Cues For The Camera Shy

Holidays are when the cameras come out flashing more frequently than any other time of the year.

You probably know someone–or you are that person–who so loathes having their picture taken you would swear they were in the Witness Protection Program. And woe to the person who insists on taking their picture anyway, along with the annoying: “Give me a big smile!” or worse, “Say Cheese!” or the much (much) worse, “I’m not gonna take the picture ’til everyone is smiling!”

I have always claimed that there is no such thing as an unphotogenic person. There is only the person who has not figured out how to hold their face, figure, chin and body to its most advantageous when the camera is present.

It’s a skill that is not one-size-fits all, since you need to compose yourself in order to accentuate, obscure, highlight or hide your favorite and not-so-much features. Here are a couple tips to finding your best photo face:

Find Your Best Pose. There is, at minimum, one shot in your photo history that you love; as in, take out and gaze at proudly with thoughts along the line of: Damn, that is one fine-looking woman (or man)!

This photo is probably casually sitting, framed, in your living room or on your office desk. Take it, along with a few other of your personal favorites, and spread them on a table. Examine them, looking at how your face and body are positioned relative to the camera lens.

  • What are the commonalities? What is the angle of your face to the camera? Straight-on or to the left or right? How much?
  • Also, is your chin tilted up or down? A little, a lot?
  • If your body is part of the shot, look at how it is positioned relative to the camera. Look at the position of your shoulders, legs and feet in particular.

Take away from this your favorite face and body positions. Narrow them down to the three that are your most flattering. Get insight from select trusted friends, if you like.

Find Your Best Expression. Re-examine your favorite photos, this time looking at the details of your facial expression.

  • Are you smiling? How wide?
  • Do you like your lips to cover both rows of teeth, or just the top row, or none at all?
  • The default big grin, by the way, is not always the best look. It often has the effect of scrunching up and obscuring other features, the eyes in particular.
  • Note: Keep your eyes open and fixed directly through the camera lens while the shutter clicks.

Finally, what personality do you convey with the arrangement of your facial features, and your eyes in particular?

Your favorite photographs will be the sum of the following:

Your Most Flattering Pose + Personality

Practice these–your best face/body position and facial expressions–in the mirror, over and again, until they are natural and immediate, and not posed. The next time the cameras come out, instead of shrinking away, fall into your favorite pose+personality.

Don’t be embarrassed to conduct this exercise. As photographs are, now more than ever, an unavoidable part of living life on Planet Earth, you may as well discover the way to present yourself most favorably in photographs.

And finally, no matter how many liters of champagne you’ve downed never, ever make the duckface.

*Tip. Former ambassador Chase Untermeyer offers the following from September 2010′s ForbesLife: “Let’s face it, some people look ghastly when they give an old-fashioned grin, displaying stretch lines and lopsided lips. The first President Bush pioneered a technique that works well: Just open your mouth and twinkle your eyes. For some people it looks better than their real smile.”

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