We’ve all been there: You’re just minding your own business, going about your glorious life, when you get a notification from Facebook. Assuming your BFF tagged you in a silly dog video, you open it. (So innocent, so pure.) Seconds later, your world comes crashing down around you. Your number one frenemy just did the unthinkable—she tagged you in the exact photo you wouldn’t let her post to her Instagram last weekend. Life. Is. Over.
OK, that was a little dramatic, but you get the point. The content we post to Facebook and Instagram is often referred to as the “highlight reel” of our lives. But if our content is the highlight reel, let’s just say our “tagged photos” are the bloopers. (Although we wish they were the deleted scenes.) Behind all the metaphors and obvious emotional instability remains the fact that, all too often, our tagged photos are hideous. Our hair was messed up. We were mid-sentence. We didn’t know how to pose for the picture. For whatever reason, we fucked it up. But what if it doesn’t always have to be like that?
Enter: the pros—namely, two models and two social influencers. It’s literally part of their job to look amazing in pictures, so obviously, we turned to them for advice. Lucky for us, they had tons of tips that’ll help us improve the way we look in photos the first time around, sans Photoshop.
Here’s a little info about each of our professionals:
Shannon Thaler: Shannon is a fashion model, and her work covers a variety of brands we know and love. She’s done campaigns with Tory Burch, Bobbi Brown and Supergoop, and she’s even modeled for Stuart Weitzman alongside Gigi Hadid. Her runway resume includes Louis Vuitton and Alice + Olivia.
Isabella Carr: Isabella is also a model, and has worked with brands like VS Pink, Abercrombie and Charlotte Tilbury. She recently modeled in an editorial for Paper Magazine, and she walked in Vogue’s CFDA fashion show this November.
Kate Rooney: Kate is a London-based Instagrammer, and her account (@theglowedit) has amassed over 317,000 followers since she first hit the platform back in 2012. She’s worked with brands like Google, Tom Ford, Dior and Estée Lauder, among others.
Rose Crombie: Rose (@rosecrombiee) has a following of 73,000 on Instagram, and she’s collaborated with brands such as Panera, Princess Polly and Rue 21 on fashion and lifestyle campaigns. She’s also an area manager for beauty and wellness brand Arbonne, and shares her Arbonne journey with her followers through Instagram posts and stories.
Now, let’s get to the good stuff. Consider this a master class in how to pose for pictures—according to models and influencers who do it all the time.
1. Know Your Angles
Thaler says, “When taking a full-body pic, I like to have the camera(wo)man hold the camera just below eye-level. A pic aimed ever-so-slightly upward makes for long lines—hello, legs!”
But she poses for a lot of portraits, too, and says that the best angles for your bod aren’t always the same for your face. “I find that taking a face shot from above gives the angles of my face more definition,” Thaler says. To master this, snap away! It’s all about finding that sweet spot and having lots of options.”
2. Check Your Lighting
Carr tells us to “always turn your face toward the light, especially if it’s natural sunlight. This brightens your face and makes you glow, which kind of results in your blemishes being blurred away!” (And let’s be real—if there’s one thing we’d like to achieve with our closeup, it’s to look blemish-free.)
3. Relax, Girlfriend
Rooney knows that the best way to look calm, cool and collected in your photos is to actually be calm, cool and collected. “Relax your body—your eyes, too. If you’re uptight and stressing, you’re not going to get the shot, and your body is going to emulate that,” Rooney says.
4. Take Bursts of Photos
Most of us aren’t professional models, meaning we don’t always have a fancy camera on deck for our photoshoots. Crombie gets it, and her recommendation is to take “bursts” on your iPhone, instead.
To do so, simply ask your cameraperson to hold down the button instead of tapping it once. The result is, like, a gazillion photos that capture every single little movement you make in front of the camera. Afterward, you can choose the best ones. (Side note: This is great for when your “photographer” is actually just your impatient BF.)
5. Get Inspired
“I actually have a Pinterest board called ‘Insta Inspo’ where I pin pictures that I would love to have on my feed,” Thaler admits. “Having a set intention usually makes for a much more successful shoot—I already know what poses and mood to aim for.”
6. Demonstrate Good Posture
“Never, never, never slouch!” Carr instructs. “It makes you look insecure and frumpy, and your belly will not look its best if you’re wearing a crop top. Always stand up straight. You will look confident, happy and all-around more beautiful.”
7. Opt for Flattering Outfits
Rooney says one of the most important things to consider before shooting is what you’re going to wear. “Some outfits just don’t translate well on camera,” Rooney explains. “Wear colors and styles you know look good in photos.”
8. Own Your Good Side
“If you have one,” Crombie says. Some people are equally beautiful on both sides! But there are tons of us who feel more confident facing one way or the other. So if you got it (on the left, but not so much on the right), flaunt it.
9. Keep It Moving
“Some of the best poses aren’t really poses at all, but actions caught in the perfect moment,” Thaler explains. “Take advantage of that and snap a burst.” See? Back to bursts. “A picture with movement is always more interesting and fun to take…and fun to look at,” she adds.
10. Try Your Tiptoes
Carr reminds us that one of the keys to looking fab in photos is to make yourself appear elongated. “You can do this by standing on your tiptoes or by sticking a leg out when taking your full-body picture,” she suggests.
11. Be Conscious of the Beauty Products You’re Using
OK, this one’s a little tricky, but basically, greasy products make for shiny foreheads—and shiny foreheads cause your camera’s flash to bounce off your face instead of lighting it up, Rooney says. This isn’t a huge deal during the day (you know, when you’re not using flash). But if you’re aiming for a night photo op, consider what products you’re using on the front-end—and avoid any you know don’t make you look your best.
A version of this story was originally published in March 2014.