Take Your Best Shot: How To Look Good In Every Photo

Remember picture day at school? When you would painstakingly spend hours picking your favorite pink spaghetti strap, and clip in three too many butterfly hair clips for your yearbook portrait, only to look, in horror, when said photo revealed a shiny, blown-out face, matted locks, and the most unflattering pose of all time?
Well, now, thanks to the smartphone, every day is picture day. With everyone packing a camera in their pockets, we’re both equipped to capture the most unexpected of moments and challenged to look camera-ready. All. The. Time. So, in this selfie age, where we're all thrown into the role of photographer and 24/7 subject, we can't think of a better time to learn the rules of epic image-making.
We talked to celebrity stylists for tricks on tweaking our shirts and skirts; professional makeup artists for their behind-the-scenes tips; photogs for clues about how to pose; and hairstylists to help us figure out what, exactly, we should do with our tresses. The result is 20 of the best-kept photo secrets, to help you look amazing in every picture, every time. Now, if only you could go back in time to retake that Class of '99 YB photo...
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Photo: Courtesy of Ryan Koopmans.
Find Beautiful Lighting
If the mantra for business is location, location, location, then that of photography is lighting, lighting, lighting. To get beautiful lighting every time, celebrity makeup artist and photographer Troy Jensen advises, "If you're not using a flash, be sure you’re facing the light source straight on, not from the side. It should shine directly on you to clean out the face." Jensen also notes that a window, lamp, street light, or doorway can also work as great light sources; just face in the direction of the light, and snap.
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Photo: Courtesy of Hourglass.
Make Up Your Own Lighting
If great lighting is the holy grail of beautiful pictures, then this superfine powder, designed to mimic flattering lighting schemes, is the quickest cheat. "Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder gives a really healthy glow, softens lines, and helps give the effect of a soft-focus lens. After applying foundation, I dust a light amount around the forehead and eyes," says makeup artist Jenn Streicher. We particularly like the palette’s Dim Light shade, which is flattering on all skin tones.
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Photo: Courtesy of Kristina Wilson.
Pick Patterns Carefully
Elaborate patterns may be trending, but when it comes time to dress for photos, it’s best to be selective, says Caley Lawson Rinker, who styles celebs like Kelly Osbourne and Gillian Jacobs. "Big, bold patterns are fun, but not always the best depending on your shape and size," she warns. "Pick one patterned element in your outfit, rather than going with patterns from head to toe. It’s best to stay away from small, busy patterns, because they tend to strobe and look messy."
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Photo: Courtesy of Victoria Adamson.
Belt Up!
Bring attention to your best features by styling them with accessories. One quick way is to accessorize your midriff. "Waist belts can give shape if needed," says celebrity stylist Emily Barnes, who's worked with Karen O. and Anna Chlumsky.
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Photo: Courtesy of Winnie Au.
Shake Up Your Hair
To refresh hair, head-bang your way to instant volume. "When prepping myself before a photo, I like to refresh my blow out (wavy or straight) with a wide-tooth comb, then shake my hair and use my fingers to make it a bit tousled and imperfect," says celeb hairstylist Clariss Rubenstein, who has done everyone from Mindy Kaling to Zooey Deschanel.
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Photo: Courtesy of +J.
Style Your Shirt
Sometimes, the tiniest of tweaks can have the biggest impact. "The smallest adjustment to your top not only dictates the tone of your look, but can help enhance your best qualities," says stylist and photographer Tara O’Connell. For example, "To make a petite woman look taller, a quick pop of the collar can elongate the neck."
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Photographed by Jamie Isaia.
Create Your Own Light Filter
No matter how cool the Instagram filter, there are some moments when nothing beats nature. Harness the sun’s rays by turning your back on them — so that the sun is behind you. "When the glare of the sun flares behind you into your shot, it can look really cool and vintage — just be sure it doesn't flare too much," Jensen says.
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Photo: Courtesy of Ben Ritter.
Look Good Lying Down
"Try taking a selfie while lying down," Jensen suggests. "Look up and hold the camera directly above you (watch out for your own shadow). In this position, the face becomes completely relaxed, and if a light source is above you, it will best complement your features."
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Photo: Courtesy of NARS.
