Years ago, I met a glamorous blonde TV anchor at a Women In Communications event. Any time she noticed a camera in her peripheral vision, she turned to the lens and struck a flattering pose, never missing a beat in conversation. Talk about flattering photo tips! No wonder she always looked fabulous in print. No open-mouthed candid shots.
Digital imagery is now a part of one’s personal and professional brand. Amy Cuddy’s presentation on poise and posture is one of the most viewed TED Talks. When we convene with friends, family or business colleagues, we may also be making an appearance on social media, whether we like it or not.
With a few clicks, decision-makers, clients and colleagues can scope your presence via Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google Images and more. You are able to control what you post. But you may be represented, and searchable, in what others post.
The Italians have a saying, “Make a good impression.” Being photogenic is not about trying to be gorgeous, a fantasy for most of us. It is an awareness of what one is transmitting about oneself. Women in public life – First Ladies and Royals, in particular – set the standard, as they are on duty 24/7 representing more than just themselves. It’s all about being one’s best.
Examine a selection of photos of yourself. Which ones do you like the most? Bet you will find a pattern. How are you standing? How big a smile? Of all flattering photo tips, this is most important. Whatever is natural and intuitive for you. Tweak a bit to improve, then replicate in other situations.
The legendary Jackie Kennedy, a photographer herself, was the master of camera angles and political messaging in the early era of mass media. She wanted total control of her image. Her best pose was erect posture, bright eyes wide open, broad smile. When she became Jackie Onassis, she added an air of mystery with her signature dark glasses.
If you love what you are wearing, you will likely look happy and comfortable in a photo. If you are undertaking a new project or chapter in your life, you might be ready for a wardrobe update. Maybe something fresh and new – or something solidly consistent. Start with a closet purge. There are many stylish, on-trend looks for Prime Women, no matter what your weight or body shape. Take full-body selfies in the dressing room to avoid mistake purchases. You don’t want to emphasize a problem area – or hide a figure asset.
Get thee to a cosmetics counter for an update on new techniques and products. I am noticing many Prime Women now with high-impact mascara or lash extensions. Incorporate a new hairdo. If you like to vary from straight to curly, dark to light, be aware that you might look totally different from event to event – maybe even difficult to recognize. Cultivate a consistent look if you are out and about promoting something specific, even if it is a volunteer initiative.
Only if you are Beyoncé should you attempt the straight on, legs apart power pose. Fierce is part of her brand. Mere mortals will just look bulky. Here is an ideal pose for Prime Women: (1) turn the lower body to a side angle, (2) one foot in front of the other, (3) weight on back foot, (4) slight swivel of shoulders to the front, then (5) face toward the camera.
This approach traces back to the Kennedy women, who entered the scene when television changed the dynamic of political media coverage in the 1960s. The angled pose was taught in Teen Board charm schools when I was growing up. And it continues today on the Red Carpet.
I watched the incomparable Ali MacGraw get into position for a photo op at a Santa Fe boutique. She quickly crossed her knees and ankles while standing. It created a slenderizing stance, possibly ballet-oriented. I noticed ballet patron Anne Bass in the same pose at a New York gallery opening. An interesting twist for a quick casual shot, though not a power position.
If you hold your arms straight by your side, you are adding width to your body. There are numerous options: Create a separation between your body and your arms with a slight bend of the elbow. You could hold one arm behind your back. You can stand hand on hip, elbow out – but it might be a bit too runway/Hollywood. Michelle Obama braved the bare arm pose with perfection. Many Prime Women prefer the covered arm and that is a flattering photo tip to consider!
A slouch is the enemy of every photo subject, whether short or tall. Think of it: a slouch creates a tummy pooch. Eek! The key is to make your body go upward, not outward. Draw on these Pilates techniques. Look straight ahead and imagine someone pulling a string from the top of your head to the ceiling – to elongate your neck. Grow taller by adding length from your throat to your hipline. Tighten your stomach by drawing the navel toward your spine.
Do not stick your chest out. This will give you a contorted look and will ruin the proper alignment of your spine. Instead, think of widening the space between your collarbones. This will also, by default, make the waist and hips look smaller! Think of the T-shape of a swimmer’s body. Nice broad shoulders and long, trim torso.
There is great debate on positioning the chin. Princess Diana’s signature look was chin down, eyes up. This angle is tricky and can easily backfire. Another option, lifting the chin upward, could affect the line of sight between your eyes and the camera lens – and inadvertently put focus on the neck. A compromise is to keep the head straight and think of moving your ears forward ever so slightly. This moves the chin away from the neck, adding some extension without awkward exaggeration.
Good posture is especially important if you are sitting down. Never lean back in a chair or sofa – especially if it is soft, upholstered furniture. Sit up straight – away from the back of the chair. Body Balance expert LisaAnn McCall notes that the back of your body when seated should be in a right angle L-position, not a hunched-over C-shape. No slouching or slumping!
This is Kate Middleton’s signature sitting pose, although you will see its origins with the Kennedy women. It is one of the most elegant and flattering ways to sit, because it has a lengthening effect on the legs, according to royal etiquette expert Myka Meier. “Keeping knees and ankles together at all times, position your legs so that you create a slant, angling your knees to the side. Hands should be folded one over the other and placed in your lap.” You can add a Jackie “twist” and cross your legs at the angle. (But never at the knee!)
Some ground rules for group photos. Get into position – using The Perfect Fit Angle for standing shots or The Duchess Slant, if seated. Don’t assume that the photographer will provide instructions. If there are two or more people taking photos, ask that they do it sequentially, so that everyone can focus on the lens of one shooter only. Don’t deliberate or hold up the group. Be quick and efficient.
Ask the photographer to take several shots. Stay in position and hold the pose. No fidgeting, turning or talking. Stay focused. (Note: breathing is permitted!)
Look right through the camera lens. Pretend there is someone you know and love standing on the other side. Think about how happy you are to see that person. Or imagine you are about to receive a prestigious award. Express excitement with your eyes. Avoid squinting. These flattering photo tips will deliver a guaranteed happy face.
Keep in mind…whatever is closer to the camera will appear larger in the photo. If you are tall and on the end of a curved group line-up, you will look like an Amazon. If you are petite, standing next to a tall person, you will look like a little peanut!
The camera is a level playing field. There are advantages and disadvantages to every shape and height. It’s easy to pick up some new, flattering photo tips. The key is to have fun and let your joy shine through the lens! An important element in anyone’s brand.
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