In today’s social media-obsessed world, it’s safe to say that knowing how to be photogenic is of utmost importance. What’s the point of having an Instagram account if you don’t look good in pictures, right?
Getting caught looking horrible in photos can be a tad traumatizing—and it’s enough to make us wonder exactly how all those models manage to look so damn good all of the time. Being photogenic is a fine art—it’s a lot harder than it looks to make sure your in-the-flesh beauty translates on camera.
The good news? Learning how to be photogenic is a skill you can totally master. Here are a few of our favorite tips.
1. If you tend to blink in photos, close your eyes just before the picture is taken and open them slowly before the camera clicks. No more half-closed eyes!
2. To avoid a double chin, elongate your neck and push your face forward a bit. Think of sticking out your forehead and tipping your chin slightly down. It might feel awkward, but it will look great—promise.
3. Make sure your makeup is a perfect match, says mark Celebrity Makeup Artist Fiona Stiles, who’s prepped everyone from Halle Berry to Jessica Chastain and Elizabeth Banks for the red carpet. “When a foundation is too pale for your skin tone, it becomes very obvious when a flash hits the skin.” She advises, “Match your skin to your chest and add a thin layer to your neck if your neck is paler (as is the case for most people).”
4. Curled lashes and mascara are musts, Stiles insists. “Both open up your eyes, and the eyes are the focal point of a picture. You want to draw people into a picture, so you want to maximize the impact of the eyes. They more open they are, the more the light hits them and that’s what makes them twinkle!”
5. Take a look at your favorite pictures of yourself and try to spot a pattern. Do you like the way you look from a certain angle? When you smile a specific way? Try to replicate your best poses next time you have your photo taken.
6. Try this old school red carpet trick: Put your tongue behind your teeth when you smile to avoid a goofy, too-wide grin.
7. Fill in your brows. Not only do your eyebrows convey character and emotion, they often mean all the difference between looking wide awake and washed out on camera. You may even consider using a slightly darker brow pencil if you know you’ll be photographed, since features tend to look lighter in pictures.
8. Make sure your hair is shiny. “Spray-on shine is great for a last-minute add-on shine,” says hair stylist Serge Normant, who has worked with Julia Roberts, Reese Witherspoon, Julianne Moore and Sarah Jessica Parker throughout his years in the biz.
9. A photo can highlight flyaways, so make sure your style is sleek. “A good pomade or dry oil will help, but use lightly,” Normant advises. “If you are afraid to use too much, spray on your hands and then lightly try to control fizz.”
10. Look toward a light right before someone snaps your photo. Doing so will shrink your pupils and help you avoid red eye.
11. Surprise photo op? Try this five-second prep: Blot your face with a tissue or single-ply cocktail napkin, then pinch your cheeks to create a rosy glow (yep, it’s old school, but it works).
12. A couple drops of Visine will help your eyes look brighter and more awake.
13. Blush is a must! Without some color on your cheeks, your face can look two-dimensional in photos. Use a medium pink shade on the apples of your cheeks to help shape your face.
14. Think about angles. Facing the camera straight on is rarely flattering; instead, turn your head to a three-quarter position to give your features depth.
15. Try the “red carpet” pose: put your hand on your hip, angle your body to the side and turn your head towards the camera. It’s a cliché, but it really does work to help you look slimmer.
16. Avoid serious sparkle on your face. “Anything too shimmery on the skin can just be too much in a photo,” Stiles says. “A soft glow is nice, but if you have oily skin it can really exaggerate shimmer and make you look very shiny. If you are a shimmer addict and just can’t help yourself, keep the face matte or semi-matte (a velvety finish). Add a little highlighter to just the tips of the cheekbones and the bridge of the nose with a powder highlighter that has a very soft sheen.”
17. On the other hand, a bit of sparkle below the neck can give your skin a pretty sheen. Dust your collarbone and shoulders with a shimmering powder such as Chanel Natural Finish Loose Powder in Moonlight ($52; at Chanel), which has the perfect finish for playing up assets.
18. Stand in front of a white wall. A light-colored backdrop will help brighten your face. Using a white background also helps a camera’s automatic settings find the right color balance, so your skin tone doesn’t end up looking too pink or yellow.
19. Wear bright lipstick. “Dark lipstick can have a minimizing effect on lips,” says Stiles. “Steer clear of a dark matte lip color. It can look aging and unflattering. Stick with brighter colors.”
20. Be in more pictures! People who think they’re unphotogenic tend to pose for fewer photos overall, but photography is a game of averages. Even Kate Moss doesn’t nail it on the first frame. The more shots you let your photographer take, the more likely you’ll be happy with one or two of them.
21. A photo shot from just above you is way more flattering than one shot from below. If you’re taller than the person holding the camera, grab a seat.
22. Avoid standing directly under a light, which can cast weird shadows on your face. Instead, stand facing a natural light source, such as a window, or in a spot where soft light hits your face from the side.
23. Grab a prop—preferably not a red Solo cup. Holding onto an object such as a flower or decoration can help you relax your posture and add personality to a picture.
24. To make your eyes sparkle, look at a light source. A lamp or brightly lit Christmas tree will create a flattering gleam in your pupils.
25. Forget saying “cheese,” and instead think of something funny. Better yet, joke with the photographer. A natural smile trumps a fake one every time.
Originally published December 2015. Updated May 2017.