Contour Like A Kardashian
We all know that contouring is the not-so-secret makeup trick that the Kardashian Klan can thank for their impeccable photos — and there's good reason for that. Celeb makeup artist Erica Sauer says applying a bronzer (without shimmer!) alongside your nose, underneath your cheekbones, and down your jawline helps give your face depth and definition in your pictures.
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Photo: Courtesy of Zara.
Know What Looks Good On You
When it comes to our bodies, self-awareness is king: Knowing what looks best on you, and wearing shapes and colors that complement your body and skin type, will go a long way on camera. And, if you’re still finding your way on the road to self-actualized style? "When in doubt, always throw on a skinny pant and blazer. This combo will be flattering in any photo," says Rinker.
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Photo: Courtesy of Emily Barnes.
Don’t Let A Bag — Or Bad Posture — Weigh You Down
You don’t have to go full-on Zoolander to pull off a pose. Stylist Emily Barnes suggests standing at an angle to the camera, pulling your shoulders back, and exercising excellent posture. And, if you’re caught by the camera with a bag in hand? Barnes says you can make it work by, "slipping your hand into the strap and pushing your arm out to angle your body slightly."
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Photo: Courtesy of YSL.
Draw Highlights
The blown-out flash of a camera phone can kill the best of selfies — no matter how perfect your pose. One way to combat the effect of a washed-out-face? Brightening concealer. "To instantly brighten your face, try a creamy concealer-highlighter hybrid," suggests makeup artist Misha Shahzada. “YSL Touché Eclat is amazing because you can apply it to the under-eyes, while also using it to brighten your cheekbones, forehead, and bridge of your nose."
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Photographed by Erica T. White.
Put Your Best Face Forward
"Pull your hair back and wear a beautiful bold earring. The viewer will naturally be drawn to your face first," says Barnes.
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Photo: Courtesy of Makeup Forever.
Help Your Eyes Be Seen
Most photos don’t render images in 3-D. So, when it comes to helping your IRL beauty translate to a photo, defining parts of the face pre-photoshoot is key. Sauer says, "It’s important to use a liner to define that eye shape — otherwise you tend to lose the eyes in the photo. My go-to liner is Makeup Forever’s Kohl Pencil. It goes on smoothly and doesn’t smudge."
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Photographed by Danielle St. Laurent.
Pick A Streamlined Look
As far as current fashion trends go, the utility trend is great for pictures, according to Barnes. "It gives an architectural look and streamlines the body, which suits everyone," she says. "The stricter lines, specifically in stiffer cotton blends and in neutral tones — navy, grays, olive, black — are good for most skin tones."
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Photo: Courtesy of Bobbi Brown.
Enlist Makeshift Makeup
The best way to add some color to your complexion? Blush, of course. To always be prepared for an impromptu pic, Shahzada suggests keeping this bad boy on hand. "I love Bobbi Brown Pot Rouge, because it’s a lip-and-cheek stain that actually lasts, and you can apply it with your finger for the best results."
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Photo: Courtesy of Elle Muliarchyk.
Pick A Heel To Elongate Your Frame.
It’s no secret that heels help stack our stature. But, when it comes to creating a lean silhouette, not just any heel will do. "If you’re on the shorter side, heel height can be helpful. But, beware: wedges don't do anyone a favor — they have a tendency to make you look heavy-footed in pictures," says Barnes.
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Photo: Courtesy of Oribe.
Try A 5-Second Refresh
Hair that falls flat can make faces appear wider. "To refresh hair before a photo, I like giving a couple shots of Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray if it's flat, and Bumble and bumble Semisumo to tame fly-aways on top," says Rubenstein. "Then, I use whatever is left on my hands for the ends of the hair to give it a little separation and texture."
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Photo: Courtesy of Winnie Au.
Delay The Pattern Play
Working with a quick wardrobe change? Keep it simple. "As a rule, solids work better than patterns," Barnes says.
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Photo: Courtesy of Makeup Forever.
Define Your Lips — Even If You Hate Color
You hear this all the time, but the fastest way to breathe fresh life into your face is by adding a pop of color to your lips. If you're not a pink- or red-lip kind of girl, then even using a neutral hue will help. Sauer says, "A good neutral that work well with pretty much all skin tones is Makeup Forever’s Aqua Lip in 3C." Just use the liner as your lipstick!