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How to look great in photos

GuptonIt's National Photography Month! So I asked a pro to share some tips for looking great when being photographed. I met Charles Gupton right out of college, when he was mostly shooting stills. Based in Raleigh, NC, Charles uncovers stories that resonate, then tells them in three-minute films to engage clients for business on the web. You can connect with him at: cg@charlesguptonphoto.com, www.charlesguptonphoto.com or www.charlesgupton.com.

Looking Your Best for the Rest of the World

You realize it may be time to get a professional head and shoulders portrait taken when:

a) for the third time in a week, someone mentions that you don’t look the same as you do in your website headshot that was taken 12 years ago, OR
b) the shot of you with your dog at the beach may not be the best business photo to represent you on LinkedIn.

The questions we’re most frequently asked are: What should I wear? How about my hair? Make-up or go bare? Toothy smile or serious stare? Decision, decisions — no need for despair!

Focus attention on your face

Whether you’re being interviewed for a company video, filming a marketing webcast, or having a still photo taken for social media, the most important consideration – and the one most often overlooked – is that you want to focus all of a viewer’s attention on your face, specifically on your eyes.

Head and shoulders photos are usually just that – they are cropped just below the shoulders. Keeping the focus on your eyes makes your image more engaging and trustworthy. If you’re being filmed for a business web video, the camera crop may extend down to your waist, so the following thoughts are especially important to consider.

All too often (and against my counsel), the decision on what to wear gets made on the morning of the photo shoot and is usually decided based on whether an article of clothing emphasizes that person’s personal “style” rather than what best frames and highlights the face.

To avoid last-minute decisions, I encourage my clients to snap a phone photo of wardrobe possibilities a few days in advance and send them to me for discussion or ask for feedback from friends or coworkers who can give more objective feedback about which selection looks best.

People in particular often buy clothes based on what they think is stylish, what’s on sale, current fads the fickle fashion industry is hawking, or a number of factors other than the most important considerations.

Highlight best features, boost confidence

It’s important to wear only clothes that highlight your best features and boost your confidence while downplaying any aspects of your body image that make you feel self-conscious.

For women, wearing a complex patterned scarf or dress directs the viewer’s attention to your clothing. If your top has a dramatic V-cut neckline, the “V” creates a visual arrow pointing down to your chest. A less dramatic V-cut or a round neckline minimizes this effect, as well as wearing a simple chain or necklace, which creates a break at the neckline and keeps the viewer’s attention on your face. Also, choose earrings that are unobtrusive and timeless.

Being on the subject-end of a camera is intimidating enough without adding the self-doubt that comes with wardrobe choices that accentuate weight or wash out your skin color. Poor color and pattern choices often add perceived age and weight as well as make your face look tired and even ill. If you do a web search using the terms “wardrobe color seasons,” you’ll find a plethora of articles that provide guidance on building a solid, foundational wardrobe based on color choices that will serve you well even when you’re not being filmed.

For men, if wearing a tie is appropriate for the image you’re presenting, choose one that doesn’t unnecessarily draw attention to itself. Remember that the photo will be cropped just below the knot, so funky patterns and color combinations will scream out louder than you might expect.

And always remember that if you’re in doubt about what to wear, bring several options with you on the day of the shoot, if possible. Better to have them nearby and not need one than realize you’re a better choice is hanging in your closet!

As for hair styling, I suggest for women and men alike — plan your cut a week in advance. You don’t need the added stress of juggling a hair cut appointment the day before or, even worse, the day of your photo shoot — not to mention the surprise of a haircut that doesn’t turn out as you had planned.

Very few people actually delight in the portrait process. But thoughtful preparation can take a lot of the stress of the moment out of the equation.

Now, relax your mind and go to your happy place…and smile!

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