Take Great People Photos: How To Make Anyone Photogenic

by Bonnie Caton

No one thinks they’re photogenic. But EVERYONE is photogenic in the right conditions.

And no, I don’t mean “in the dark!”

My favorite thing about taking portraits and headshots is hearing the words, “Wow, you made me look good!”

Whether you are getting your photo taken or setting out to take great people photos among your clients, here are three tips for making anyone photogenic…

How to Make Anyone Photogenic

Give confidence

People are at their most photogenic when they’re not forcing a smile. And the trick to looking natural is feeling relaxed and confident.

As a photographer, before you do anything, strike up a conversation with your photo subject. What do they like to do for fun? What are their kids up to? What’s one funny thing that happened this week?

You can also tell them to listen to their favorite “pump up” music in the car on the way to the shoot… or offer to let them play it on their phone during the shoot!

Another way to make someone confident is to get them doing what they love. This kid clearly loves boxing. Photographing people in their favorite environments certainly helps, too.

Find the right light

Good light is like magic for portraits. Just look at this phone selfie I took with bad light and then better light…

Good portrait light depends on what you’re looking for, but typically, it’s soft, indirect light that comes from right in front of your subject’s face. Put your subject in the shade or shoot on a cloudy day – or inside by a window on the shady side of the house – for great results.

And make sure it’s not coming from the side, too far above or below. Look at that “before” shot, above – the light coming from the side highlights any wrinkle or imperfection in my face.

Pick a good portrait lens

Certain lenses can distort faces, making your subject’s nose look bigger or making their face look wider. Take a look at these sample shots taken by the creator of our Turn Your Pictures into Cash program, professional photographer Rich Wagner.

The top-left photo was taken at 200mm, then he took one at 150mm, 100mm, 70mm, 50mm, 35mm, 28mm, 24mm, 20mm, all the way down to a very wide angle — 14mm!

See how much her face changes from the first shot to the last?

Most photographers prefer to take portraits at around 50mm – 110mm. If you have a lens that will allow you to use a focal length in that range, you’ll be good to go!
Great photography isn’t a talent, it’s a choice.

It comes when you raise your hand and say: Yes, I’m going to do this. And then you follow that with action to learn your camera, study light, recognize good composition and post-process your images on your computer.


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