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How to look good in photos: Models, bloggers and Fashion Editors tell us their tricks

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Want to know how to look like this in a picture?

ViewPreview.aspxOr perhaps like this? Of course you do. Who wouldn’t want to turn their natural gorgeousness into photo magic and shake their camera curse forever? And by that I mean banish the rictus grin/rabbit in the headlights expression/fat arm trauma/hunchback/squinty eye problem that has plagued them ever since someone first pointed a camera and shouted ‘cheese’! Unfortunately, unlike the drop-dead gorgeous Gemma Sanderson – winner of the first ever Australia’s Next Top Model and the stunning Philippa Allam – I am not good in front of the lens. Oh no ho ho. I am about as natural as Katie Price’s boobs when a camera is pointed in my direction and whilst I may not have to worry about being chased by a hoarde of paparazzi or a host of crazed fans with camera phones, I would like to be a bit less rigid and have at least one nice picture of me, please? And so, in my own entirely selfish bid to work out how to look just a little better in photos I turned to the experts – internationally-acclaimed models, a world-famous make-up artist, an amazing photographer and two brilliant fashion bloggers in my quest for answers. And, oh, they were good.

First up: the secrets of looking amazing (and natural) in front of the camera from Gemma Sanderson and Philippa Allam, two of the world’s most successful models, as well as tips on how to pose when it isn’t your full-time job from Fashion Editors and bloggers, Alex Stedman of The Frugality, Deborah Brett of Mini’s Fashion File and Erica Davies of Modern Mum Must-have.

THE MODELS

Who better to tell us how to look good in front of a camera than someone whose job is to do just that. Yes, they’re genetically blessed to start with, but looking fantastic in a photo takes a lot more than that. Knowing how to work with what you’ve got is essential to being a top model, so for great tips look no further…

Philippa Allam

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Philippa has modelled for over 20 years working with a veritable who’s who of amazing photographers including Nick Knight, David Bailey, Ellen von Unwerth and Rankin. Represented by Storm models in the UK (Kate Moss and Cara Delevingne’s agent) and JAG in New York, she has worked all over the world, shooting campaigns for the likes of Liz Claiborne and Marina Rinaldi among others. Not only a model, but also a brilliant interior designer, Philippa has some seriously good tips on looking hot in a photo. “I definately have a better side,” she says. “I have a “roman” nose which is a little bent in certain lights so I’m aware of shadows and the best light to shoot my face in. Also I’m curvy and that’s what I’m known for but certain angles are more flattering than others”. You can follow her on Twitter @philippaallam.

“My first ever paid shoot was for a weekly magazine, I had no idea what to do. I felt so nervous and unprofessional but I just stood there and looked moody or happy. I must have done something right as they continued to book me. After that I went home and I know it sounds vain, but I looked in the mirror with a number of expressions and chose the ones where I thought I looked good and remembered how to pull them without a mirror to look into. I taught myself the basics. You pick it up as you continue to work and remember what clients like and don’t like. My first campaign in Milan taught me the serious modelling poses! The photographer told me to only use my eyes to convey what I was trying to say and relax my mouth.”

Learn to pose

  • At times in my career clients have asked me to stand in a way that makes me look bigger or curvier but generally a flattering angle is either crossing one leg in front of the other, slightly pulling your bum back and holding your tummy in.
  • If you’re really trying to look perfect then not squashing your arms against your body makes your arms look slimmer. David Bailey taught me that one!
  • If you really mean business then tensing your leg muscles shows definition.
  • A hand on the hip creates a nice shape.
  • Be conscious of your hands, so that they are not clenched or that your fingers aren’t doing weird things.
  • Make sure that your legs aren’t squashed, which can create dimples!

Stand up Straight

  • I always have to stand up straight as I slouch a little bit and have slightly rounded shoulders. In fact, they often have to give me shoulder pads to make my shoulders look bigger.
  • Don’t believe everything you see in a magazine as most models are told to stand up straight or change something to get a better result. It’s hardly ever natural. Once I had to wear an entire bodysuit under my clothes for a Liz Claibourne campaign.

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Use your eyes

  • I was taught by one model agent to widen your eyes one second before the camera clicks. It dilates your pupils. I love that Tyra Banks says this ( she’s completely lovely by the way) as it’s kind of old school and shows that she learnt when rolls of film were still being used. You had to get it right as clients only used certain number of rolls of film. Now it’s digital they can keep clicking until you get it right. It’s easier these days.
  • Over the top pouting looks silly as do eyes that are opened too wide. It’s important to get into a rhythm as a model so that you know when to keep your eyes open so not all shots are you with your eyes half closed. This is quite hard on a beach in direct sunlight. It’s best to keep your eyes closed then open right before they snap or look at something dark to accustom your eyes before looking at the lens.

