Look Your Best in Holiday Photos

Yes, it’s that time of year again, when we’re forced to mug for the camera at the end of a long day. In the past, I’ve mastered the surprise good-bye. A reasonable excuse (“The kids are exhausted!” “We have to feed the cat!” “We forgot to TiVo SNL!”) coupled with a quick slide out the door usually keeps cameras safely in their cases. But these days, even your MIL has a camera phone (well, mine doesn’t, but yours probably does), and having your picture taken is harder to avoid.

And besides, wouldn’t you like to just look GOOD in the darned things? Wouldn’t you like to print out lots of pictures of your friends and family–with you in them? It’s easier to stand still for a photo when you know you aren’t going to look like a bridge troll 90% of the time.

“But I always look like a bridge troll in photos!” you say. Bollocks to that! Nobody looks like a bridge troll (at least not all of the time), and few people are naturally photogenic. Even if you aren’t conventionally attractive, you can figure out what flatters your face and your body and do it. Every time.

“Every time?” you say, giving me a sexy one-eyebrow lift. “The same expression? Same pose?”

Yes. Every time. Plenty of regular-looking women come off as beautiful in photographs simply because they know what works for them, and they stick to it. I noticed long ago that certain celebrities seem to always have the same expression, even the same body positioning, in all photos taken of them on the red carpet (and most candids, too).

Want to pose in photos like a celebrity this holiday season? The next time someone whips out a camera and says, “Cheese,” just follow these simple tips and you’ll be Julia Roberts every time. (Note that the following examples were intended to look like unprofessional snapshots done quickly in someone’s foyer. Most of the time, the person taking  your picture isn’t a pro [nor am I] and they aren’t taking the time to set up a great shot, so you need to know what to do when there isn’t anyone looking out for your best interests).

RULE #1: Don’t just stand there. Angle your body, and if it bends, bend it.

Never let yourself be photographed head-on, with your feet and shoulders evenly facing the camera. This isn’t a mugshot. Place one foot behind the other and turn your body slightly away from the camera. Act like you’re making more room for other people so it doesn’t look like you’re posing. Put one hand on a hip, and hide the other behind your back. Straight arms look squishy.



Here I’m squared up with my feet and shoulders facing the camera, arms flat at my sides. Barely smiling, but that’s another issue. I look sloppy, chunky, and irritated.


I moved my right foot behind my left and placed most of my weight on that back leg. Put one hand on my hip and hid the other behind my back. I still look pissy, but slimmer.

















The classic “don’t go without taking a picture!” snapshot, and I’m a sack of potatoes, just standing there, angling nothing, bending nothing.


Photography still sucks, but the model has made some mild improvement: moved one foot behind the other, arms still hanging flat. Hair still taking flight from the left.

















Here we go! Got one hand on a hip, the other mostly hidden. Could have tucked it away more for a thinner presentation. Sassy, but not overly so.


ALTERNATE IDEA: Take one step forward for the shot, as if you were photographed in the act of walking. It creates an appealing sense of movement and usually hides one leg behind the other. It’ll make your thighs and hips look narrower. 



The Paris Hilton “Oh, were you taking a picture?” walk. I waited on my back leg until a breath before the shutter clicked, and then I took the step forward. Surprisingly easy to time. Gives a woman her best shot at an hourglass figure.


RULE #2: Stand up straight, bring your ears forward, and think amusing thoughts. 

Stand up straight AFTER you’ve put your legs and arms in the right spots, that is. Don’t slouch. But once you’re in position, think of bringing your whole head forward just a tad–more like moving your ears forward than your chin. Some people recommend tilting your chin up and your forehead out, but that’s sort of the same thing. The point is you want to tighten your neck and bring the focus to your face, not any double chins created when you smile. 

I say “think amusing thoughts” rather than “laugh” because of how not-photogenic my own laugh is:



This is what I really look like when I laugh. Tiny eyes, pointy nose, double chin. Not what I want on my Christmas card.


Now I’m not laughing–I’m thinking of something that once amused me, and holding onto that “laugh.” I’m laughing, not chortling. Also note the slimming effect created by the change in leg and arm position. Also note the terrible hair that went uncorrected for this whole shoot.


















RULE #3: Gather, don’t grab.

That is, if you’re taking a group shot, lift your hands up and around your friends’ shoulders. Don’t hunch up your shoulders in doing so. Just get your arms up and away from yourself. Avoid turning to the side and placing your hands on the front of someone else’s body. Better to wrap your arms around someone’s back than to scrunch your bicep up against your body to reach their chest.



Here I’m posing against my invisible husband, who is taller than me by nearly a foot. My cheek rests lightly against his broad, muscular chest. My hand snakes along his ridged torso. But now is not the time for snuggling, for snuggling makes my arms look squishy.


Better to wrap my arms around my friends, and remember to place one leg behind the other. This pose makes my arms look half the size that they do in the photo to the left. Also, I’m looking into the light, which is a good idea in this instance.

















Those are my quick-and-dirty tips on how to look your best when someone untrained and unskilled is taking your photograph at the end of a long day!

Give my ideas a test drive and let me know if they work for you. Do you, too, have a laugh that makes you look like your own twin of the opposite gender? Are you one of the lucky few who knows exactly how to smile to keep your eyes from disappearing? Or do you plan your escape route every time you see somebody fiddling with a Nikon?


31 responses to “Look Your Best in Holiday Photos”

  1. jbrayweber says:

    All wonderful tips, Jamie! I always try to have one foot forward or be turned sideways a tad. I’ve also heard to not smile with your lips completely closed, or full-on teeth, but slightly parted. Apparently, this gives you a more relaxed, feminine smile.

