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How To Look Good In Pictures: The 6 things you can do to get better photos

A good photographer should be able to direct you towards great pictures the day of your photo shoot. That said even a great photographer is only as good as the canvas he has to work with. The answer of how to look good in pictures largely comes down to preparation. Scheduling a hair cut and color a few days before your photo shoot for instance can have a massive impact on your photos.

This post covers everything you should consider doing before your photo shoot so you can get the best portraits possible. Note that there is no single thing that you can do to prepare that will make everything turn out amazing. A successful session is about doing lots of little things that build up to an amazing result. 

In this article you’ll learn how and when to prepare the following before your photo shoot:

What Should I Do With My Hair for My Photos?

As mentioned above, scheduling to have your hair cut and colored before your photoshoot is one of the single most impactful things you can do for your photos. For best results, you should plan to do this about 3 days before your session if you color your hair. This will give any hair dye that’s stained your skin or scalp time to fade while still looking as vibrant as possible.

If you don’t want or need to color your hair, a fresh trim can not only improve the quality of your photos, but can also boost your confidence in front of the camera. Never underestimate the impact a confidence boost can have on your final photos!

Should I Get a Blowout Before My Photo Shoot?

To take this idea a step further, scheduling a blowout before your photo shoot can have a substantial impact on how your hair looks also. If you’re having pictures taken at work, or for school or something where you won’t be professionally made over, a blowout can be well worth the effort. Just make sure to plan ahead to get an appointment as close to your photo shoot as possible.

Remember that if you’re having your portraits done by me that we provide hair styling for your photo shoot (curled or straightened). We recommend you show up to your session with your hair shampooed, conditioned and dried. Do NOT add any leave in products in your hair (gels, hair sprays etc.) since my stylists will likely heat treat your hair for styling. 

You can also plan to get a more elaborate up-do by your favorite stylist before your photo shoot too. Just let me know so we can plan accordingly!. 

Should I Curl My Hair for Picture Day?

Now that you know how to prepare your hair leading up to your photo shoot, most people wonder how they should style it for portraits. 

My general advice is to not get too experimental before you photos. This will likely help future proof your portraits and prevent an untested idea from becoming your new portrait.

When we make over our clients for portraits, we usually give them the option to straighten or curl their hair. Although it’s not always the case, women with shorter hair generally benefit from straightening while longer haired women can take advantage of a curl if desired.

How To Look Good In Pictures - Makeup

When a Makeover is Included With Your Photo Shoot

Good makeup is invaluable for getting better portraits of yourself. If you’re having your portraits done by me, I provide a makeup artist for you as part of your photo shoot because I think it makes that big of a difference for your final photos.

There’s not a lot you need to do to prepare for this step.

Best practice I keep hearing from people with great skin is to exfoliate and moisturize your face the night before your photo shoot. The morning of your pictures it’s best for you to show up with your face clean and without any reflective products. Reflective products can cause unsightly hot spots in your final photos. Other than that, we’ll take care of everything else before your photo shoot!

When a Makeover Isn't Provided For Your Photo Shoot

For those having your pictures done by someone that doesn’t provide a full makeover, I recommend you hire a makeup artist. To put it bluntly, unless you’re exceptionally good at doing your own makeup, an artist will help your photographer get higher quality final photos of you.

Just make sure to not pinch pennies, and hire someone with a portfolio you love. You’ll also need to make certain you’re commissioning someone who has experience applying makeup for photos.

If you still want to do your makeup yourself, do your research so you don’t use foundations with SPF for instance. Products with SPF can create a nasty glare under certain lighting conditions (such as strobes) and negatively impact the quality of your pictures.

Whatever you choose, remember that good makeup can make your final photos significantly better. Conversely, bad makeup can make your photos worse than not wearing any at all. Just make sure and do your research, or hire someone who’s work you absolutely love.

How to Look Good in Pictures - Eyes

Although good makeup is the single best way to enhance your eyes, lash extensions or strip lashes can also make a dramatic difference. Both have their advantages and disadvantages you should be aware of.

Just remember that subtlety is your friend here and good taste is everything. For instance, It might be tempting to go heavy on the volume, but this can quickly look like a caterpillar on your eye if you’re not careful.

Lash extensions

Before and after lash extensions by Ugly Ducklying Beauty Artistry

Lash extensions come in different lengths, diameters, curls and volumes for any look you want. A lash artist basically then glues the chosen extensions onto your existing lashes to make them longer/fuller.

The single hair extensions look the most natural. This is because you’re basically gluing a single hair to an existing lash. The volume lashes (measured in 2d, 3d, 4d, etc.) fork from one hair to four in the case of 4d lashes. High volume lashes done without taste can lead to that caterpillar look we talked about earlier.

The point is, good lash extensions will enhance your photos, while bad ones can make you look worse than doing nothing at all. Most lash artists will have their portfolio available on their website or Instagram for you to check out. It makes a huge difference to take the time and find a lash artist who’s work you truly love.

Strip Lashes

close up photo of a strip lash about to be applied to clients eye.
Strip lashes are glued to the clients lash line during the makeover.

Although lash extensions are a fantastic upgrade to enhance your eyes, they are also expensive. If you’re looking to save a little bit of money, strip lashes are also a good option to enhance your eyes.

We apply strip lashes for most of our clients photo shoots during the clients makeover. Lash extensions (mentioned earlier) are definitely the higher quality option, but it’s generally pretty difficult for most people to see the difference in the final photos unless the subjects eyes are closed like in the examples below.

