Say Cheese: How to Look Great in Photos


Before the invention of the digital camera, we had to deal with whatever picture developed. Nowadays, as soon as someone snaps a shot, we’re all like, "Can I see it?" We want to make sure we look acceptable in the picture that will inevitably make its way onto Facebook where it will forever be judged — whether we like it or not.

To make sure you look your best in photos — since you have no control over it after it’s taken — here are a few tips you can institute before the flash goes off. 

Get a Haircut Beforehand

Everybody looks great after a session at the salon or barber. It gives your face an air of freshness and your mood a boost of confidence. If you know you’ll be someplace where photos will be taken — a wedding, reunion, holiday dinner — get a haircut or new style before the event. I recommend going to the parlor a week in advance for two reasons: 1) So you don’t look like you just stepped out of the chair, and 2) if your stylists messes up, you have time to fix it.

Don’t Forget to Smile

I’m a smiler. There’s not a picture hanging in my house in which I don’t have a smile. My driver’s license, passport, and bank-card photos all have cheeky grins, too. I look happy when I smile, and other people comment on that aspect of my photos all the time. Why do I smile so much? Because nobody wants to look at a picture with someone who has a stone-cold stare — it’s depressing. That’s not to say that you have to show a full face of teeth — some people are self-conscious about their teeth, and that’s OK — but you should at least try to move your lips in an upward direction.

Also, try to smile naturally. It’s hard sometimes, and I’m guilty of feigning smiles here and there. But my husband has a great trick that always makes his smile look natural — he makes himself laugh before the photo is taken, and it always turns out great.

Iron Your Clothes

If you’re a schlub in your daily life, it’ll show up in the photos. Personally, I don’t think there’s any acceptable reason why anyone shouldn’t be ironing their clothes — or at least making sure they’re wrinkle-free somehow — before they leave the house. You never know when someone might want to take a photo of you, so it’s best to be prepared. It’s not that difficult to heat up the iron and run it across your pants and shirt in the morning or evening. In fact, I would go as far to say that if anyone wanted to be in a photo with me and they looked a hot mess, I would say no. I don’t want their poor grooming habits reflecting poorly on me.

Choose a Good Setting

A good background can make or break a photo op. Look around before the group gets into its pose. Is there something interesting that will give the photo more depth and excitement? Greenery, a mural, the cityscape? Be conscious of what’s behind you to enhance the chance of taking a keeper.

Know Which Side Is Your Best Side

No matter which way some people are photographed, they look amazing. I’m not one of those people. After analyzing many years’ worth of photographs, I’ve decided that I look best having my right side photographed. That’s the side I choose whenever somebody wants to take a picture. You don’t have to make a big deal about it when it’s picture time; just quietly position yourself the way you want so you have the best chance of taking a great photo.

Avoid Close-Ups

Models look great in close-ups; regular people do not. I try to avoid having close-ups taken at all costs. If I feel the photographer is too close for comfort, I kindly ask the person to back up a bit. They usually oblige. If they don’t, they will after they see what you look like close up.

Use a Decent Camera

If a camera isn’t quality, it’s not going to take quality pictures. If you’re someone who likes to snap photos, invest in a good camera. Decent digital cameras are inexpensive these days.

Opt Out

If you’re not feeling the photo op for whatever reason — you’re not confident about your outfit or hair or the photographer doesn’t have a good camera — politely decline the invitation to have your picture taken. I’d rather say no when I know the photo isn’t going to turn out well because I don’t look my best rather than let someone take a photo that I'll regret for the rest of my life.

Have other tips on how to look great in photos? Let me know in the comments section below.

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Meg Favreau's picture

I got a new drivers license earlier this week, which was a good reminder of the "avoid close ups" suggestion. I always prided myself on taking fairly cute license photos. But, as it turns out, California zooms in on your face a little bit more than other states I've lived in...I look totally crazy eyed now.

Will Chen's picture

Cool! New pic for our twitter account?

Guest's picture

Great advice, I usually stay away from Close-ups!

Guest's picture

Wow. That's a pretty shallow stance to take: You won't be in a photo with someone poorly groomed? If you care about someone, what dif does it make what they look like? And if you don't care about them, why are you hanging out with them? If someone cared enough about me to want to be in a photo with me, I would grant their request. Who am I to hurt their feelings by saying no? I would be flattered and would be thinking of them, not myself.

Guest's picture

Surprised to read that your passport also has your "cheeky grin." In Canada, we're not allowed to even have the slightest smile on our passport photos. It's hard to look friendly without smiling.

Mikey Rox's picture

Personally, I won't take a pic if I'm not allowed to smile. I do not look good at all without my smile on. Nobody should be able to tell anybody not to smile. :)

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