    I like the ears idea. Will try that one. 🙂


    • Jenn, you happen to be one of the blessed few who is naturally photogenic — or perhaps it’s all artistry?? Now I wonder! Since you already know about not squaring to the camera and have considered the best way to smile…

      Now I’m going to work on my non-laughing face. I do not have a great smile for photos (that’s why I went with the laugh). My mouth is small, and smiling bunches up my cheeks and squishes my eyes–and my cheekbones and eyes are easily my best features.

      • jbrayweber says:

        Surely you are referring to someone else. Haha! Another trick I learned, which doesn’t really extend to this topic, is to always accentuate your positive features to minimize the features you are self-conscious about (like Paris Hilton’s nose). For me, it’s hair, eyes, and boobs. At least that’s what I’ve been told. Helps reduce wandering stares to my fat butt, not-so-clear skin, and large thighs. *cringes*

        Girl…you have a beautiful smile, and I love your ‘laughing face’.

  2. Laurie Kellogg says:

    Great tips, Jamie! I love the whole ear thing.

  3. Janet B says:

    I learned how to pose a few years ago when I won participation in a workout camp a few years ago.
    Everyone got professional pictures taken. Lean your head forward, tuck your chin slightly and turn it to the side slightly. AND smile also with your eyes! Psst- T-tapp fan.

    • Yes! “If it bends, bend it” applies to one’s neck, as well!

      I’m going to try your technique in the mirror when I get home. I’m wondering if it creates a double chin? Tucking the chin in seems like it might…?

  4. Wow – fabulous tricks! I will definitely employ : )

    Thanks so much, Jamie! And you are beautiful!

    • Har, thanks! I realized pretty quickly last night the rub in my plan: I’d have to take and post pictures of myself looking schlubby to prove my point! I vowed to donate the jeans I was wearing in the first set–they don’t fit and aren’t flattering. I was walking around yesterday feeling like my fly was down all day just because of how badly they fit in the lady-parts region.

  5. Jamie,

    These are wonderful tips. I never knew to move my ears forward. I’m totally going to try it.

  6. My family members will be so jealous when I, at last, take the best picture on Christmas Day instead of looking like a toad! Thanks for the tips! I’ve tried the side angle and moving a foot forward, but didn’t realize I needed to tuck an arm behind me. And I’m absolutely certain I can’t move my ears, but all good advice.

    • OH, the ear thing. I didn’t mean to actually move ONLY your years — I mean move your whole head forward using your ears as a reference point. Some people call it “the turtle,” if that helps…

  7. Tamara Hogan says:

    Jamie, this post is such a BLAST! You definitely give Victoria (Posh Spice) Beckham a run for her money. 😉

    I’ll have to give your body positions, and “think of something amusing” smiling technique, a try the next time I see someone with a camera. My face is asymmetrical as it is, but when I smile, it turns into something Picasso might have painted. {{shudder}}

    • HA! Posh is the QUEEN of the practiced pose!! I love how in the first image on that article she knows the lighting is bad and she’s trying to look up into it to reduce the shadows on her face. Girl knows she’s English and has to work harder than everyone else… (I like to joke about how a British 10 is an American 7, Brazilian 5, and Swedish 3, but I’m not a very nice person).

      So, asymmetry, I has it. Virtual fist bump of sympathy. I have struggled with my eyebrows for years because one is much higher than the other. I can make their shapes alike or their bottoms align, but not at the same time. It’s a constant struggle. In the 90s I could just pluck them to chic thinness, but then the thick brow came back in style. I tried au natural, but I’m too much of a hairy blonde to rock a natural brow (remember that scene in The Wedding Singer where Drew Barrymore’s mom told her that she had to get married before her face got hairy? Something about being a hairy blonde? It’s a thing.)

  8. Love these tips, Jamie. I’ve become a big fan of angling away from the camera. Or running and hiding in general. Hah! And I’ve noticed the candid shots where I’m laughing or not trying to pose actually turn out the best for me. Sometimes. 😉 I like your tip to try to look amused rather than laughing.

    • YES! It’s like once we see the angle thing, it’s easy to remember. I need to tell everyone I know.

      Maybe you should practice your “laugh” and use that for posed photos. It’ll feel weird, but it’s probably worth it. I need to find my “serene smile” face, too, so that I have more than one go-to expression. I can’t be laughing in every photo!

      I used to just grit my teeth and let it happen, but then I read that article about the woman who thought she was too fat to be photographed and was never in family photos, and she was sad about that. Sometimes I like to remind myself that I’m unlikely to ever look BETTER than I do today, and in twenty or thirty years I’ll probably look back at 36-year-old Jamie and think I was pretty darned hot.

      And really, it’s not just about how I look. It’s about how I feel, and how annoyed I get by people who try to mess with me as I’m trying to leave. Also, they usually want me to hug them, and I do not like to hug people.

  9. Rita Henuber says:

    Really good info. Thanks for sharing. Full out laughing is a no-no for me. Looking happy is good for me.

  10. Diana Layne says:

    Cool. I never realized you could practice poses for photos! I’m always trying to hide or glare at anyone trying to take my pic.

  11. June Love says:

    Jamie, I love those tips. Especially the ear one. I HATE having my picture taken. I’ll practice posing because next month we’re having a wedding in the family. I need all the practice I can get.

    BTW, you look gorgeous in all of your pictures. 🙂

  12. Okay, this is the awesomest post ever!!! I love it! “This isn’t a mug shot.” Bwahahaha. These are fantastic tips. Thank you so much! No, really, I need all the help I can get. XOX!

  13. Vivi Andrews says:

    Fantastic tips! I’ll be filing all this away so hopefully I have some decent pics this year. Thank you!

  14. Great tips, Jamie! I’m ready for my close-up now!

  15. Traci Krites says:

    Very useful!! Thanks!!


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