My Top Tips For Looking Better In Photos


My Top Tips For Looking Better In Photos

One of the many things I’m really looking forward to on our upcoming trip to Paris is a photo shoot.

We had the pleasure of doing a shoot with the beautiful Paris based photographer Carla Coulson a couple of years ago. It really was one of the most sensational and memorable ways to spend a day in Paris.

But I feel like it’s time to supplement our beloved ‘Carla photos’ with a fresh batch of shots to use on both Distant Francophile and an exciting new venture I’m working on (more on that soon, I promise).

All that said though, it feels almost surreal to say that I’m excited about getting my photograph taken. For years, I avoided cameras like my life depended on it. It all started with a seriously dreadful grade four school photo. From that point on, I decided that I had absolutely no affinity whatsoever with the camera.

While there are days when I still question my ability to look decent in images, my level of comfort when someone yells ‘smile’ has increased markedly over the years. And with that in mind, I thought you might be keen to learn my top four tips for looking better in photos.

My Top Tips For Looking Better In Photos

Ears Forward Chin Down

For years and years, someone who is very close to me and who happens to have a magical love affair with the camera had been telling me to put my chin ‘out and down’ every time a photographer was in the vicinity. And I, of course, had absolute no idea what she was talking about. Honestly, how can you put your chin out and down at the same time? The notion was beyond me.

Later I heard a portrait photographer use the phrase ‘neck out, chin down’. But it was only when I discovered the idea of ‘ears forward, chin down’ somewhere on the internet that I finally stopped looking like a confused turtle in photos.

You see, all these terms are effectively giving you the same advice. If you want your jawline to look defined in images, you need to understand what the camera is seeing. Basically, the camera accentuates whatever is closest to it. Pop your chin out or up while the shot is being taken, and all you’ll see is double chins in the resultant picture (even if you don’t have a double chin). By stretching your neck forward or by leaning your ears towards the camera and at the same time pointing your chin down, your eyes will be on the first plane the camera sees.

Sort Out What’s Going On With Your Eyes

For such a long time, I’d only agree to having my photograph taken if I could insist on wearing sunglasses. (As you can imagine, that wasn’t the most practical request for every occasion. Particularly those times when someone want to take a shot inside. At night. You get what I’m taking about.)

The problem was, my eyes always looked wrong in photos. Mainly due to the fact that you could see too much of the white in my eyes. In addition to that scared turtle thing I had going on, I also looked like a deer in the headlights. At best. And I don’t want to scare you with thoughts of what things looked like ‘at worst’.

I don’t know who told us, but apparently most of us believe that we need to be all ‘wide eyed’ in photos. Personally, I think it has something to do with either trying not to blink or buying into that whole ‘wide eyed beauty thing’.  Regardless, big goggle eyes do not a fabulous photo make. Especially after we’ve gone to all the trouble of leaning our ears forward to put our eyes on show.

Enter ‘squinching’ and/or ‘smizing’.

Now you might have all learned about both these terms but I’d certainly missed the memo.

In simple terms, these concepts refer to bringing your smile to your eyes. Squinting just a little cuts down the seeable white in your eyes. It turns out that with a little practice, you can get very good at smiling with your eyes without exposing the world to all of your teeth! Arguably an asset I’d suggest.

Think About Your Posture

At the risk of sounding like your mother when you were growing up, make sure that you stand or sit up straight in your shots. Improving your posture can slenderise you in photos and it certainly makes your clothes hang better. Let’s face it, no one looks great when they are slouching.

Practice Practice Practice

Then practice some more. Like most things in life, our skills improve as our experience increases. This rule applies whether you are roasting a chicken, speaking in public or parallel parking. And it certainly helps when it comes to looking better in photos. Stop running away from the camera and learn to love it. Take selfies. Get your partner, your kids or your friends to take shots of you. I promise you will quickly start to see an improvement.

Practicing also helps you to determine your ‘best side’, which for most of us is a real thing, primarily due to the fact that faces are generally asymmetrical. And it assists in sorting out some of the little things, like which lip colours work on you and whether you should wear your hair forward or back.

Are you a natural in front of the camera? Or has your photographic journey been similar to mine – one learning at a time? Either way, please feel free to share your experience and your top tips for looking better in photos in the comments section below.

And until next time – au revoir.


Photograph credit: Carla Coulson 2015

About Janelle

I believe that everyone can bring French elegance and inspiration to their life, no matter where they happen to live in the world. They only need to learn a secret or two to be on their way. When you join the Distant Francophile community, you’ll have access to the secrets that allow you to bring the best of the French lifestyle into your everyday life. I’m talking about things like style advice, recipes and book reviews. And you’ll also receive regular doses of French inspiration, as well as travel and packing tips galore.

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11 thoughts on “My Top Tips For Looking Better In Photos

  • Nicole Ress

    Great story Janelle thanks for sharing. My late uncle Dennis Hylander was a celebrated English wedding and portrait photographer and taught me a lot when he came to Melbourne and photographed my wedding . He made me conscious of the position of my hands and feet . Enjoy your trip planning . Maybe we will meet in France some time 😊

    • Janelle Post author

      I do hope we can meet someday soon Nicole. In the meantime, I’ll continue to enjoy learning about you and your fascinating family – I loved the My French Life piece. And how fabulous to have a portrait photographer in the family. I wish I’d had one – it might have saved a ton of ‘bad photo’ heartache!!

  • Virginia Koffke

    This made me laugh,seriously I have always been the one to take the photos not be in them. However I have been doing the suggestions and now I am not so bad about having my photo taken. I discovered these tips on a Youtube by accident. Mind you my family like to take ‘natural’ shots which I detest. Your right,practice and look in the mirror! Check your lipstick colour in all lights do not be afraid to actually look at yourself and discover which side shot you are happiest with. Please ladies use lipstick as you get older or else your mouth disappears and you look sour or grimacing not a good look.

    • Janelle Post author

      I’m glad I could bring a smile to your face Virginia. Thanks too for your lipstick tip – and for reminding us to look at ourselves. I think you might be right about some women finding this a little scary!

  • Liz H

    This was a really good read – thank you for sharing your tips. I have quite a bit of fullness in my face that often results in my face looking bigger when facing a camera. I’ll definitely try these tips next time! (Ears forward, chin down – roger that!)

    • Janelle Post author

      Thanks so much for your feedback Liz. I hope you find the tips helpful. If nothing else, thinking about trying to lean your ears forward stops you from awkwardly waiting for the shutter to click!!