We all love having photos of ourselves but hate having our photo taken. It’s a near-universal truth. If you’ve escaped this curse, you’re one of the lucky ones – stop reading and go buy a lottery ticket or something. If you’re a mere mortal like me, being in front of the camera is physically painful (but you need that new LinkedIn pic), so read on—a Tyra Banks-approved headshot is only eight simple tips away.
I should get these words tattooed on my body: The key to a good headshot is good posture. Shoulders dropped back, chest out, neck tall. This trick can make the difference between a good and a bad portrait, and often between good and great. The psychology of power poses says it will even make you feel more confident. Straighten up, y’all!
There is more to it than mere spinal alignment—discomfort in front of the camera always shows. But relaxed chit chat can go a long way, even if you’re just asking your photographer what they ate for breakfast, the best dad joke they’ve ever heard, etc. (Distraction is powerful, ask any magician.)
If you’re extremely uncomfortable, bring someone along who can always make you laugh or at least put you at ease. Your photographer shouldn’t mind this since photographers always have too many things to carry and an extra pair of hands is very useful. Also, it sounds like your friend is hilarious. If all your friends are busy (we get it, they’re popular), a trick you can always use is to play some music. It soothes the soul. And dancing photos are wonderful.
Comfort can often be the biggest hurdle, and it’s a very personal one, so you have to face it in your own way. Practice your expressions in the mirror if you’re self-conscious, and do whatever you have to in the moment – shake out the ya-yas, recite your mantra, slap yourself in the face… Discomfort is temporary, but photos last, so don’t be shy about getting comfy. Also, periodically remind yourself of tip #1: good posture. Tension will make your shoulders scoot up like they have a crush on your ears. Take a deep breath and straighten up.
DRESS THE PART
Wearing the right clothes can help you feel comfortable and make for a good photo. Know the colors that make you look good (ask an honest friend), and pick the duds that make you feel good. You don’t want to be pulling at a tight shirt between each shot.
Two things that make a good outfit look great: bring a lint roller along, and iron your clothes. You can even bring your carefully pressed outfit to the location and change right before the shoot to ensure minimal wrinkling. You’ll look fresh as heck.
VARIETY IS THE SPICE OF LIFE
The more you move around and mug for the camera in different ways, the more options you’ll have. If you sit there with the same smile for three minutes while your photographer snaps away, you’ll have one option with varying degrees of blinking. Switch it up.
Try angling your shoulders straight at the camera, then 45 degrees away, with your head facing straight at the lens and angled away in both poses. Chin parallel to the ground, chin tilted down, chin slightly up. Get goofy. Try to smize (smile with your eyes, if you live under a rock). Raise an eyebrow. Push your hair back—some motion makes for a more dynamic photo. Give a big grin, a normal smile with teeth (for mom), and a closed-mouth smile. Look off into the middle distance and think about Beyonce. You might be surprised at the expression and angles that look good.
FISH GAPE > DUCK FACE
Use the fish gape to amp up your non-smiling pics. It sounds stupid but it’s flattering and, hey, anything is better than the duck face. To fish gape, part your lips slightly and relax your mouth. That’s…all there is to it. It subtly accentuates your cheekbones and makes for a compelling expression. Boom, new Tinder pic.
If you don’t know what to do with your hands, you have a few options. Hands on the hips for another power pose. Cross your arms to look like a #boss. Both hands in pockets, one hand in the pocket, hands relaxed by your side. (Just don’t lose that good posture!) If you feel like Ricky Bobby, use this trick: pretend you’re playing with an invisible marble. Drop it between the fingers of each hand and roll it around. Once again, more variety = more options. If you feel dorky, try something different. And don’t be afraid to get playful!
FAKE IT TIL YOU MAKE IT
This is my favorite piece of advice: fake laugh until you real laugh. Fake laughing feels so stupid it almost always elicits an actual belly laugh. And everyone needs a photo of themselves belly laughing. Everyone, I say!
BE A BIG DOOF
Don’t be afraid to get creative. Use your chair as a prop. Stick your tongue out. The best photo ever taken of me was snapped while I was singing. (Thank god photos are silent.) Ask your photographer if they have any crazy tricks they like to bust out, like tilt shifting or 3D portraits. Turn your back to the camera and show your profile. Do a cartwheel (after you tuck your shirt in)!
You’re ready. Your posture is amazing, your clothes are ironed, and your lovely personality is about to shine out through that fish gaping smize. (It looks better than it sounds.) Remember, your photographer’s job is to make you look good. They’re not gonna do you dirty like the yearbook photographers of yore. And if they do, fire them and hire Dagger!