As one of the few Colorado Springs wedding photographers with nearly a lifetime of experience, please allow me to shower you with some pearls of wisdom today, Grasshopper! I promise you’ll thank me for it, because that dreaded time of year is just around the corner. Yes that’s right, the holidays are upon us, and you know what that means: you’re going to get your picture taken. A lot. And those pictures will be posted to Facebook and Instagram and Snapchat, and that’ll make you grumpy because you’ll think that you look like a mutant in every one of them. Bah, humbug! I know, I know. Trust me, I am not very photogenic. There are some baaaaad pictures of me out there. But rather than ducking and running every time someone waves a camera in my general direction, I trained myself how to pose so that I always look good in pictures. (Well, most of the time, anyway. We all have our moments.) No, you don’t have to look like a mutant! Yes, you can look fabulous with just a couple of quick adjustments to your head and body position! In my long career as a wedding and portrait photographer in Colorado Springs, I’ve employed all the tricks to get great pictures of my clients, and now I’m going to share some of my favorites. Here, Grasshopper, are nine very easy tips on how to pose for pictures so that you always look good. Read and learn!
Rule #1: If it can bend, bend it! Here’s the scenario: It’s Christmas day and you’re on the couch, groaning in pain and remorse after having eaten four days worth of food in 20 minutes flat. You have to pee but you’re afraid to go to the bathroom because there’s a distinct possibility that your jeans may not zip back up. And suddenly Aunt Karen charges into the room, brandishing her Canon Rebel and demanding a picture of you. Crap. Okay, most people, when paralyzed by the 4,800 calories they just consumed, will just sit there like Jabba the Hutt and end up looking like the photo at top left. My model Lexie is certainly cute (there’s no denying that!), but this picture makes her look blocky and wide, and her legs are large while her head is small. She looks 15 pounds heavier than her actual size. No bueno! Here’s what you do: bend forward at the waist and rest your arms on your knees. This takes those 15 pounds right back off again, camouflaging the tummy area and getting rid of that pesky double chin. “If it can bend, bend it!” Look at the photo at bottom left. All she did was tip her head to one side. That took about, I dunno, one zillionth of a second and the payoff is huge in the cute department. But let’s say you actually have three full seconds to arrange yourself. You can end up with the awesome picture at the bottom right! Turn to the side, bend your legs, bend your arms, bend forward, tip your chin up, and cheese! Winner winner chicken dinner!
Tip #2: Find the light! You may think Lexie looks just fine in the “meh” picture on the left, but take a closer look. She’s posed next to a window but facing away from it, and all that wonderful light is falling on her hair, not her face. It’s a portrait of her hairdo. Now this may be a good thing if you happen to be having a particularly awesome hair day, but really, we want to see your pretty face so please turn toward the light! Look at the picture on the right. There is nothing more flattering than window light. (Why do you think all those selfies you take in the car look so awesome? Hellooooo! Window light!) So do yourself a favor, turn toward the window so that the light falls directly onto your face and gives you that wonderful glow.
Tip #3: Arms aren’t just for hugging. Sometimes, when we get our picture taken, we forget that we have arms. They dangle uselessly at our sides like limp socks, or worse yet, we silently scream I HATE GETTING MY PICTURE TAKEN and press our arms protectively against our bodies, causing them to miraculously quadruple in size. Then of course Aunt Karen gleefully posts that photo to Facebook and tags you, and you curl up into fetal position on your closet floor, babbling incoherently about your “truck driver arms”. Okay, maybe it’s not quite that bad, but we all know that upper arms are a major problem area in pictures. Look at Lexie’s picture on the left. She has nice, toned arms, but you’d never know it from this picture. Now look at the one on the right. All she did was put her hand on her hip, and voilà! Her arm is perfectly formed again, hooray! And as an added bonus, this pose elongates your torso and makes you look slimmer. Try it, it works wonders!
