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15 Tricks to Look Better in Photos Every Time

Updated: Oct. 12, 2023

Selfies! Profile pics! Group shots! Here's how to put your best face forward—and look good in pictures in any setting.

Young couple taking a selfie
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Getting the perfect shot

There’s nothing worse than seeing an awful picture of yourself, especially when you thought you looked great … or at least OK! When you’re scrolling through your social media feeds, it might seem like everyone else was offered a secret class on how to look good in pictures, while you were left behind to do the same lackluster pose at every event. The thing is, there’s an art to looking amazing in photos, and one of the key steps is knowing that you’re well-versed in that art.

“A good photo calls for feeling confident,” says Don Orkoskey, an event and portrait photographer. “That’s something that a lot of us lack when it comes to being in front of a camera.”

Fortunately, it’s easier than you think to nail each photo—as long as you know a few tricks. According to the pros, some angles are more flattering than others, certain lighting boosts your glow and a few surprisingly simple makeup tips can make all the difference. (Yes, now’s the time to splurge on a top-notch foundation!) Want to turn back the clock too? Brush up on these genius tips to look younger, including how to dress to look younger, find the best makeup for older women and steer clear of hairstyle mistakes that accidentally age you.

We asked professional photographers and makeup artists to divulge their secrets so you can look as amazing as possible in every group shot and selfie. Your camera roll is about to look so much better—and you’re about to be so much happier.

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Woman photographing female friend on rock
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Forget about the results

Taking photos can be stressful, especially if you have limited time to get the shot or you’re anxious you’ll be the only one in a group photo who looks less than stellar. But one of the easiest ways to look better in your snaps is to relax. “The best advice I could give is to stop caring so much about the result,” says professional photographer Robert Lowdon. “The more nervous we get as subjects, the worse the photos get.” Stress-induced habits like compressing the chin and flashing a tense smile can read as awkward on film. “People with a don’t-care attitude are the ones who always look the best,” Lowdon says.

Not sure how to loosen up? Pretend to be your model-esque alter ego. “I give my less-confident clients a quick acting lesson,” says Orkoskey. “Envision yourself as you want to be seen. Think of someone you admire and pretend to be them.” Doing so can have a transformative effect and help you get out of your head, he explains. From there, you’ll be better able to loosen up and try new things—without worrying if you look too silly, too old or too odd. These confidence quotes can help too.

Browsing Vacation Photographs At Home
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Study a favorite photo of yourself

To improve the quality of future photos, look closely at snaps from the past in which you think you looked best. What was your best angle? What clothes and accessories were you wearing? You’ll probably see that you were laughing or having a good time. Capturing someone when they’re relaxed or most animated usually makes for the best results. You can also study photos of other people, such as influencers and celebs. Make note of (or even screenshot!) the images they take that you like best. Use their poses and facial expressions as inspo for your own pics, then try them at home when the pressure isn’t on.

women sitting on railing at Sausenburg Castle
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Enlist help from a friend who makes you laugh

Your BFF could be the key to a killer photo. “One way to introduce a natural, relaxed state is to bring a friend who makes you laugh,” says Samantha Shannon, owner of Samantha Shannon Photography. “Laughter will bring genuine smiles to your photos.” If you’re taking pictures by yourself, ask a friend to hype you up, make you giggle and help you identify your best angles. And if you’re taking a casual shot with friends, lean in to your relationship. You could tell an inside joke to induce natural laughter or hug your pal as the camera snaps to add movement to the image, which will often make it look better. When you’re genuinely happy and having a good time, you’ll be more naturally photogenic.

Caucasian Lady Holding At Garments In Boutique
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Plan a photogenic outfit

A great outfit can help you feel confident and elevate your photos, but for even better results, you need sufficient contrast between your outfit and the background. “You never want to wear white on a white background, for example, as you might just look like a floating head,” says Lowdon. So if you’re wearing a white dress, you may want to take your photos against a background of grass as opposed to a white or concrete wall. Prints, especially small ones, can also confuse the eye, Lowdon notes.

