If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard, “I’m not very photogenic, so good luck taking my picture,” I would have a heck of a lot of nickels. As a photographer, I recognize the simple fact that some people are just more photogenic than others. Yes, that’s right. Someone whose business is in getting paid to take good photos of peoples’ faces just admitted that some peoples’ faces look better in photos than others. I have just admitted what we all know but don’t dare say out loud.
I’m not saying that some people are uglier than others- I believe we are all individuals with our own personal looks, styles, and ways of expressing ourselves, and in my own neo-modern-hippie way, I believe we are all beautiful. And finding a way to translate your personal look into a great headshot people will appreciate before they actually meet you in person is the real challenge when having your portrait taken.
I believe in 2 steps to making yourself more photogenic when a camera points in your direction, and the first, most important step I learned from photographing my dog. That step is to be yourself and relax. My dog doesn’t give a crap what his photo looks like or even what a camera is, so he doesn’t change his face or expression one iota when a giant lens is looming over his snout. When you have your photo taken, don’t try to aim your face at “that one angle that made my nose look great in that one photo of myself I saw 10 years ago.” We’ve all been there, and it results in 10 years of photos of us looking awkward tilting our head in weird angles.
When you’re having your photo taken, own it- just smile, be yourself, and believe you are the beautiful, confident, capable person you know you are, and you will look beautiful, confident, and capable in your photo. When other people look at photos of you they’re not looking at your hair, your nose, your eyebrows, or any individual feature. They’re looking at the overall photo as a representation of you and are only determining if you seem friendly, approachable, capable, professional, etc. Focus more on how friendly you want to look in the photo and you won’t notice anything else!
The second step in being more photogenic in my opinion is retouching. Before any purists get upset, I’m not talking about crazy, body-image altering glamor photos that completely change an ordinary person into Cindy Crawford. Because you still want to look like you so someone can look at your photo then pick you at a networking event. I’m talking about maximizing the effect of the friendly, approachable photo as a whole by minimizing the effect of certain things that distract from the friendly, approachable reading you want people to get out of looking at your photo.
Taking a 3 dimensional face, which people read as 3 dimensional in person, and making it into a 2 dimensional picture, which an eye reads as 2 dimensional when it’s seen, can distort our features and enhance things we don’t usually see in person. Our eyes filter through shadows under the nose and skin imperfections in person because we see it all the time and read right through it to get to the business of communicating with the person themselves. But we don’t have this in-person benefit in a photo, which is a flat, artistic representation of a person.
And if anyone is aware of this it’s me- one of my eyes always looks bigger than the other in photos but not in person. Am I supposed to say, “that’s me, but I don’t actually look like Quasimodo in person, I swear,” when I show my picture to someone who hasn’t seen me in person yet? Nope. And I gave up trying to squint my big eye to match my small one or angle my head in juuuuuust that right direction so they look the same size. I’ve already got 10 years of photos of my head at weird angles.
I’m taking a tip from my dog from now on and suggest you do too: What camera? I’m just going to sit here happy and confident and smiling and if there happens to be a record of that confidence in the form of a photo, so be it. And if that photo happens to make those dark circles under my eyes look darker than usual, then send that thing to the retouching department!