Tip #4: Direct sunlight is not your friend. Really. I do not have to point out how unflattering the light is in the picture on the left. If you happen to be outside between the hours of 10:00am and 2:00pm and standing in direct sunlight, and someone asks to take your picture in this horrible, horrible, HORRIBLE light, you have my permission to smack them in the forehead just like that V-8 commercial. Nobody looks good in this light. Not even Heidi Klum, okay? Every bump, bulge and ripple stands out in excruciatingly fine relief. Every pore, wrinkle and scar, not to mention the ghost of the epic zit that magically appeared the day of your junior prom. And let’s not even talk about the unflattering shadows cast by direct overhead sun! If you think the picture on the right was taken in the studio, think again. It was taken about 15 feet away from the picture on the left. All we did was walk over to an area of open shade, and BOOM! Lexie looks infinitely better.
Tip #5: At ease, soldier! I don’t know why people do this, but it’s really common. The moment a camera is pointed in their general direction, they stand at attention, knees and hips locked, like they’re facing a firing squad. Alas, this is not typically flattering. It makes you look wide. It also makes you look uncomfortable. It might as well be a mug shot. Try this instead: shift your weight to one leg or the other. This will cause your hip to “pop”, creating a nice curve, and it will also cause the opposite knee to bend. Fabulous! Now try putting your hand on your hip and turning slightly to the side. Wow! Even better, put your hands in your pockets. This will cause your shoulders to lift, making you look taller, slimmer and definitely not uncomfortable. What a difference, soldier!
Tip #6: Get down on bended knee. Well if there’s anything we’ve learned from our selfie-obsessed culture, it’s that we all look better looking upward at the lens. We’ve also learned that the “duck face” automatically lowers your IQ by 50 points. It’s true, I read it on the internet. But I digress. Try squatting down the next time someone takes a picture of you, like Lexie did in both of these pictures. (They’re both great, but the angle in the second shot is nothing short of fabulous.) If you can’t hold a squatting position, put one knee on the ground to stabilize yourself. This trick is especially nice if you happen to be posing with your kiddo. Get down to their level! Squat down next to the stroller, or crouch down next to your little munchkin and put your arms around them so you can pose cheek to cheek. Works every time, promise!
Tip #7: Don’t just stand there, do something! What I’m saying is, pop a couple of poses. Get your Tyra on. Shift your weight over to one side. Now shift it to the other side. Try a hand on a hip. Look at how separating her arm from her body makes Lexie look tall and slim and confident in the last picture, all 63 inches of her! I guarantee if she posted that photo to Facebook, her friends would go crazy. It’d get about a gazillion likes and compliments. THIS IS THE DESIRED EFFECT. (Let’s be honest. It is a wonderful boost to your self esteem when you post a particularly flattering picture and get positive feedback. This does not make you shallow or vain. It makes you normal.) So don’t be shy, strike a pose. Make love to the camera, baby!
Tip #8: Turn the other cheek. If you feel that you look too wide facing the camera directly, turn the other cheek — butt cheek, that is! This is the oldest trick in the book, and if you have ever seen any-starlet-since-the-dawn-of-Hollywood posing on the red carpet, you’ll recognize it. Take a look at this picture of Sophia Vergara. Um, yeah. She’s got it down. Here’s how you do it: rotate your entire body, including your feet, a quarter turn from the lens. Stand so that your feet are a few inches apart. Now shift all your weight onto your back foot (the one that’s away from the camera). This will cause the leg that’s facing the camera to bend, making it look slimmer. Now put your hand on your hip, girlfriend, because that’ll make you look tall and slender. Ta-da! Now you’re red carpet ready! Bring on the paparazzi!
Tip #9: Find your best side. This final tip is your homework assignment. Everyone has a bad side and a good side (and I mean that metaphorically, too). What’s your best angle? The only way to figure this out is to study photos of yourself. I’ve learned over the years that my right side photographs better, so I turn my head slightly to the left for pictures. So here’s your homework assignment: sit down and look at pictures of yourself. Better yet, grab your bestie and a camera, find some nice open shade (see Tip #4), and have her take a few pictures of you from different angles. Try tilting your head up or down. Try smiling with your mouth slightly open like Marilyn Monroe. Now go and have a glass of wine, because I know how much you hate having your picture taken. But not too much wine, because now you need to sit down and peruse all those fine images of yourself to figure out what your best angle is. Once you’ve figured that out, any time someone points a camera at you, just lather, rinse and repeat!
I hope these little tips will help you have more confidence in front of the camera! (I can’t do anything about those 4,800 calories you’re going to eat in a single day. That’s on you.) Employing even just one of them will result in a much better picture and a less grumpy you. Happy holidays!