12 Tips For How to Look Good in Pictures Effortlessly

Looking good in pictures is a skill that is developed over time. People and photographers who take pictures professionally know how to look good in pictures because they have a good understanding of their bodies, energy, lighting, and composition. They know what angles work for them, they know how to manipulate or use lighting to their advantage, but don’t worry you can quickly learn too!

Whether you are learning to take pictures by yourself or are preparing for a photoshoot this guide will help you how to look good in pictures! 

The first 5 tips are about what to focus on before you take pictures, tips 6-10 are about what to focus on when taking pictures, and the last two tips are about how to improve the image and get better in the future.

1. Be in the Best Mood

First and foremost you need to be relaxed, confident, and in a good mood. If you are not in the mood, you won’t want to try your best. Worse yet that negative energy will transcribe to the photo and your facial expressions (people can pick up on the most subtle expressions of discomfort, doubt, or unsureness), that will show up in the photos. In the future, you may associate those pictures with a bad day. So if you have a shoot planned, start the day with positivity and calm. Put your worries behind you and bring in the best energy.

How to look good in pictures by Mariyas Photography

2. Dress-up

An easy tip for how to look good for photos is to wear what makes you feel confident and overall amazing. You will not feel good about yourself without at least having the right outfit that makes you comfortable. It does not even have to full outfit, you can simply wear accessories that make you feel happy or proud; this could be a small sentimental piece of jewelry or a gorgeous summer hat that you know makes you look good every time.

If you don’t know where to get started in dressing for a photo session, check out this blog for more ideas on how to best dress for your photoshoot.

how to look good in pictures

3. Photograph using the best camera you have

This tip is mainly for those working on taking pictures by themselves, but in general, for good photos, you should always try to shoot from the best camera you can. Better quality will give you crisp detail, amazing focus, more flexibility, and much more.

If you don’t have a camera, newer phones have amazing cameras built-in (some of the phone cameras are even better than some of the older family cameras you may have lying around). That said if you are taking a group photo, opt to use the newest phone from the group to get the best quality image.

4. Choose the best lighting

If there is anything you should take away from this blog is how absolutely important lighting is in photos. Lighting can make your picture look great, very okay, or it can absolutely destroy it. Below you can see examples of good lighting.

In the examples below, pictures A and B have good lighting and highlights and examples C and D show not-so-good lighting. Good lighting means that there is a well-balanced dispersion of lighting on your subject. Alternatively, good lighting can be more subtle in highlighting only the naturally elevated parts of your face (forehead and cheekbones) and adding shadows to your jaw. You can achieve this lighting in outdoor shadow areas, on cloudy days, or by a light source like a window indoors. Be mindful of avoiding direct sunlight or your facial features will seem washed out.

Bad sources of lighting will look patchy, overexposed, and sharp, which can distort your features or look distracting and underwhelming, C and D are good examples both have overwhelming light in part of the face that looks distracting.

how to look good in pictures, pay attention to lighting
A: Evenly distributed lighting on the subject’s face
B: Natural highlights in an elevated part of the face and shadows in naturally lower parts of the face
C & D Overexposed harsh lighting in odd places of the subject

5. Check for Small Details

The easiest tip for how to look good in pictures is to always take a look at the background details. There were times when I would take a picture with perfect lighting but I did not notice that the background looks cluttery in my home. So before taking any photos do a quick background scan, and look to remove random distracting objects and untidy elements, if outdoors try to avoid crowds of people in the background. If you’re at a special event, take a photo right as you arrive when you look the best having recently dressed up.

ALWAYS check that your hair flyaways are tamed, your jewelry is centered, and you don’t have strange folds in your clothes (even as a photographer using Photoshop such little details can be hard to correct).

6. Add Movement

Some of the best pictures are the ones that look effortlessly natural, candid, and much more interesting than some purposely posed pictures.

Sometimes all you have to do is add a gentle sway from the hips, look away from the camera, or run your hands through your hair for versatility. If you still don’t quite know how to relax in photos, try to put on a good song, this will help put you at ease and get that natural movement coming.

How to look good in pictures by Mariyas Photography

7. Keep your Hands Busy

Hand in hand with the tip above (see what I did there?), holding something is a foolproof way to look less awkward (trust me I have struggled with this too). Holding something always solves the issue and the possibilities are endless!

You can touch your hair, hold a purse, put your hands in your pockets, hold your jacket, hold your scarf, touch your necklace, gently touch your face, hold a drink, and use your hands as support to lean on something – any combination of these and boom you will be relaxed and effortless!

8. Keep your Posture Upright

Need an instant way to look good in pictures? Just stand up straight with your shoulders back. Not only will good posture save you from back pain in the future, but you will look more poised and confident in photos. There are exceptions for certain poses, but for the most part, you can’t go wrong with being tall and upright. 

9. Highlight the Best Features and Angles

Not everyone may like all of their features, so instead you can highlight what you DO like! While there are no rules, some of the best features you may want to focus on are your eyes, lips, cheekbones, hair, décolleté (neckline), body shape, or legs.

You can play with the angles to make these features stand out, for example lowering the camera to get more leg and body in the picture. Or by zooming into the face, and squaring with the eyes they instantly become the center of the photo. You can also angle yourself at a 45-degree angle to showcase the best side of your face and even make your body look slimmer.

If working with a photographer it’s important to ask to see the pictures so you can help instruct them when something needs to be adjusted. It is unlikely that you will want to share photos that you don’t like, so speak up and be verbal!

10. Take Many Photos

Take many photos. Remember, there is no such thing as too many selfies! The same is true for looking good in pictures, take as many as you can! Each picture will always slightly vary from the first, even if they were shot at a high speed – your facial expressions can change faster than a second. This is the perfect method of getting many great photos but also discovering new small adjustments you can make to your photos look more interesting.

How to look good in pictures by Mariyas Photography

11. Use Post-Production Photo Editing

Pictures in their original form don’t always show the best colors that you saw in real life; your skin tone might be off or the background is not as bright as you remember it. In these cases try a little photo editing – just a little brightening or darkening of colors, and white balancing (making sure the photo is not too warm, too cold, too red, or green) makes all the difference. Not only can you get creative here but you can also develop your unique style and make the pictures look way closer to real life.

Today, our phones have great editing tools included, but if you are looking to step up your game with editing try out Adobe Lightroom, it’s very easy to use and has an amazing quality of results (not to mention the mobile version is free!).

12. Practice!

The last tip to really establish how to look good in pictures is – to practice! Practice and referencing how the photos turned out helps you get a mental image of yourself and how you look. This way you are able to pose more quickly and learn the best angles, over time you will be able to strike a go-to pose anytime you want to take a good picture.

How to look good in pictures, conclusion

Now you have the tips you need to learn how to look good in pictures! You don’t have to nail every tip all at once, but definitely set a goal to work on a few tips at a time to get better. Before you know you will become a comfortable model pro in all your photos.

If you enjoyed this post, check out some of my other blogs for more photography tips here, or follow me on Instagram and Tik Tok to see video tips like this post!

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Hi, I'm Mariya! I'm a Chicago branding and family portrait photographer. Thanks for stopping by, I hope you've grabbed a good cup of tea or coffee as you browse through the blog :)