When someone says they’re “photogenic”, it usually means that they have learned the skill of making facial expressions and turning their bodies to angles that are the most beneficial for their form and face. They know the colors that work best with their skin-tone and how to use makeup to best highlight their beauty. But sometimes even the most prepared person can look undignified when in front of a lens, and in these cases it’s the lens that needs the adjustment.
When you’re taking photos for marketing purposes, you want all of the elements to come together—you, your environment, and that magical little device that’s going to capture you perfectly. So when you’ve got the wardrobe assembled and know exactly what look you’re shooting for, make sure you’ve got these technical steps together from start to finish.
Before you shoot
- Get the best camera possible. Yes, the iPhone has a remarkably good camera… for a phone. But go for a step up and use a point-and-shoot such as the Canon Powershot or the Sony Point n’ Shoot. Even better, hire or beg a favor out of a photographer friend with an old school Canon or Panasonic with an interchangeable lens. These provide the clearest images with the most pixels at the highest resolution—those tiny details that make your skin look more vibrant and the angles of your body more enticing.
- Mind your lighting. Unless you’re working with a photographer with studio lighting that can be controlled to highlight certain angles and provide soft light, natural light is your best bet. The flash on a camera is designed to pick up highlight and shadow, which means that any imperfections are picked up as well. White light, the kind you find on a bright but cloudy day, provides the best natural lighting, indoors or out. If shooting indoors and you need a boost, have fun experimenting with lights that you have on hand and shoot light onto your body in specific spots—desk lamps are great for this purpose. Make sure whatever body part you’re aiming to capture takes the most prominent combination of light and shadow compared to the body parts around it.
- Consider the time of day. For some reason, most people look the most awake and alert mid-afternoon into early evening (even if we feel like the day should be ending). Coincidentally, those are also the best times of day to take photos when using natural light.
During your shoot
Take note of your environment. You obviously want to be the focus of these photos. But sometimes the environment around you—a field of grass, sand on a beach, a gorgeously patterned wallpaper, blankets with beautiful textures—will draw more of a focus if you can’t control the depth of field. If you’re going with a professional photographer, just point out to them that you want a shallower depth of field / lower f/stop for these photos—this will make you the primary focus and provide a vividly colored but soft background to showcase you. If you’re borrowing a quality camera, have your photographer play around with the f/stop a bit (the lower the f/stop, the greater the aperture and the shallower the depth of field) and check in with how the pictures are looking as you’re shooting along. If you can’t control this (if you’re using a point and shoot or a camera phone, you can’t), stick to as neutral and clean backgrounds as possible.
- Watch your angles. When taking a facial photo, ask your photographer to capture you from slightly above a straight-on angle. If you’re trying to get a full-body shot, make sure that you’re filling the whole frame and not leaving any dead space for the sake of an interesting angle. Make sure the body part you want accentuated is the largest thing in the frame, and the best lit. If your face is not to be in the frame at all, try capturing your body from a sharp angle (your photographer either low on the ground, shooting up at you, or possibly completely in profile) rather than a level shot.
- Use your editing tools wisely… Nowadays it’s rather simple to use Photoshop or iphoto to crop and adjust your photos. But playing around too much with exposure and colors can make them look unnaturally overproduced and like you’re trying too hard. You should be the first thing noticed in your pictures, not that it’s an interesting picture on it’s own.
- …But edit when you must. Utilize even the simplest programs your computer has to offer. Crop the photo with what you want highlighted as much in the top/center portion of the frame as possible—this is what is seen first. Bring up the exposure if you need just the tiniest bit more light.
- Find the most alluring crop. Beware of dead space around you in the photo: you don’t need much space above your head or around your body. Also, keep in mind that most people see thumbnails of your profile photos, so the closer up the better (especially for the primary photo). Instead of having several shots that are of your full body, why not focus on interesting and alluring bits that, when posted altogether, make an enticing whole?
- Pick your batch carefully. Try to showcase yourself in different ways. If you have several ensembles going, that may be just enough. If you have one clothing option, try to alternate the angles of the photos or what they show—your face, a specific part of your body, even just your most mischievous smile. The portfolio should paint a picture of you as a complex and inviting person, instead of the same image repeated in slightly altered positions.