This is my favorite picture of myself. Like most people, I don't love getting my picture taken and am usually pretty unimpressed with the results ( but not as much as hearing my own voice). This photo was taken by my husband at lunch at a charming restaurant on a lovely vacation we were taking in France. This meets the criteria for a good picture in several ways:
1) Have it taken by someone who makes you feel comfortable
2) Be doing something you enjoy
3) Lean slightly forward
4) Have the photographer be on a higher plane than you
5) Be on vacation in France
In our social media age no one can escape having her picture taken. Just as you are curious what someone looks like, the other someone is just as curious about you. Business related websites, such as Linked In, report more traffic on profiles with a photo. With holiday season soon upon us you may see yourself "tagged" in more photos than you knew were being taken of you. Then there are all those photos from the past that show up when your childhood friends start getting nostalgic (and around to cleaning out their piles of polaroids).
What makes a good photo?
Research shows eye contact is key. The person in the photo should be looking at you. So let's call that "look at the camera".
It's easier to look at the camera when the picture taker is a friend, someone you trust and who relaxes you. That's why professional photos tend to look the way they do— stiff. It's a rare stranger who can garner your trust and relax you in five minutes. I remember practicing for hours before a mirror the months leading up to high school graduation photos. I perfected a neck angle and an Elvis-lip curl that I've not been able to duplicate since.
You do have a "better side". It makes sense to remember which one that is.
What to do with your hands gets more terrifying the longer you think about it. Use a book, a coffee cup, something as a prop. Try not use a pet or a child. This time you do want the attention on you. Don't make a peace sign.
Fashion photographers make their living (and reputations) on bringing out the best of even the lip-smacking beauties they photograph. One photographer in particular, Joe Polillio, is a genius at photographing what we called "real people". We worked together on many photo shoots for Woman's Day magazine. He has a real knack for putting people at ease and is generous in sharing some tips:
> Instead of just standing there, perfect the "model stance". Have your body facing at about a 20 degree angle from the camera with your left foot slightly ahead of your right. Turn your torso to face the camera head on. Your left foot gives you that pivot. Your hips are now 3/4 to the camera, a far more flattering place for them to be. This is easier than it sounds (try it) and is not an exaggerated pose when done correctly.
> Have the photographer be on a higher plane than you are. This is easy if you're sitting of course. The photographer will be standing, and you'll be looking up. Avoid having yourself shot from below (unless it is for a seventh grader's avant garde photography project). Everything will be out of proportion including the bags under your eyes.
> Lean forward slightly. This reinforces your interaction with the camera, ie the person you are looking at.
That picture of me in France is now three years old, and I wonder just how long I can use it. Time to plan another vacation?