How to Look Amazing* in Pictures: Secret Tips From a Supermodel

You know who doesn't look good in pictures? You, probably. Me. Most of us. Sure, sometimes you're Gerard Butler, but most of the time you're Gerard Depardieu. You know who does know how to look good? Supermodel Shalom Harlow.

She hooked us up with some exclusive tips on looking as good as possible when the cameras come out. Now if only someone would actually take your picture...

Whether we have to pose for some work photo, or we're just out with a group of friends, most of us aren't comfortable in front of the camera, and even if we are, the results often don't turn out like we want them to. There has to be a hack. Right? There have to be some secret rules that the majority of us—you know, non-supermodels—just don't know. Well, who better to ask than someone who looks really good in photos for a living?

Shalom Harlow has graced the cover of damn near every fashion magazine you can name (and many you can't). She's been the face of everything from Coco Chanel and Ralph Lauren to Tiffany & Co and a gagillion others. It's tough to find a model that's more super, basically. These are her five real-world tips that anybody—like us!—can use.

Tip 1: Know Your Light and Face It

If you are being shot without a flash, know where the main light source is and turn toward it. Embrace it. Light hitting you at side-angles will create shadows on your face, making your features look harsher and more severe. Fine for film noir or Instagram photos, but not the best for day-to-day stuff. Shadows will also emphasize lines in your face and bags under your eyes, making you look older, more tired, and possibly more drunk. Go toward the light, my child.

Tip 2: Facilitate a Spontaneous Moment

Photos are about the memory of a moment. The moment you're trying to capture is not "that time you gawked at a camera." If it isn't happening organically, Shalom will create a more fun, interesting moment before the camera clicks. She'll pinch the other people she's posing with (watch out with this one), or if she's alone, she's been known to do a pratt-fall or crack a joke to try to make the photog break (even for "serious" photos). Unexpected things like that break people out of their heads and pave the way for a more natural, spontaneous moment. It makes people seem like real people in a real moment—which is exactly what you're trying to capture.

Tip 3: Mug the Mirror

As awkward as it sounds, spend some time making faces in the mirror. Seriously, do it. Every face is different, and as such, every face looks good doing different things. Find your angles. Do you look better straight on, or turned just a few degrees to the side? Do you look better with a full-toothed smile, or with a smug little smirk? Practice and get comfortable making these faces. Learn how they feel to your face, and then your muscle memory will help you recreate them. Think Blue Steel from Zoolander.

Side note: I recently read about a guy who thought he looked good in the mirror when he put his hair to one side, but he never got much attention. Then one day, he realized that people were seeing the reverse of that, so he tried switching sides. It looked weird to him but suddenly everyone was telling him how great he looked. So, maybe consider mugging in front of a digital camera instead.

Tip 4: Move the Photographer's Eyes to the Lens

Looking into a camera lens is weird. It's like a giant, vacuous, dead eye. It's like trying to see into HAL's soul. Trying to connect with that is a losing battle unless you've got a robot's soul, and it'll make you feel stiff and awkward. Instead, engage in a real conversation with the photographer. Talk about something other than being photographed. Look at the photographer's eyes while you converse, and then "transfer" his/her eyes to the camera lens. (With your gaze, weirdo.) Continue the conversation as if you're still looking into his/her eyes, but you just happen to be looking at the lens itself. Go back and forth when you need to. To people who view the picture, it will seem that you're looking at them, engaged in a relationship, and not just staring in their direction, like one of those creepy paintings where the eyes follow you everywhere.

Tip 5: Relive the Good Times

Some people absolutely hate being photographed. It can be a very uncomfortable, unpleasant experience for some, like being in the middle seat on airplane between Rosie O'Donnell and a wheel of cheese, and if that's how you're feeling, it'll show in the photos. The photographer won't always be able to help you through that. Instead, you can trick your body into relaxing by pulling from your personal collection of good memories. Think about that time you and your husband (or wife) swam with dolphins in the Caribbean as the sun was setting. Really try to go there in your mind. Focus on the individual things your senses perceived. What did it sound like? What did the water taste like? What did the air smell like? Silly as it sounds, this can trick your body into thinking it's in a safe, comfortable place and it will relax your fight or flight mechanism.

So, now you've got the secrets of the pros, so get out there and be really, really, really, ridiculously good looking. Just don't get into any gasoline fight accidents.

*YMMV

Image credit: Inez Van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin


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