You Don't Like the Way You Look in Photos? Here Are Five Things to Try

So you don't like the way you look in photos? You are not alone. Most people feel the same way -- and this includes some of the pin-ups and fashion icons you drool over. Just being in the majority isn't going to make it feel better, so is there anything concretely you can do if you feel like this? Yes, it turns out that there are a few things you can try, and here are the top five in no particular order.

1. GET USED TO THE WAY YOU REALLY LOOK.  Most of the time you see yourself in a mirror, which flips the image left-to-right. This means that unless your face is perfectly symmetrical, you really do look different in a photo. You can test this by flipping a photo left to right with Photoshop. Most likely you will like it better that way and everyone else will say it looks odd. But the real solution is to get used to seeing yourself the right way round. This doesn't mean smashing all the mirrors, but simply printing out a few photos and putting them where you can see them regularly.

2. DON'T OBSESS OVER DETAILS. Reflect about why you don't like your photos and usually it all comes down to some detail that really annoys you, but other people don't see and don't care about. Do you think a lot about dancer Fred Astaire's big hands? Maybe you don't, but he did and tried to keep them out of the frame so people wouldn't see them.  Maybe you don't like the little wrinkle next to your eye, or the Marge Simpson chin or whatever. But to other people that's just part of you. They don't notice it, they don't care about it, and neither should you.

3. FIX THAT CLUMP OF HAIR.  If your problem is that there is always a clump of hair that is sticking out sideways then do something about it. Either get a low-maintenance haircut, apply a whole tub of Wild Hair Glue to make it behave, or just keep checking yourself in mirrors, windows, iPhone screens or anything else that reflects. If you don't want to be caught checking yourself in mirrors all the time then go to an outdoors store and buy one of those compasses with a built in mirror, the kind you use when you go grizzly bear hunting. Then when you are checking your hair, people will think you are just checking which way the bear forest is.

4. KEEP YOUR FACE ON.  If people often catch you with a grumpy face, or scratching your nose you can try keeping a neutral-to-positive expression all the time and learn the discipline of never scratching or picking at anything unless you are locked alone in a darkened cellar. Once I had to scan through hundreds of photos of a PR event looking for the "keepers". One of the guests at the event was a US state governor -- I won't mention who -- and I noticed that there was not a single shot taken the whole day where he didn't have his political face on. His wife, on the other hand, more than once had the I-wish-I-were-dead expression.

5. DON'T GET TOO CLOSE TO THE CAMERA.  Back in the early days of photography longer lenses were often called "portrait" lenses for good reason. When you are further away and the camera zooms in your face will be flatter and looks more natural. When someone comes much closer and zooms out you get a  near fisheye effect. This makes your nose look bigger and your ears look smaller -- a very unnatural look since human eyes are not like fish eyes  (For more about fish eyes see If Fish Could Draw and If Fish Could Draw II). This means you are more likely to get photos you like when the camera is not in your face.

There are plenty of other things to try but get started with these five and there's a good chance that even if you don't want to start a career as a model you will at least be more relaxed in front of the camera. If all this doesn't work then come back here and ask for more ideas.

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Su Butcher said…
1. Make sure the lens cap is still on.
2. Make sure there is no film in the camera
3. Make sure you are facing away from the camera at all times.
4. Put the bag back on your head before the camera goes click.
5. Take a picture of someone else and use that instead (This last one is very popular on Twitter I notice)

I'm going to be paying to have my photograph taken by a professional tomorrow. This has cheered me up immensely!
Andrew Hennigan said…
Thanks for the extra tips! I noticed, too, that many twittos post a picture of a model, a cat or some flowers, which is fine unless you need to find the right "John Smith" from dozens of alternatives.

Good luck with the photographer tomorrow!
Clare Evans said…
Hadn't thought about the mirror view-point.

Was having similar thoughts to Su.

However, I do find photos are useful on social media and always like to put a face to a name.

Especially as many of my clients I've never met face to face and we've only spoken over the phone.
Andrew Hennigan said…
Agree! I always advise people to put a real photo of themselves on their profile unless they are in a witness protection scheme or some other reasonable excuse. It makes life so much simpler for everyone and also makes you look less spammy.
Su Butcher said…
Oh yes definitely think a photo is essential - I blogged about it here:
Andrew Hennigan said…
And not just a photo -- a recognizable photo of the person, not their cat and not a cartoon character.

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