I recently taught a workshop to a group of yoga teacher trainees, and before I got started with teaching I asked each of them to tell me something they loved about taking photos, and something they hated about taking photos. One thing popped up often enough in that group of a dozen women that it caught my attention: many of them didn’t like the way they like the way they look in photos. We didn’t dive into the reasons why, but I’m more than familiar with overcoming the hurdles of putting myself in photos.
A year and a half ago you would have been hard-pressed to find a photo of me on Instagram (my favorite social media channel btw). Now, I regularly post photos with me in them. And it’s not because I’ve lost a lot of weight or look exponentially more beautiful now. The biggest thing is that I’ve gotten more comfortable with myself. And I don’t want to sound all sappy and self-help-y here, but the best way you can look good in photos is to feel good in your own skin. There are times when I’ve felt completely uncomfortable with myself, from bucked teeth as a kid, to acne as a teen (and into adulthood), to stretch marks and a wrinkled belly post-babies, to feeling completely unattractive after divorce. It may sound like I’m summing up the arch of my self-image insecurities with ease and simplicity here, but as anyone with insecurities knows, they can run deep beneath the surface––and they did for me for years. I still have my moments where I feel less than great about myself, and the photos of me today definitely don’t look great all of the time, either. Here are some of the things I’ve done to take the best photos I can of myself, though.
Stand Up/Sit Up Straight
Good posture just looks good and elevates everything about your presence––both on camera and in real life.
Smile––But Laugh First
It can be hard to get a genuine smile on camera, especially if you’re not feeling at ease. When I’m taking pictures of people I often try to make them laugh so that I can capture the genuine smile that comes after. When it’s me getting my photo did, I almost always have to make a silly face first to get to the good smile.
Wear What Makes You Feel Good
One of the biggest things that makes a difference in whether or not I think that I look good in a photo, is whether or not I feel good in what I’m wearing. If I feel frumpy an unkempt, then it’s going to be really hard for me to feel great behind the camera, too. I make the effort to get dressed and do my hair and makeup every morning. I don’t drop my kids off at school in yoga pants or pajamas (unless I’m sick or just having a really off day). And I don’t make that effort because I’m expecting to have my photo taken (although I will give more forethought if I know I have a shoot or an event that day). Basically I follow the old motto, look good, feel good––and it’s about looking and feeling good to and for yourself, not for or by anyone else’s ideals or standards. I choose to make the effort because I know that when I don’t, my thoughts and feelings and perspective tend to correspond with that effort. And when I do, there’s less room to worry about the inconsequential in life.
Take a Bunch of Photos
I recommend taking a number of photos, and not just of you standing in the same pose. Switch it up a bit. Move yourself, move the camera. Figure out your favorite angles, check out tips for posing yourself to look taller/thinner/shorter/wider or what have you. Switch up the composition. Get some photos close up and some from farther away for a head to toe shot. The more options you have to choose from, the more likely you are to find a photo you love of yourself.
Stop Looking at S$*t That Makes You Feel Bad
Get out of the comparison trap. We grow up with beauty ideals spoonfed to us, and our world is increasingly more visual with social media. Pouring through the lives of others at the level we do today is a pretty unnatural thing to do. It’s one thing to find joy and inspiration in witnessing the lives of others online. It’s another thing completely to compulsively compare ourselves to other people’s curated images of themselves. If you find yourself getting stuck in the mire of negative self talk as you’re looking at other people online, then unfollow those accounts and take care of yourself. Don’t go down the spiral of unhappiness with yourself and your own body because of what you see other people posting.
Those are my tips in a nutshell for looking good in photos.
I know this wasn’t a formulaic how-to of ways to pose, etc. to look like XYZ. When one of the yoga trainees in my phone photography workshop came up to me after the class to ask me ‘How do you pose in photos?’ the best answer I had for her was Stand in a way that makes you feel powerful. And before that, you’ve got to find what makes you feel powerful in your own life, in your own body, too.
Look for more photography tips? Check these out:
Free Phone Photography App Guide
Phone Photography Primer Course
How to Straighten Photos on Your Phone
How to Take Great Travel Photos with Your Phone