So, what should you choose if you’re trying to figure out how to look good in pictures? “Right now, I am seeing a lot of rich saturates and bright colors come into style. These can create dynamic images, which I love.” They’ll also bring brightness and a youthful glow to your face, which can help you look younger. Wear a pair of flattering jeans on the bottom for a simple outfit.

Smiling woman standing against door in resort at Deauville, France
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Know what to do with your hands

One of the hardest parts of taking a photo is figuring out what to do with your hands. Professional photographer Paige Ray has the fix: the peanut hand. “I learned this from a runway model a few years ago, and it has been a perfect solution and a wonderful pose that everyone can do,” Ray says in a TikTok. “You’re simply going to hold a pretend peanut in your hands, relax your hands, drop them against your waist, pop a hip, and boom.” Ray also notes you can move your peanut hand off center for added visual interest. Either way, it will replace the hand-on-hip pose that many of us default to, and it puts your body in a relaxed position and positions your upper arms in a flattering way as well. On the flip side, make sure to avoid these body-language mistakes—in photos and everyday life.

Beautiful woman using mascara.
Hugo Abad/getty images

Be camera-ready

Makeup that looks great on camera is easy to achieve if you know what you’re doing. If you have large pores, fine lines or wrinkles, start with one of the best primers to smooth out your skin and prevent creasing. (Creasing, of course, will make you look older.) Then, go with a liquid or cream foundation, advises cosmetologist Mindy Green, owner of MG Beauty. A formulation like Make Up For Ever’s HD Skin Undetectable Longwear Foundation, which is a favorite of TV makeup artists, will give a more youthful glow and lay nicely over the primer. Then add an under-eye concealer a shade lighter than your natural skin tone, and to add dimension, use blush on the cheeks, contour under your cheekbones and add highlighter on your cheeks, mid-forehead and Cupid’s bow.

The eyes and lips offer the opportunity to play with your appearance. “Use a lip color a little darker than you normally would,” Green says. “The flash in photography can wipe out some of the intensity of the color.” If you’re a makeup novice, stick to two shades on your eyes. Green suggests a highlighter under the brow and a mid-range shade on the lid. “Don’t go too dark if you aren’t proficient with blending shadow,” she adds.

Female influencer recording make-up tip videos using smartphone, for her blog
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Peek at your makeup on your camera

Not quite sure how to do photo-ready makeup? You’ll love this genius makeup trick. “I find it easier to actually apply my makeup in my phone camera if I know I’m going to be taking a lot of snaps,” says makeup artist Charlie Miller, owner of Charlie Betty Beauty. “This way, you can easily see how your makeup is going to turn out on your actual camera.” It might sound strange, but it’ll ensure you apply just the right amount of blush to show up in your pictures without making you look like a clown.

I whip my hair back and forth
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Give your hair a last-minute lift

To give your hair a quick touch of volume, flip it upside down and shake through your strands with your fingers. When you flip it back, you’ll be left with an imperfect and tousled look that will appear textured, natural and effortlessly gorgeous in photos. For even more dimension, pull your hair into a loose topknot in the moments leading up to your photo. Take it out, and give it a quick spritz of dry shampoo. You’ll have a little extra va-va-voom to capture in your snap. Also keep in mind that certain hairstyles can make you look younger.

Attractive african girl makes selfie at the windowsill at cafe.
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Take advantage of natural light

You don’t need to be a photo pro to find good lighting. Lowdon suggests simply heading outside or snapping your shot in front of a window and positioning your face toward the light. Overhead lighting (like the kind in most rooms) adds to the appearance of uneven skin and under-eye circles, and it can create a gloomy, aged appearance. Definitely the opposite of what you’re going for!

