Five Ways to Look 50 Percent Better in Photographs
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5 Tricks to Help You Look 50 Percent Better in Photographs

Forget Instagram filters. Try these tricks instead

Man smiling with sparkling tooth
Paul Spella

I hate 90 percent of all photos ever taken of me. And I know I’m not alone. No matter how confident you might feel in front of a mirror for a few minutes, that dissipates quickly after someone snaps a shot and shows it to you on their phone. 

So I reached out to the professionals — specifically, professional modeling coaches — to show me how to do it right and actually look damn good in photographs.

Pick up your posture

My usual posture can be described as, perhaps, poor. The same goes for a lot of guys whose jobs have chained them to desks for the majority of their lives. But posture matters when you’re getting photographed.

You don’t have to pretend there’s a rod in your spine. “It’s really about relaxation,” says Mandy Dyonne Lieveld, a pro modeling coach at Runway Coach NYC. “Just feel like there’s a sun on your chest.” Instead of “up,” think “open.”

To the left, to the left …

Not sure which way to look? Well, now we totally, scientifically know which way: look right to show off the left side of your face. A study from Wake Forest University found that the left side of the human face is more appealing than the right side.

Researchers asked study participants to rate the attractiveness of both sides of male and female faces, using both original photos and mirror-reversed photos to prevent bias. They found a large preference for the left sides of faces by measuring the participants’ pupil dilation. 

So when you’re being photographed, look right to show left. Science!

… and definitely don’t look up

As you age, you may be getting a little more self-conscious of that … neck area. You know, where you may be putting on a few extra pounds. 

“I’m often asked, ‘Can you do something about my turkey neck and double chin?’ ” says New York City photographer David J. Martin. “And I’ve found the first thing people want to do is lift their chin unusually high, thinking they’re extending the area under their neck to look better. 

“But what this actually does is draw attention to their problem area, and the focus is taken away from the most important area, your eyes.”

Find the light

When you’re considering where to take the group shot, good lighting can be a key performance indicator — and natural light is always, always best.

“Everybody wants the natural light,” says modeling coach Cyrene Renee. But that’s not always possible. “You want to make sure your light source is behind the camera. So you want to be facing the light source,” she says. 

“If you're facing it, everything that you want to be illuminated will be. And it will show you in your best self.”

Use what’s around you

What’s the perfect angle to capture you in all your majesty? Straight on? Forty-five degrees? Don’t overthink it, Padawan — let your environment choose for you. 

“Once the camera gets up in your face, everything is a prop,” says Renee. “You can lean on a wall, use the banister, use the objects.”

Objects are great — after all, no one knows what the hell to do with their hands when being photographed. Wearing a tie? Give it a touch. Cufflinks? Play with ’em. Watch? Give it a look. Renee even suggests putting your hands in your pockets — with one thumb out, so they don’t look like balled-up fists in your pockets.

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