How to look great in photos

Is there anyone who hasn’t looked at a photo of themselves after the fact and just, well, grimaced a bit (or even outright moaned?!)? Like, we thought we were smiling but we were making some weird freaking face that could never be called a smile? Do you, perhaps, look a bit tortured in photos? Or were you caught in the middle of talking or wiggling or… whatever? I mean, who knows how to look great in photos besides celebrities and models?

No one. Not even them. That’s who. We all get caught… and remember that you’re seeing a photo of a celebrity or a model that has been curated and then probably airbrushed and altered in a thousand ways. They also practice a lot. Like a lot a lot. (We pride ourselves, actually, in making you look great in camera… meaning we do none of that after-the-fact stuff.)

Now you might be thinking, what about little ol’ me? How can I possibly look great in photos if even people like that Barbie actress need touch ups!?

There are so many ways, as a matter of fact, from how you smile to how you stand to what you do with your arms. (Why are arms and hands so dang awkward?) The key is to look natural. This might sound impossible to some of you when there’s a camera being shoved in your face, but believe me, we can help you create relaxed photos.

A young woman outside, laughing, while leaning against a brick wall covered in ivy. How to look great in photos.

Smile! You’re on Camera!

The first key to looking great in photos is your smile. And the key to a great smile is to actually mean it. But what do you do to look natural if you’re not totally feeling it?

You laugh. That’s right. You laugh. Because when you laugh, it spreads that smile all over your face and into your eyes and that is going to relax you and make you look natural all at once.

But how do you laugh? It’s easier than you think. Say a ridiculous word and others will laugh and that will trigger your own laughter. Or just think of something funny. Like this. Or this. Or this. (I could go on and on…)

More Smiling Tricks

  • Make some silly faces. Stick your tongue out. Cross your eyes. Do all the things you tell kids not to do. Eventually you’ll get to a natural smile.
  • Relax your face and jaw. You could try some facial exercises like this right before you know you’re getting your picture taken.
  • Don’t force your eyes to stay wide open. “Squinching” can create a super smiley look. It’s slightly closing your eyes toward but not quite at a squint.
  • Make sure you use some lip moisturizer right before the photos.
  • Or wear a bright lipstick to emphasize your smile.
  • Above all, you will look great in photos if you relax and be YOU.

Beyond working on your smile, there are a lot of other tricks to look great in photos. We’ll look at tips and tricks for yourself, for families, and for kids.

A young man in a suit, leaning outside a building with his arms crossed. How to look great in photos.

First, how to look great in photos when you’re by yourself

  • Wear something you’re comfortable in. If you’re fighting your clothes, you’ll never look relaxed in your photos.
  • Get moving! Wiggle! Put on some music and groove a bit. This will work off nervous energy and just make you look natural in your photos. You won’t look so stiff and posed.
  • Don’t stand facing the camera straight on. Try angling your body.
  • Do something with your arms and hands. Don’t just let them hang at your sides. A hand on a hip, a thumb in a pocket, even crossed arms. All of these are big improvements and again, will make you feel more relaxed.
  • Play with more of an action shot approach. Try something as simple as walking toward the camera.
  • If you’re sitting, don’t try to sit with perfect posture. Do you do that in real life? Sit like you would sit. Maybe a bit taller but still… if you like to pull a leg up on to your chair, do that.
  • Another fun action shot: try twirling. Unless you get dizzy easily ((ha)).
  • Have a prop to play with — even just a coffee cup or your bag can make a big difference.

Second, how to help your family to look great in photos

  • With family, try some of the same things: get active. Walk around. Loop arms. PLAY.
  • But don’t forget to also spend some time sitting. Then again, even when you’re sitting you want to engage with one another. Don’t just stare at the camera.
  • Sometimes people forget that they like each other when they’re in front of a camera because they’re so nervous. So remember: you all like each other. Act like it.
  • Have something specific to do: You could play a game. Again, put on some music and dance around. Afterward, the shots you get will definitely be the most relaxed.
  • Have some props that can be played with: does the family share a sport that they love or some other hobby or activity? Use that.
  • Avoid the lineup: you’re not getting arrested so don’t have everyone standing the same. Don’t even have everyone standing all at once. Think about creating levels and interesting shapes.

A woman and man, outdoors on a bridge, with two young children. The woman is holding the younger child above her and the man is holding the other child on his shoulders. How to look great in photos.

Third, how to take photos of kids that look natural without driving yourself bonkers

You want photos of all the things, right? But they aren’t necessarily up for being the perfect little models day after day. And most likely, they really aren’t up for it on those days or during those events that you think are most important. First day of school, for example. They’re nervous but you really need this shot. How to handle all those conflicting desires? We have some tips:

  • Our top tip: Instead of posing them, just be there with them and find your photos in the moments when they’re barely paying attention to you.
  • Watch for those quieter moments between them and the loved adults in their lives.
  • Keep an ear out for those louder moments, too. Sometimes loud isn’t “bad” but interesting and fun!
  • For something like first day of school shots, if they’re resisting the picture in front of the door or at the bus stop (and haven’t we seen enough of those), just watch when they’re getting ready, when they’re picking up and putting on their book bags. Or try when they’re walking away from the house or getting to the bus stop with their friends. (Do kids have bus stops anymore or did I just reveal my age?)

Final thoughts on how to look great in photos

The most important thing you can do if you want everyone to look great in photos is to take a lot of photos. Remember how we said at the beginning that celebrity photos look great because they are curated? For every photo you see, there are dozens and likely hundreds that were rejected.

Besides taking a lot of photos so you can select the best or most fun, the more photos you take, the more you’ll learn what you love in a photo. And as you learn what you love in a photo, your eye will get sharper and you’ll capture moments that you would have missed before.

Above all? Have fun!