You know who doesn’t look good in pictures? You, probably. Me. Most of us. Sure, sometimes you’re Gerard Butler, but most of the time you’re Gerard Depardieu. You know who does know how to look good? Supermodel Shalom Harlow.
She hooked us up with some exclusive tips on looking as good as possible when the cameras come out. Now if only someone would actually take your picture…
Whether we have to pose for some work photo, or we’re just out with a group of friends, most of us aren’t comfortable in front of the camera, and even if we are the results often don’t turn out like we want them to. There has to be a hack. There has to be some rules that the majority of us just don’t know. Well, who better to ask than someone who looks really good in photos for a living?
Shalom Harlow has graced the cover of damn near every fashion magazine you can name (and many you can’t). She’s been the face of everything from Coco Chanel and Ralph Lauren to Tiffany & Co and a gagillion others. It’s tough to find a model that’s more super, basically. I sat down with her and got five real-world tips that anybody can use.
Tip 1: Know Your Light and Face It
If you are being shot without a flash, know where the main light source is and turn toward it. Light hitting you at side-angles will create shadows on your face, making your features look harsher and more severe. Fine for film noir, but not the best for day-to-day stuff. Shadows will also emphasise lines in your face and bags under your eyes, making you look older, more tired, and possibly more drunk. Go toward the light, my child.
Tip 2: Facilitate a Spontaneous Moment
Photos are about the memory of a moment. The moment you’re trying to capture is not “that time you stared at a camera.” If it isn’t happening organically, Shalom will create a more fun, interesting moment before the camera clicks. She’ll pinch the other people she’s posing with, or if she’s alone, she’s been known to do a pratt-fall or crack a joke in an attempt make the photog break (even for “serious” photos). Unexpected things like that break people out of their heads and pave the way for a more natural, spontaneous moment. It brings people into real behaviour in the present, which is exactly what you’re trying to capture.
Tip 3: Mug the Mirror
As awkward as it sounds, spend some time making faces in the mirror. Seriously, do it. Every face is different, and as such, every face looks good doing different things. Find your angles. Do you look better straight on, or turned just a few degrees to the side? Do you look better with a full-toothed smile, or with a little smirk. Practice and get comfortable making these faces. Learn how they feel, and then your muscle memory will help you recreate them. Think Blue Steel from Zoolander.
Side note: I recently read about a guy who thought he looked good in the mirror when he put his hair to one side, but he never got much attention. Then one day, he realised that people were seeing the reverse of that, so he tried switching sides. It looked weird to him but suddenly everyone was telling him how great he looked. So, maybe consider mugging in front of a digital camera instead.
Tip 4: Move the Photographer’s Eyes to the Lens
Looking into a camera lens is weird. It’s like a giant, vacuous, dead eye. It’s like trying to see into HAL’s soul. Trying to connect with that is a losing battle and it will make you feel stiff and awkward. Instead, engage in a real conversation with the photographer. Talk about something other than photography if possible. Look at the photographer’s eyes while you converse, and then “transfer” his/her eyes to the camera lens. Continue the conversation as if you’re still looking into his/her eyes, but you just happen to be looking at the lens itself. Go back and forth when you need to. To people who view the picture it will seem that you’re looking at them, engaged in a relationship, and not just staring in their direction.
Tip 5: Relive the Good Times
Some people absolutely hate to be photographed. It can be a very uncomfortable, unpleasant experience for some, and if that’s how you’re feeling, it will show through in the photos. The photographer won’t always be able to help you through that. Instead, you can trick your body into relaxing by pulling from your personal collection of good memories. Think about that time you and your husband (or wife) swam with dolphins in the Caribbean as the sun was setting. Really try to go there in your mind. Focus on the individual things your senses perceived. What did it sound like? What did the water taste like? What did the air smell like? Silly as it sounds, this can trick your body into thinking it’s in a safe, comfortable place and it will relax your fight or flight mechanism.
So, now you’ve got the secrets of the pros, so get out there and be really, really, really, ridiculously good looking. Just don’t get into any gasoline fight accidents.