Of course, this won’t help you if you’re in a dark bar or restaurant. In that case, point your face toward the light source for the best results and let the flash work its magic. And, of course, make sure to employ the other tips in this story, all of which will help and make up for the moody lighting.

portrait of a man on a beach during sunset
Ippei Naoi/getty images

Take pictures outside when the sun isn’t too bright

If you’re snapping your pics outside, plan to do so at specific times. “The best times for photos are usually early morning, just after the sun has risen, or late in the day, just before the sun sets,” says Lowdon. “This is the most flattering light you can get and is referred to as the golden hour by photographers. Another good option is to take photos of people on a cloudy day.” The diffused light will be less likely to cast shadows on your face. Plus, you won’t squint, which will exacerbate the appearance of wrinkles around your eyes. If you’re looking for the easiest tip on how to look better in photos, this is it.

Portrait of young woman wearing black hijab posing outdoors with hand on hip
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If it moves, bend it

If you find that you don’t look good in pictures, it might be because you need a posing refresher. Professional photographer Christine June has a key tip: If it moves, bend it. “You don’t want straight elbows and legs,” she says. If you’re standing and want to achieve a candid effect, try this. “Place your hand on your hip and bring your other hand up to touch your collarbone, earring or hair with relaxed fingers,” she says, highlighting a popular influencer snap you’ll see on Instagram. “Bend one knee and lean into your straight leg.”

For something that feels more posed—but far from stiff—hold a drink or your purse, or put your hands in your pockets to give your arms a bend. If you’re sitting, it’s a similar concept. “Have one hand touching your knee, and the other hand can go to that elbow or up higher to the shoulder area,” she says. “Ankles or knees are crossed.” Et voila—a posing formula that works every time.

Woman with her legs and arms crossed Leaning on a door
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Try a leaning pose

You’ll never look awkward in a photo again if you try a classic lean. “My favorite no-fail pose for someone taking a photo alone while standing is having them stand beside an object that they can lean on lightly—for example, a chair, dresser or table—with their legs crossed,” says professional photographer Jason Farmer. “This gives their hands something natural to do and elongates their body, as the weight will be on one leg, creating triangles with the arms.” If you’re not near any of those aforementioned items, find one in the wild. You’ll likely come across a wall, fence or railing you can use as a substitute. Prop your elbow, arm or hand against it, lean slightly toward the camera and you’re ready for the flash.

Women taking a selfie before workout
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Take photos from slightly higher up

It’s all about the angles, and if you take a closer look on Instagram, you’ll notice one very common flattering angle for women. “When you take a photo from high up, it makes the subject slightly smaller; the opposite happens when you take a photo from below pointed up,” says photographer Alexa Lynn. “In wedding photography, it is common practice to take a woman’s portraits from slightly higher to make them appear more feminine and flattering, and to take a man’s portraits from slightly lower to make them appear more grand and masculine.” Decide which effect you’d like, and position your photographer (and yourself) appropriately.

Also keep this maxim about how to look good in pictures in mind when taking a selfie. Taking a picture from higher up smooths your features and lets gravity work to your advantage. Even more important? You won’t end up with the dreaded double chin.

Portrait of friends enjoying in terrace party
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Stay in line for the group shot

The ideal group shot will have people staggered on different levels and depths. If you can help it, though, don’t be the person closest to the camera. That member of the group will always look more magnified than the others. As a result, you might see any perceived imperfections more and also look out of proportion, whether you’re taking a pic with your besties at the beach or in your group Halloween costumes.

Relaxed Portrait of a girl in a hat standing by a river
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Take a deep breath

Lynn notes that taking a deep breath and exhaling as the camera flashes will ensure that your shoulders are relaxed and that you have proper posture. What’s more, it will help you let out those nervous jitters so you can take easy, breezy, carefree photos. Ask the person snapping the pic—whether it’s a professional photographer or your buddy at the bar—to give you a one, two, three. Inhale on one and two and exhale on three. You’ll never need to ask for a redo again.