Think of a naughty joke

If you smile, your eyes always look more alive. More of a “knowing” smile than a huge coat-hanger-in- the-mouth smile is best. I think it’s sexier if you look like someone just told you a naughty joke.

Find your light

  • Sometimes it works best with your chin down a bit or sometimes with your chin up a bit. It depends where the light is and how elongated you want your neck to look.
  • The loveliest light is very early in the morning or as the sun is going down. Never allow yourself to be shot in overhead light it casts ugly shadows and midday sun is the worst. Diffused light is very pretty.

Act Natural

Eyes relaxed with lips parted slightly creates a natural look. There’s a funny trick amongst models that if you’re told to act “naturally” and talk to each other for the photo, you can say the word “rhubarb” as it puckers your lips and forms a nice shape. Sounds a bit Zoolander. I have only ever done it as a joke.

Yup, that is is Philippa with Mr Big..

Yup, that is is Philippa with Mr Big..

Gemma Sanderson

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As winner of the first ever Australia’s Next Top Model, Gemma knows all there is to know about looking good in front of the camera. Born and raised in Australia, but currently based in London (after stints in Milan, New York and Cape Town), Gemma is one of the world’s most successful commercial models, working her magic for the likes of ASOS, Elle, Grazia and Lynx. “Being able to be a model just doesn’t come naturally to a lot of people,” she says. “Both my mum and my sister never look as relaxed in pictures as they do in real life! I have since taught my mum how to stand and relax and she is far better than she was!” Represented by the mega-model agency Premier, you can follow Gemma on Instagram @gemsanderson and Twitter @gemsanderson.

Know your angles

I didn’t always know how I looked best, but in order to get booked again by clients you need to be aware of how you look without looking like you’re thinking about it too much. You just need to be prepared when someone pulls out a camera. It doesn’t have to be a scary event, you just have to know how you are going to look best! Knowing your best angle and side is pretty important in having your picture taken well. Practice makes perfect, but also after seeing a good picture of yourself take note of the angle of your body and head, and also your facial expression. Teeth smile, closed mouth smile or just a relaxed and natural no smile! Both my left and right are fairly even I think, but I tend to prefer my face when I have a slight tilt downwards. If you put your shoulders down and back a little, then lift from the crown of your head, you should avoid getting a double chin.”

Practice makes perfect

Starting with your face, set up a camera in front of you on timer, take a picture of yourself looking straight ahead, then turning your face only 45º, keeping your body and eyes forward. Try again, with a slightly different facial expression, and perhaps also moving your shoulders slightly left and right.

Body Image

  • If you want to appear slimmer in full length shots, turning slightly side on (again a 45º angle perhaps) works wonders for people who are wider sideways than depth-ways.
  • If you are narrower through the hips and shoulders but are uncomfortable about your mid section, then standing front on probably suits you better.
  • If you feel uncomfortable about your arms, tuck them back and bend your elbows so there is a slight bend in them when side on, or place your hand on your hip if it’s a more formal occasion.
  • Another great idea is to have something to “nonchalantly” rest your hand/shoulder/elbow on. Or, bend your elbow and put your hand on your thigh, so it’s mid way between it’s natural resting position and your bottom! It’s the hand on hip illusion, but looking far more relaxed.

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Posture

  • It may sound like a natural assumption, but standing up straight will heighten you and the taller you look in pictures the better.
  • If you are concerned you look too straight up and down with not enough shape, then stick your bottom out, whilst standing slightly side on.
  • Having your legs a little apart with one straight and the other bent is good for both the curvy and not so curvy.
  • Have the photographer take a photo at about belly button height whilst tilting the camera slightly up. This will give the illusion of being taller!

Lighting

Harsh daylight is not the best to be photographed in unless it is directly on your face. Sunrise and sunset, facing the sun can be some of the most beautiful natural light. Just make sure you are aware of which direction the light is coming from. Shadows on your face will completely throw your features out of proportion.

