Nearly everyone has a smartphone in their pocket. Selfies are no longer just a thing the younger generation does; we’re all on camera more every day.

Then the pandemic sent us all home to work remotely for months (or longer.) Being on camera is no longer an option, but a necessity.

For that reason, being comfortable and confident with your picture splashed across your web page or social sites is now more important than ever.

But what if you’ve never been happy with your photograph?

I know a lot of you aren’t.

We’re not from the generation that happily displays our pictures anywhere and everywhere. Being an influencer isn’t something a lot of us in midlife are comfortable with.

I especially saw that as a photographer back in the 1990s and 2000s as we photographed brides and grooms. If I had a dime for every woman who stated: “I just don’t like the way I photograph …”

There’s a reason for that. And in many cases, I think it’s something we can improve on as we age.

When I was in my 20s and 30s, I didn’t always think I looked my best. I often told people I was happiest behind the lens instead of in front of it. But now, I’m more confident than ever … and it shows in every image I take. (And share!)

You still might not love being photographed, and have no desire to become an influencer and share images of yourself wherever you go and whatever you do. But there are easy ways you can take gorgeous photos and be happy when you release them online.

Background

We photographed a beautiful wedding years ago in Cave Creek, Arizona. The landscape was truly amazing – we got some gorgeous photographs of the bride and groom. But as we moved from day into night, the landscape disappeared into darkness. We were out on the patio photographing a few last-minute group shots when one enthusiastic guest asked if we could photograph a group of friends with the hills in the background. We tried not to laugh. They were completely engulfed in darkness. No flash unit in the world could highlight those in the background … except for the sun. 🙂 And since we weren’t hanging around until morning, it didn’t happen.

I applauded her thought of wanting to pay attention to what was in the background. It’s something everyone should think about just a bit more.

You don’t have to think on a grand scale, just what will appear in the final image. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve photographed with trash cans and dumpsters just a few feet from our image.

That said, it is important that you pay attention to what is around you. If there is too much action, too much clutter, it will distract anyone who sees it. This applies to photographs as well as video. We all remember the cat cleaning himself while the reporter tries to talk.

Lighting

Lighting is one of the most critical aspects of how your photos will look. If you’re in a dark cavernous area, you’ll lose definition. If you’re squinting due to bright sunshine, you’ll never create a flattering look.

If you’re inside and it’s daytime, try to move near a window. Lots of natural light can highlight your face nicely. Just remember to have the light streaming across your face, and not behind you. Photograph from a few angles, and you’ll quickly discover your best side.

If you’re outside, turn to put the sun towards your back. It will give you a soft highlight, and you won’t be squinting from the sun. Just remember not to point your camera so the sun hits the lens, or you’ll have a nice flare in the frame.

We’re a little spoiled here in Oregon with all of the overcast days. It’s been said it’s a photographer’s dream location, because of the beautiful light. You can shoot anywhere without squinting or shadows.

Angle

Want to know my biggest pet peeve? Pictures looking up people’s noses. If you stretch your arm out and down, shooting up into your face, you look right up and into your nostrils. Just … NO! Don’t do it. (Now that I’ve told you about it, you’re going to see just how many pictures are out there, doing this very thing!)

It will never be an attractive look.

Instead, raise your camera up above eye level. Then move it slightly to one side or the other, giving you the chance to elongate your neck and tilt your head. Experiment with your angles – you’ll find your best side. I personally have one eye that stays closed more in photographs than the other. But raising the camera, I force my eyes to be more open. It works like a charm every time.

Feel good

If you’re more comfortable in your own skin, if you feel good about the way you look, you’re going to be happier with your photographs. It’s one of the biggest reasons people (especially women) don’t like having their pictures taken.

“If only I could lose those extra ten pounds …” If you’ve said that and hate your pictures, I’m talking to you.

I’ve found self care to be part of the solution. I never try to look a certain way. Instead, I just focus on being myself. I show the me I know I am. I show my playful side, because I’m happy in my skin.

Look back at a photograph from your past. I treasure photos of my Dad. Especially the ones where he looks just how I remember him. A certain look. A certain expression. His mannerisms. His body language.

When I see myself in a photograph, I imagine the same thing. There are many different sides to who I am. And each image I share captures a different side of me. The way I laugh. The way I smile. My personality. My zest for life.

That’s what I want to come through, especially when I share in an imperfect place like Instagram or a blog post.

I plan the days I’m going to have photographs taken. I put makeup on (I don’t always do that in the pandemic world.) I pick out my favorite outfits. I leave my stress at home. And I play for the camera.

Hopefully it shows.

Find your best look

Way back, when my husband and I were growing our photography business, a peer and mentor taught us how to look great in front of the camera.

He stated that everyone has a good side and a bad side. That’s why you like yourself better photographed either from the left or right – you’ll pick up on that and sense it in your photographs. Pull out one of your favorites. Now place a blank sheet of paper covering one-half your face – right down the center, from the top of your head, through your nose, covering half of your chin. Now flip the paper and cover the other half. Do you see one side as better than the other? You’ve picked out your better side!

Use that when standing in front of the camera, and put your best side forward.

You can practice this by posing in front of the mirror. Play with different smiles. Turn your head just so. Figure out the look you like, and use it the next time you step in front of the camera.

You’ll be surprised at how much better you like your photographs.