5 Tips to Look Your Best in Photos

Photographs—the very word can strike fear into the heart of normally confident people. Whether you need a new professional head shot for work, are having pictures taken for a family event, or just want to be seen in your best light on social media, figuring out how to shine in photos takes a little forethought and planning. Here are some tips from renowned international image strategist and consultant Zayna Mosam, director of Toronto-based Zayna Mosam Image Consulting.

1. Choose the Right Colors

Your goal is for you, not your clothes, to be the focus of the photo. Choosing the right colors is key here. "Your optimal color palette supports your complexion, keeping you looking healthy and beautiful," Mosam says. "One person can look best in cool, clear colors, while another can look best in warm, muted colors." You’ll probably need to experiment with a few different colors while taking selfies in order to see which colors are the most flattering on you.

Mosam notes that black and white should be used with caution, as they may be too harsh for some complexions. Also, consider the message certain colors send: Bright yellow and green, for example, are considered uplifting and cheerful. That may be fine for a personal photo but could convey a too-casual air for a professional profile photo.

2. Consider Patterns

As a rule, smaller patterns are easier to wear than larger ones, no matter what kind of body you have. If you’re average height or taller, you can consider larger-scale patterns because they will be less overwhelming on you than on someone petite. But be sure to "Pass a pattern over if it is competing for attention or overpowering you," Mosam says. Also, be wary of trends: "If you [want] your photo to stay relevant and you want to use [a] pattern, try one of the classics, which are often geometric," she advises. However, if the idea of finding an appropriate pattern stresses you out, simply opt for solid colors.

3. Flatter Yourself

When there’s a choice, always go with natural light, either by taking pictures outside, or in a well-lit room. If you’re in a room that doesn’t get natural light, a photographer can fake it with specialized lighting gadgets. No matter where you’re shooting, however, try to avoid shadows—they’re rarely flattering.

4. Put Your Best Face Forward

Should you grin ear to ear or opt for a softer, less eager expression? Again, a little experimentation is in order here. "A genuine smile is important," Mosam emphasizes, adding that smiles are quite individual. "For some, it will be a softer smile and for others it may be a wider grin. Find your widest smile and then bring it in a notch…and then compare smiles." One caveat: An overly gummy grin isn’t anyone’s best look.

5. Strike a Pose

Have you ever noticed that celebrities often angle their bodies slightly so they’re not photographed head on? This is to minimize areas they’d rather not highlight. If you want to appear slimmer, take a cue from Hollywood and turn your body slightly away from the camera. You can also pull your arms away from your body a bit to make them appear leaner.

Some people like to angle their heads in order to emphasize what they feel to be their best side, although Mosam doesn’t recommend this for professional head shots—it may make you seem less approachable and trustworthy than a direct gaze will.

Zayna Mosam reviewed this article.


Mosam, Zayna. Zayna Mosam Image Consulting. Email to author. July 13, 2015.