This is what strip lashes look like close up when the subject is looking down. Lash extensions would be a better choice for this type of photo.
This is what strip lashes look like when the subject is looking into the camera from a typical portrait distance.

If you plan to have portraits taken with your eyes down or closed, strip lashes will not look as good as lash extensions. That said, they are still more than acceptable for almost everything except close up looking down pictures. If the subject is looking into the camera, close up headshots even look surprisingly good with strip lashes.

How Can I Enhance My Eyes In Photos?

In short, the best way to enhance your eyes for photos is to have your makeup professionally applied. If you have the money and want the absolute best, consider getting lash extensions the day before your photo shoot. If you don’t want to get extensions, strip lashes are completely adequate for most circumstances. During your session your eyes can be further enhanced with posing direction and photoshop. All of these elements work in concert to enhance your eyes in photos.

How to Look Good in Pictures - Your Smile

The next thing you should consider for your photo shoot is teeth whitening. Some people especially younger people won’t need this, but if you’re older, drink a fair amount of coffee, red wine, etc., whitening your teeth can be worth the effort.

I’ve seen clients worried about the color of their teeth hesitate to smile in front of the camera. Rather than try to work around your insecurity with closed mouth smiles, it’s best to whiten your teeth before your photo shoot.

Freeing your mind from insecurities before your photo shoot leads to better photos. This is because it allows you to focus on helpful things like your photographers direction rather than negative things like the condition of your smile.

Teeth whitening can either be done professionally by your dentist or at home with myriad of products you can purchase over the counter. Whatever you decide it’s not a bad idea talk to your dentist before you do anything for two reasons.

  1. Your dentist has access to better prescription grade products than what you can buy online.
  2. It’s better to ask a dentist about this stuff than taking advice from some photographers blog.

How to Look Good in Pictures - Nails

The final personal care appointment you should consider for your portraits is your nails. If you’re having headshots taken, doing your nails is obviously unnecessary as your hands won’t be in the portrait. If you’re doing 3/4 or full length portraits where your hands will be showing, having your nails done is something you should think about.

Personally painted nails don’t do it for me one way or another. The only thing that matters for painted nails is that the nail polish is either all on or all off. Otherwise just make sure they are manicured.

If you choose to do your nails, the best time to book your appointment is the day before your photo shoot. This will ensure that they are as fresh as possible for your final photos. Fixing chipped nails in photoshop takes a lot of time and you’ll always get better results capturing things as best as you can in camera.

How To Look Good In Pictures - Picture Day Outfits

Now that you know how to prepare your body for your photo shoot, it’s time to talk about outfits you’ll wear for your portraits. The question of what to wear to a photo shoot is something I get asked often and it’s honestly something I had a hard time trying to answer for this post. This is because everyone has a different style, likes and dislikes when it comes to clothes. What to wear for your photo shoot also depends greatly on what the pictures will be used for. For example, you’ll probably want to dress differently for professional headshots then you would for legacy portraits.

Acknowledging the above challenges, I thought the best way to answer this question was to give you a list of some of my favorite online clothing rental services. Each rental services has a different angle they specialize in which should be really helpful. Most offer a significant discount for the first month which also makes them really affordable for a photo shoot.

Choosing the niche of the rental company for the type of photos you want should help you figure out which service to browse first. Professional women for instance might find “Infinite Style by Ann Taylor” a perfect choice for their Headshots. Those looking for cute clothes for their children’s portraits will likely find things they love at “Rainey’s Closet.”

Where to Rent Clothes for Your Photo shoot

  1. Rent the Runway Unlimited – Designer Fashion for Women.
  2. New York & Company Closet – Designer Fashion for Women.
  3. Tulerie – Peer to Peer Clothing Rental Community.
  4. Rainey’s Closet – Stylish Children’s Clothing & Maternity.
  5. Infinite Style by Ann Taylor – Stylish Clothes With Professional Options.
  6. Express Style Trial – Latest Trends for Men & Women.

What Is The Best Color to Wear for Picture Day?

When it comes to the question of what is the best or worst color to wear for picture day, the short answer is that it depends. Factors such as the the location, the subjects skin/eye color, and accessories can all influence what works and what doesn’t.

Generally speaking, black, white, and earth tones  are safe neutral choices for most circumstances indoors and out. Saturated colors can definitely add interest to a photo, but are more likely to clash with other strong colors.

For those that want to plan a color scheme, I strongly recommend you experiment with Adobe color to generate a scheme rooted in color theory.

How To Look Good In Pictures - Conclusion

In conclusion, there is no single thing that you can do to prepare that will make all aspects of your photos amazing. A successful photo shoot is all about preparing lots of little things that work together to create a great final portrait.

I hope this post helped answer the question of how to look good in pictures for your upcoming photo shoot. My goal was to make it impossible for you to forget anything so you can show up to your session relaxed knowing you prepared everything to the fullest extent possible.

If you found this article helpful, please like and share it. If you think I missed something, let me know your thoughts in the comments below so I can improve this post and make it better for everyone.

Jason Guy

I am a portrait photographer based out of Sonoma, California. I create portraits for people of all ages with the goal of making images that are timeless. Portraits you will look back on decades from now, and still love them just as much then as you do today. While flattering lighting and pose are important, capturing how others see you is what I ultimately strive for.

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