Put Your Best Face Forward: How to Look Good in Photos

Have you ever wondered how celebrities and your seemingly always photogenic friends can always take a stellar picture? Well, there’s a science behind it that virtually anyone can master to look his/her best. I conducted a quick Q&A with Dr. Jeffrey Spiegel, facial plastic surgeon and professor at Boston University School of Medicine, who has devised the following tips to “putting your best face forward.”

Dr. Jeffrey Spiegel

AFM: How did you devise this [tips on how to be photogenic]?
Dr. Spiegel: I do facial plastic surgery and research into facial evaluation.  That is, we try to understand how we recognize people we know, what makes a face seen as a man or a woman, how we know if someone is young or old, and importantly, what makes a face attractive.  It turns out that there are specific features that when enhanced make a person more attractive, and these are different for men and women.    I also noticed that people will instinctively pose in a way that makes their face look more attractive.  So, by analyzing photos and thinking about areas that make a person most attractive, I could recommend positions for maximum attractiveness.

AFM: Have you noticed a difference in how faces are perceived across different social media? (e.g. small Twitter avatar v. larger Facebook photo)
Dr. Spiegel: People will often use an avatar as a way of expressing something about their personality so they may not be a photograph of the individual.  However, keeping in mind facial position and lighting angles can help anyone to present their most attractive face in a photograph, if a facial photograph is what they want to show.

AFM: What are the results of manipulating yourself in a photo to look “good”?
Dr. Spiegel: Well, the result is that you’ll look better, be happier with the photograph, and overall more confident and pleased with showing yourself to the world.

AFM: Any other suggestions Dr. Spiegel has to enhance one’s appearance in photos.
Dr. Spiegel: There are many things to consider.  These include facial position as we’ve discussed, but also considerations of where light is coming from, the framing of your face in the photo, and your expression.  One simple tip is to avoid side lighting if you are trying to downplay wrinkles or blemishes – in these situations, lighting from the front will even out the skin somewhat.

Supermodel Molly Sims looks slightly upwards toward the camera to look her photogenic best.

Read on for Dr. Spiegel’s expert tips on how to look your best in photographs:

  • Women should slightly look up towards the camera as it will make your eyes larger, and raise your eyebrows creating the attractive look of large eyes
  • Men should slightly protrude your chin.  This creates a strong face and eliminates a double chin.
  • For men and women, slightly lean your neck towards the camera.
  • For Women – a minute before your photo, tap on your lips a few times (somewhat stronger than you’d think!).  This will send blood to your lips making them redder and fuller – both considered very attractive.  Similarly, you can pinch your cheeks a few times to get a little bit of a rosy glow.
  • Stand at an angle to the camera.  This creates a slimmer body profile, and adds some interest to the photograph.  Also, try slightly lowering the shoulder towards the camera.  This will relatively elongate your neck and slim it out.
  • Blink just before the camera goes off.  That is, if they are counting to three to shoot, blink deliberately on two.  This will help guarantee that your eyes are not closed during the picture, and importantly, will get you with the most open and bright eyes – and remember, bright eyes are critical to looking good.
  • Smile with your eyes!  A fake smile is just your mouth.  A true smile is when your whole face is laughing.  Think about sending energy to your eyes or smiling with your eyes, and your beauty will shine into the photograph.
  • Be relaxed.  Think about relaxing your face and trying to convey that to the camera.  And, consider botulinum toxin treatment (e.g. botox  or dysport).  They’ve been shown to not only relax wrinkles, but to actually improve your mood and help you to feel more relaxed and confident.  That emotional change will show in your photos.
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