How to Be More Photogenic

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Photo Source: Tinseltown/Shutterstock

From internet-famous Ridiculously Photogenic Guy to real-life famous Zendaya, some people just know how to give good looks in photos. Being photogenic is a matter of putting your best face forward, knowing your angles, and tweaking to perfection.


What does it mean to be photogenic?

Mother and son posing for a photo at a dining room tableKnot9Images/Shutterstock

A photogenic person is one who looks fantastic in photographs; they may be naturally attractive and know how to showcase that in captured images, or they might simply know how to zhuzh themself up for photos.

Being photogenic is particularly important for actors and models, whose ability to get a foot in the door is often contingent on making a good pictorial impression.

Seven ways to be more photogenic

Photogenic young man taking a selfiepaulaphoto/Shutterstock

1. Prepare ahead of time

Being perpetually photo-ready is easier when your skin is clear, hairy is shiny, and makeup is neutral and polished in a way that enhances your natural beauty. 

2. Know your angles

Hearken back to your MySpace days and work those angles. “Get in front of a mirror or, better yet, a camera, and get a very close-up shot (head and shoulders),” advised acting coach Cathryn Hartt. “You can even use your smartphone to record or take still photos. Slowly change directions and angles of your face to see how it reads on-camera. Turn your head slowly from one side to another in each direction. Tilt it from side to side. Bring your chin slowly down and slowly up. Look at your face as if it were a painting to see what makes a more interesting picture. Some angles might make you look harsh. Some may make you look sweet.”

3. Learn how to pose

Part of what makes someone photogenic is the ability to create a narrative through their image—and what better way to do so than to strike a pose? Follow in the footsteps of the fiercest by considering these model-approved tips:

  • Have good posture: “Do not be a limp noodle,” model pose icon Tyra Banks told Seventeen magazine. “Always pose with tension in your body completely from H2T (head to toe).” 
  • Move: Keep your body moving while posing in front of the camera—any stiffness you feel can translate to your picture.
  • Time is on your side: Take time for each shot and pose so that you craft the most compelling image of yourself.
  • Pay attention to detail: Keep your hands in a relaxed, natural pose; draw attention to your jawline by putting your forehead first and aimed slightly downward; and smize it out by ensuring your smile reaches your eyes.

4. Listen to the photographer

If the photographer asks you to hold a certain pose or make a specific face, try to heed their wisdom. Their experience behind the camera means they can help you gain photogenic mastery.

5. Consider lighting

The best time to capture a photo is “golden hour”—or that liminal time just after sunrise or just before sunset. In reality, golden hour only lasts about 25 minutes, so do your best to replicate the qualities that make it so photo-friendly: soft light evenly dispersed above and in front of your face to avoid harsh shadows. 

6. Let the real you shine

In “On Photography,” iconic photographer Susan Sontag wrote that “to take a photograph is to participate in another person’s mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.” Testify about your own life by letting your emotions show. Viewers are drawn to feeling, so the more you let yours show, the more eye-catching your photo will be. 

7. Practice

Every photo shoot and practice session brings you closer to the photogenic person hiding within. Keep trying out new looks, expressions, and poses until you find the combo that works best for you and your bad self.

Four reasons why you're not photogenic

Ginny & Georgia“Ginny & Georgia” Courtesy Netflix

Some people have that je ne sais quoi when it comes to appearing in photos. Others, not so much. If you find your pics lacking, it could be due to one of these reasons:

  1. You’re not prepared. It’s hard to look amazing in a photo if you’re not looking and feeling your best IRL. Most photogenic people begin from a place of being polished and primped.
  2. You don’t know your angles. Whether it’s the universally unflattering buccula-highlighting upward angle or a super straight-on shot, a bad angle can bring down the attractiveness of even the most highly certified hottie. 
  3. You freeze in the frame. While some people gravitate toward the camera, others feel uncomfortable without fail. This turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy, as those who feel unnatural in front of the camera may actively try to avoid it, thus never learning how to feel at home in front of the lens.
  4. Technical difficulties. As depicted in “Ginny & Georgia” when Bracia redoes her photo shoot, the lighting that works on some skin tones and types may not work as well with others. Lighting, color, and movement all impact how a photo turns out and impact people differently, so what works for one person may not work best for you.