curious about how to dress for photos,” writes commenter H,  “from head shots to dating app pictures. Your comments about holiday party tops make me think that there are some tricks beyond `blazers look professional.'” There are indeed tricks to looking good in pictures, H, but I only know one or two, so I outsourced this question to my brother Todd, who is a professional photographer (he took this lovely picture of Amy Tan). Todd shared the following, which includes tips on more than just how to dress:

  1. Anyone who takes selfies knows that the camera should always be above and never below your head.
  2. Unless you are a supermodel, your face is probably at least a little asymmetrical, and we each have a stronger side. Learn which is yours, and turn your head a little bit sideways, leaning into the camera on your best side.
  3. Create a little space between your upper and lower teeth, even if your mouth is closed; this elongates your jaw a little.
  4. Don’t smile too wide, because when you do your eyes tend to close. Todd likes to go for what he calls a “five-eighths smile.”
  5. If you’re taking a group picture, don’t lean in together; it’s too coy. Even in a solo shot, tilting your head can be a bit too cutesy. When you stand up straight, it looks stronger and more direct.
  6. As far as accessories go, less is more. They distract from you.
  7. Avoid clothes with tricky collars. Go for clean lines, and avoid prints.
  8. Everyone looks better in a black turtleneck.
  9. Avoid wearing anything too light or too bright, as those colors can be distracting.
  10. To look skinnier, turn slightly sideways, and put your hand on your hip.

 

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24 Thoughts on Week of requests: How to look good in pictures
    Linda B. Kerr
    8 Mar 2019
    6:47am

    Apropos of wearing something lighter than your skin: glad the women of color have spoken up here. Speaking of light colors though, I have found that pearl earrings can do amazing things to the face. They really provide radiance to mine.

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    Dawn
    8 Mar 2019
    6:49am

    Please revise the tip about skin tone, it has a real bias toward white people. What is a real tip/rule of thumb for people with dark skin?

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      Kim France
      8 Mar 2019
      8:08am

      Todd and I talked about it this morning, and revised the tip. Huge apologies to anyone who was annoyed by this—it was pretty tone deaf on my part.

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    Gablesgirl
    7 Mar 2019
    2:51pm

    In my last professional head shot I am wearing a black turtleneck and its in black and white. Best one yet.

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    Kathi
    7 Mar 2019
    5:53pm

    Thanks for the pic tips. This has been a fun & unique week of posts, you sure picked some good requests to answer, KF!!!

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    Mary
    7 Mar 2019
    9:00pm

    Thank you for the great tips, Todd! I’ve never given my teeth much thought when posing for a pic. I actually hate getting my picture taken as I’m normally not pleased with the results so I’ll be implementing these tips.

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    themis
    7 Mar 2019
    9:30pm

    I feel like this is very true. I can’t pose twisted sideways to look thinner because I gain weight front-to-back rather than side-to-side; that makes me look much bigger. I’m better off face-on, with one foot in front. And, I had also been coached to take photos from above, with my neck elongated and chin slightly down. This looks great on most people, but not at all on my face. I’m better from below with my chin lifted. I think there’s a difference in coaching photogenicity (if that’s even a word) for caucasian vs asian faces.

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      themis
      7 Mar 2019
      9:32pm

      Er, I meant this to be a reply to the talented Todd France’s ‘exceptions to evey rule’ comment. Apologies!

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    ValleyOfTheShoes
    7 Mar 2019
    7:18am

    Please thank Todd, these are great and easy-to-remember tips!

    Remember the days of taking a picture on your camera and having no idea what the image would look like when you dropped off the roll of film?

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      y.k.
      7 Mar 2019
      8:46am

      prehistoric times!

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    KatC
    7 Mar 2019
    8:09am

    Please don’t put your hand on your hip. It looks so contrived.

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      Kate
      7 Mar 2019
      1:44pm

      I’m relieved to see someone else bring this up. I see it so frequently now, and it makes me sad that we’re apparently always posing now.

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        Carol F.
        8 Mar 2019
        10:42am

        I find it hilarious when a group of women take a picture and most of them have their hands on their hips. Too many people know this tip now.

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      Todd France
      7 Mar 2019
      4:44pm

      I concur. Better, always, to take pictures that are not posed.

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    Tammy
    7 Mar 2019
    8:39am

    Todd = FANTASTIC photographer. Thanks for the tips. They’re so terrific.

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    y.k.
    7 Mar 2019
    8:49am

    This photo made me smile, nice to see an accomplished Asian American writer.

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    Karen
    7 Mar 2019
    9:35am

    Great tips and gorgeous photo and woman. However, That particular photo looks like it was taken below her face , not above?

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      Todd France
      7 Mar 2019
      4:45pm

      Aren’t there exceptions to every rule!?

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    c.w.
    7 Mar 2019
    9:42am

    I only take the rare selfie and those are usually to “show off” a new pair of shoes or jeans (I DO take an inordinate number of photos of my dog and the beach during the summer and the occasional selfie of my hair), but I truly loved scrolling through your brother’s photos this morning––so talented! The wedding photos in particular were a pleasure to view––so much joy!––and who doesn’t need that?!

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    Barbara Kenner
    7 Mar 2019
    11:22am

    Great tips, however, as a black person, the not wearing something lighter than your skin does not apply…

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      Jax
      7 Mar 2019
      12:09pm

      Was thinking the same!

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    Viajera
    7 Mar 2019
    11:25am

    These sound very helpful!

    I don’t understand #9 though. What if you have dark skin? You can’t wear lighter colors? I *like* colors .. even on pale people!!! I must not be understanding.

    Also … wah wah … why would I want to look thinner? what are you trying to say???? (Kidding!!!! cackle cackle )

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    kirstjen
    7 Mar 2019
    11:41am

    These are really reasonable, doable tips. I always feel self conscious when having my pic taken, and maybe these will help me feel a little less so. Thank your brother for me!

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    Mamavalveeta03
    8 Mar 2019
    3:35am

    I just ordered a black turtleneck, and from now until eternity, Tip #10 will be my go-to.

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Kim France

I was born in Houston, Texas in 1964 and have lived in New York City since 1988. I had a long career in magazines, working at Sassy, Elle, New York, and Spin, and in 2000, I founded Lucky magazine, which I edited for ten years.

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