How to be Photogenic

My clients always ask me how to be photogenic and I never know how to answer it because I feel like it’s quite often a loaded question.

Some clients are anxious about being in front of a camera and are worried their anxiety will show while others have body image issues and genuinely fear having their photography session.  Whatever a clients reason for asking this question, I’ve learned to look past the question itserlf and hear what the client is actually trying to ask.  My female clients all want to appear graceful, beautiful and relaxed in their photos and my male clients want to appear strong, handsome and confident.

German mills settlers park engagement photography by Ten·2·Ten Photography

Instead of offering tips on how to be photogenic, I decided to sit back and reflect on my experiences over the years and come up with a list of things that encompasses what “being photogenic” really is, but it’s up to the client as to how closely they want or can follow all of these tips.  You’ll see that some of the things written on this list aren’t necessarily easy-fixes (like confidence building) but are absolutely achievable over time.


Being Photogenic: 8 Tips to Consider

You have to actually want to have your photo taken!  I’ve shot not only a billion and a half weddings, but nearly as many portrait sessions, too, and I’ve noticed that there are 2 kinds of clients: those who actually want to have their photo taken and those who don’t.  Those who don’t actually want their photos taken never appear as relaxed, comfortable and natural in front of the camera nor do they listen to direction from the photographer because they are in a situation in which they simply don’t actually want to be in!  So what happens if you don’t like having your photo taken?

  • For non-wedding portraits: If you don’t like having your photo taken, don’t book a portrait session!  If you feel like you “should” have photos taken (ie: a traditional yearly family picture) you need to make it a note to not focus on yourself in the photos and enjoy them because they contain your loved ones.
  • For weddings: If you don’t like to have your photo taken but still want the memories of your wedding day, tell your photographer that you do not want a formal photo session and keep it to only candids.  Explain to the photographer how you feel about being photographed and, if they’re a good fit for you, will be happy to comply with your requests.

Know the different between ‘Photogenic’ and ‘Attractive’ – You would think that this is obvious, but in reality many people get the two terms confused.  I’ve seen clients look at a photo of themselves and say “ugh, look at those freckles and crows feet – I’m so not photogenic”.  Having freckles, wrinkles or crooked teeth do not make you less photogenic, although you may feel like those things make you less attractive.  You can be photogenic even if you have a few so-called “flaws” here and there; being photogenic is about so much more than perfect skin or a Colgate smile.

Confidence: The most important component of body language – You can have the most amazing photographer in the world direct you into poses, but if deep down inside you are still nervous, anxious or downright frightened it will show in your photos.  If great posing is the cake, confidence is the icing that holds it all together.  A photographer can help guide you out of your shell, but only to a certain extent – you need to be willing to let yourself relax and gain confidence in your photographer, their abilities and your photo session if you want to see great images afterwards.  I add a free engagement session to all of my wedding packages because I’ve seen first hand that clients who participate in the free sessions are much more confident and relaxed during their wedding day photos  which always results in better pictures!

It’s not just about your face; it’s about your wardrobe, too! – I’ve all too often seen clients book hair and makeup appointments before a fine-art portrait session only to see them show up in the clothes they just happened to throw on that day.  Choosing an appropriate outfit to be photographed in adds so much to the resulting image!  You should wear an outfit that is comfortable and flattering and it needs to look good from all angles!  Don’t forget about your accessories and shoes, too – everything should be co-ordinated for that totally put-together look.  If you’re unsure of what to wear simply ask your photographer – if they really know what they’re doing they should be more than happy to give you a few tips on wardrobe for you individual session.

Get in touch with your sensual side and don’t be shy about it!  Whether you’re posing with your partner or by yourself for a glamour shoot, don’t be afraid to get in touch with your sensual side!  You might be asked to put your arms around your partner, or touch your collar bone and shoulder and the more comfortable you feel doing this, the more natural and relaxed you’ll appear in the photo.  You don’t need to be giving “sexy eyes” at all times, just don’t be afraid to put your hands on your own body!

Hire a great photographer! – One of the best decisions you can for a photo session is to hire a great photographer!  I’m not talking about a good photographer, or an affordable photographer – I’m talking about a genuinely great photographer who knows how to pose people of any shape and size and in any environment.  Once you hire that great photographer, they will direct you on how to pose during your photo session so that you are showcasing your best assets.

Listen to your photographers instructions – they are the experts, not you! If your photographer tells you to put your arm back, do it – put it all the way back.  Even if you may have issues with the size of your arms, just please… listen to your photographer!  You’ve put the money into hiring a great photographer so let them pose you properly because they know what they are doing! If you let your self-image issues interfere with your ability to comply with your posing directions, you’re sabotaging your own photos.  We’re all grown-ups, we’re all responsible for our own decisions – if you choose not to listen to your posing directions then you’re not letting your photographer do their job to your expectations.

Some poses are uncomfortable and that’s okay! – Your photographer may ask you to post in a certain way that feels unnatural to you and you might wonder why they heck they are asking you to move like that.  It’s simple: it looks great in a photograph!  Like a great pair of shoes, photography poses might look great but not always be comfortable.

As you can see, being photogenic has nothing to do with being “attractive” or “pretty” and even if you have a few flaws you can still take wonderful photos!  As long as you hire a great photographer who has an amazing ability to pose their subjects into flattering positions (and make sure you follow their advice) you’ll be impressed with your final results!


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