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THE FASHION EDITORS

Despite these brilliant tips, you may still be thinking but they’re models! Of course, they look good in front of the camera, what about women whose job doesn’t involve appearing on the front of magazines or fronting campaigns? Well, we can also help there. We’ve asked three amazing Fashion Editors who not only have seen first-hand how models and celebrities act in front of the camera, but also, most importantly, are bloggers and are therefore regularly used to having their picture taken – and now know how to relax with a camera pointed directly at them.

Deborah Brett

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Natasha and I have something of style crush on Deborah Brett, Senior Contributing Editor at Red magazine and founder member of the BFC’s Fashion Trust – she has a wardrobe and style to die for (you can see it here and here). She also writes a brilliant blog Mini’s Fashion File dedicated to her and her daughter’s style and has a fantastic Instagram account (@deborahbrett) where she often appears looking gorgeous and relaxed in front of the camera. Here’s what she’s learnt…

“The key to looking great in photos is to look relaxed. I know this sounds simple but half my job when doing celebrity cover shoots for Red is making them feel at ease, so that they look comfortable and effortless in the pictures. It’s amazing how many actresses are great on screen but get them in front of a stills camera and they freeze.

  • One of my first steps is to breathe! If you are breathing rather than holding your breath then straight away your body relaxes.
  • Don’t let it relax too much either though – no one looks great slouching. It’s all about good posture. If it’s a full length pic I tend to always stand a little three quarters on, much more flattering on the hips.
  • I never rest my upper arms against my body but keep them just hovering. I have great arms but if you push them into your upper torso they double in size!
  • I also make sure to have my hands relaxed – models often forget this and they end up looking like they have claws.
  • Look straight into the camera and think of something or someone you love, it softens your eyes and that warmth of what you are thinking of translates onto film.
Erica Davies
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London-based Fashion stylist, brand consultant and Senior Fashion and Beauty Editor for Look magazine, Erica Davies has over 15 years experience in the industry, both styling models and having her picture taken for her brilliant blog Modern Mum Must-Have. Featuring her outfit of the day on her instagram account (@erica_davies) led her to running regular pictures on her blog meaning she’s quickly learned how to make having her picture taken a much more enjoyable process.

  • The more you have your photo taken, the more you know what angles work for you and your shape. I never like the first few pictures and always check them. Having said that, I am really not a diva about it as I want it to reflect me rather than an over-glam version of me. Plus I spent my formative working years being photographed every week for a newspaper fashion column so had to get it done quickly without fussing – I still hold that philosophy!
  • I always ask my husband to take my pictures, which means I’m much more relaxed. I think if you’re relaxed it will show in your photos and not look as forced, so ask someone who won’t judge you or make you feel uncomfortable!
  • I feel I look much better when I’m at a slight angle and not looking at camera. It feels much more comfortable to me – I’m not a size 8 and have issues with my shape just like every woman. I’m certainly not a model and I want people to find me easy to relate to – it seems to be working – it’s so lovely when readers tweet or comment to say a photo has inspired people to buy what you’re wearing!
  • I always try and laugh or smile off camera – it feels much more comfortable to me (I’m naturally quite a cheesy smiler!) and I think I look better – I’m certainly never going to be smouldering down the lens! I take my job seriously and I love fashion, but I don’t want to alienate anyone by pretending to be a model!
  • I always pull my tummy in and there’s the classic ‘lean forward and laugh’ shot which I use and my husband finds hilarious!

Alex Stedman

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A Fashion Editor for Red magazine and founder of the brilliant The Frugality, Alex regularly has her photo taken for the magazine and her blog. You can also follow her on instagram @thefrugality. This is what she says about doing it…

“I have never been comfortable having my photo taken for my blog but practice makes perfect. I know I have to do it and now with instagram it’s pretty much daily, so I just stop moaning and get on with it! My husband takes my picture and he often finds that a shot of me walking or stepping is easier, as it gives me something to take my mind off being photographed. Wear something you’re comfortable in too – it really does show in a photo.”

Don’t miss part two of How to look good in photos featuring advice from amazing photographer Emmy Lewis and make-up artist Ruby Hammer! Next week on W&W….

IMAGES: Storm Models/Premier Model Management/Deborah Brett/Erica Davies/The Frugality

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2 Comments

  • Reply
    Anna ruddy
    August 27, 2014 at 9:29 am

    Fabulous article everyone MUST read and the gorgeous Philippa what a stunner xxx

  • Reply
    Sue
    August 27, 2014 at 9:47 am

    A totally absorbing read from someone who is also very ill at ease when a camera is pointed in my direction. Lots of useful hints and tips – and I guess practice really does make perfect .. and it does get a little easier.

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