How To Take Great Pictures: A Model Shares Her Secrets

I used to hate the way I looked in pictures, even though I liked what I saw in the mirror. In photos, I'd have a fake smile, a lifeless smirk, or an expression that was totally wrong for the environment. I still cringe when I see the picture of myself smiling in front of the Holocaust Museum with some friends. (Mega-fail.) I’ve smiled so big my neck veins popped out like Frankenstein.

After years of modeling in front of a camera, I’ve learned these simple, professional tips that help me look like myself in photos. It’s taken years behind a camera to learn what works for me, but with these tips, I know you can practice with shameless selfies and time in front of a mirror, and nail your smile in no time.

1. Smile your smile.

Your smile was built for your face, and personality, too! Let the camera see the smile you give your friends when you see them after being apart for a while. (Think of the smile you give them and practice in the mirror.) Or think of the smile you get when someone gives you a good belly laugh. What about the soft smile when a stranger helps you reach the soup can on the top shelf at your grocery store?

Practice these emotions and looks in front of a mirror to see what you think looks nice, and use your muscle memory to replicate the same looks in your next photo op. Also, when you pose for the camera, think about a moment or emotion you want to convey, not the time it takes until the picture is over and done with. When I started modeling, I used to think about my husband behind the camera and how happy I was to see him. This act alone will really help you take pictures that feel true to you.

2. Keep it moving.

Stopping to take a picture can leave you with the same series of stagnant photos, especially if you’re in a group. I always take at least three pictures of a group shot and ask everyone to do something different in each picture. Moving brings out your natural smile and will give you some fun shots! When you don’t give yourself too much time to think about posing in front of the camera, you always end up with more authentic emotions and real, tangible grins. Some ideas: hug a friend, make a kissy-face, or put your hand on your hip.

3. Please, no duckface.

Some models that I work with have big, gorgeous lips. I know big lips are in, but one thing that can keep you from identifying with the person in the picture is if you start messing with your face, especially your lips. When you artificially plump up your lips, it hides your teeth—people love to see your nice pearly whites in photos. Learn how to pose au natural and you’ll be much happier with the results.

4. Get creative.

Think yoga. Think exercise. Think wind in your hair, long-legged strides, goofing off, and interaction. Movement can make a photo more interesting, especially if you pose in a unique way. Move your hands elegantly when you smile for the camera, like a dancer would. Bite on your thumb and throw your elbow out to the side for a sharp angle, tilt your head to the side to sharpen your jawline. Get creative! Or, can you do a handstand? Can you still do your high school cheerleading jumps? Try one the next time your in a group photo! When you get creative, you’re showing the camera a real moment in your life, which translates into a real, genuine smile.

5. But remember that mellow can also be good.

If you’re in a chill mode, try a small smile, even if it’s just with your eyes can be just the trick. (See: Tyra Banks on smizing.) If I’m traveling with my husband to a new city, and we’re taking photos in places where big gregarious smiles don’t fit the mood of the location, sometimes a curious stare in the camera, or even looking off-camera at something else can work quite well. Think about what it feels like to be where you are. Are you in a coffee shop or are you at a dance party? These are two totally different smiles for two completely different moods. And I bet you look great in each mood!

Questions about how to smile or pose? Leave them below!

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