Art of Being Photographed

Your posture and your body language can help you be more photogenic

Some things about your body’s appearance in a photo are under your control, and one of them is the amount of tension and energy in your muscles. Becoming more photogenic means learning a slightly different body language than you use in everyday life. Let’s look at body language, and at the three steps that will transform how you look.

Energy make us more photogenic

Energy, muscle engagement, and movement transform a photo. Using your muscles makes your photo look like movement is happening. Our eyes are primed to notice movement; this was important when we were hunters in the wild.

woman posing and learning how to be more photogenic

If we see muscles being used in a photo, we feel that we are seeing a moment of fleeting movement, captured by the camera. The movement may have just happened, or be about to happen, but the look of it appeals to us.

woman playing with dog to show how posture makes you more photogenic
woman playing with dog to show how posture makes you more photogenic

Our eyes like to look at muscle tension

Sculptures of the human body are called masterpieces when the stone look like it has come to life, and is moving and breathing. Look at the difference between these two statues at Kensington Gardens, London. One sculptor captured life and energy, and the other didn’t (in fact, the one on the right is named ‘Physical Energy’).

Who’s sexier?

statue of man riding on horse to show how to be more photogenic
statue of man riding on horse to show how to be more photogenic

Contracting your muscles makes your body look fitter and healthier, and ready for action. If your muscles are not engaged, your body looks static and floppy, and less appealing to the camera.

Your muscles are already working to keep you upright: work them just a little harder!

You may be sitting still right now, but your muscles are working hard. Postural tension is keeping you upright: some of the 640 muscles in your body are working on this every moment of the day. Only in exceptional circumstances (maybe a wild New Year’s Eve?) do we get so relaxed that we just go floppy and fall over.

When a muscle contracts strongly, your body moves, but when it contracts only a little, you have muscle tension. Find a level of muscle engagement that you can comfortably maintain for a photograph.

group posing for photo to show how using slight muscle tension is a good photoshoot pose
Slight muscle tension radiates energy, but still looks natural and comfortable.
group slouching on sofa to show how not to pose for a photo
We only realize how much they were engaging their muscles when we see how they looked beforehand!

Remember what your mother said about posture

Your mother knew. If your abdominal muscles are not engaged, you don’t look your best in photos. A tight core improves your posture, makes you look more confident, and just make you look better.

woman posing with her arm flat against her body and at an angle away from her body

Reading this is probably making you sit up straighter in your chair. You can see how much better that looks to the camera.

How posture makes you more photogenic

Posture that feels slightly exaggerated isn’t going to look exaggerated. If you are standing straighter and taller than everyday, that will be look right in your photo. No one looking at it will notice that you are tensing your core or emphasizing your posture; you will just appear more confident and be more photogenic.

man posing and learning how to be more photogenic

Holding your tension

You want the muscle tension to be in the right place in your body. We use our bodies to physically express our emotions. The set of our shoulders often expresses how we feel even more than our face does.

So you can look at a photo and see where tension is being held. Even when we don’t consciously notice someone’s tense hands, hunched shoulders or uncomfortable neck, we feel them.

How posture makes you more photogenic
How posture makes you more photogenic

You know how excruciating it is to be in an audience listening to a nervous public speaker. In the same way, it’s uncomfortable to look at a photo where tension is held uncomfortably in someone’s body. Our own bodies start to feel what we are seeing, and the photo isn’t appealing.

Where do you hold your own tension? Probably in your neck and shoulders. You want to relax them, and transfer the tension to your abdominals. Here’s what to remember.

Three steps to make your posture more photogenic

1. Relax your shoulders

Relax and drop your shoulders by rolling them back – move your shoulder blades together.

How posture makes you more photogenic

Try it right now. Drop your shoulders and let your head move up and back. This lengthens your neck, which always looks good. It creates more space for your chin, melting away the double chins and folds in your neck that appear unexpectedly in photos.

2. Tense your core

Tensing your abdominals automatically improves your posture by giving your upper body more support. But don’t overdo it–keep breathing! You want to look energetic, but still natural and comfortable.

Models and celebrities use ‘photo posture’. Look at the pictures and it’s suddenly obvious—in real life people don’t have this uniformly good posture. But people who earn their living in front of the camera are not just standing there in front of the camera: they are exuding confidence with their body language. They are mentally at the prow of the Titanic. Everyone looks better when they use Titanic Posture.

titanic pose as an example of good posture on a photo
B7WAYJ Titanic 1997 USA DiCaprio, Winslet, Cameron.

3. Support your own body weight

Photographers often pose self-conscious subjects up against a vertical surface, like a wall or a chair back. This helps people feel anchored and adds interest to the photo; you may want to try it yourself. But don’t slump against the wall, or rest your full weight against anything. It will make you look unattractively floppy because you are reducing the natural tension of standing.

Use your muscles to hold up your weight. If the prop vanished in thin air, you should still be in the same position.

woman posing and leaning on a sofa to show how to look good in pictures

If you are propping up your head, rest it very lightly on your hands. Not like ‘oh, my head is heavy and tired,’ more like ‘ooh, my chin has just alighted on my hands.’

be more photogenic
be more photogenic
woman with her chin resting on her hands

Finally, have a look in the mirror. We all adjust ourselves as we look into a mirror–we put on a particular facial expression and we straighten up if we are slouchers.

But, this time, stand there with your typical posture. Then engage your muscles and relax your shoulders. Mentally stand on the deck of the Titanic. You will see the change.

We don’t normally adjust our body language for the camera because we don’t have the feedback of our reflection in the mirror. But remember how your body feels when you do this. When you’re in front of the camera, remembering your posture will always help you be more photogenic.

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