I know so many people who don’t like having their photograph taken. It seems as if they fear ridicule or worse, that they will see themselves pictured and suddenly realise that they have freckles, wrinkles, spots or thinning hair. This is usually an inexplicable concern, as they have, in the main, spent considerable time looking at themselves in front of the mirror every morning, doing their best to look as good as they can (and mainly doing a pretty good job of it). I have often heard that it’s a matter of photogeny: that they “are not photogenic” and so should not be photographed.
Rubbish, is what I say. There are people with the kind of looks which stop picture editors in the street, who look fabulous in front of the camera whatever they do. But they are few and far between and many of us just look good, average, or passable. But anyone can be photographed well: anyone can be made to appear to look good in a photo. That is down to the skill of the photographer and to the situation. If the photographer pushes the button at the wrong moment or shoots from the wrong angle, the subject will look awful. (This happens often in many of the photographs which people see of themselves, when they are in a group on a night out and the person taking the photo is perhaps more interested in the next drink than taking a good photo.) However, wait a moment, change the tilt of your head and smile, and your whole disposition changes.
If you want to take a photo of someone else that they’ll be happy with, or if you’re being photographed, then here are the most important non-technical tips to remember.
1) If you’re a photographer, take the photo as soon as you can… but not before your subject is ready. A hurried shot will always look rushed and the subject will probably not be relaxed. But wait (or “faff”) too long and your subject will start to get nervous and look uncomfortable. (If you can hear the subject muttering “oh come on”, then you’ve probably missed the point where they will be relaxed in front of the camera.)
2) If someone points a camera at you to take a natural shot, don’t run away or try and duck out of the shot. That will make it look as you are deformed and you will have a horrible expression on your face. If you prefer that the photographer delete the photo, then ask to see it before it’s deleted. There’s always the chance that it’s a great and unusual shot, of which you’ll be happy to have a copy printed.
3) If the photographer is a professional or keen amateur and you don’t like how you look in photos, let the photographer take the photo but don’t look at the results. Looking at the pictures and expressing how unhappy you are with them will be depressing for you and for the photographer.
4) It’s only a photograph and it’s extremely unlikely that it’s going to be hanging at poster size in the main train station concourse. Remember to keep perspective and if you don’t want the photo to be published online or shared publically, then ask the photographer to abide by these conditions. Most serious photographers will be happy to do so.
Of course, as soon as I post this, another blog writes on the same subject and provides many more tips that I didn’t think of. From Photokaboom: How to Be Photogenic!