How do I take flattering photos?

As a photographer, it is your responsibility to flatter the people in your pictures. You don’t want your photos to wind up next to a banana peel in your client’s bathroom trash. We’ve all discarded unflattering pictures of ourselves, ones that display a triple chin or an ungraceful stance. Fortunately, there are a few tips that you can use to avoid awkward body positions or uncomplimentary shots, so you get flattering photographs. If you need advice on your wedding photography, check out our photography packages and services at Wild Romantic Photography.

We all want to take more flattering photos. As photographers, we always try to make our clients feel happy and relaxed because that is when beauty shines through. Here are some tricks to take a more flattering photo and how to improve your complimentary photography game.

Count Down

Many seem to have abandoned the simple “1,2,3!” that once traditionally came before snapping a pic. At the very least, this lets someone know the photo is happening to make their own choices. A sneaky candid or two is fun, but when you don’t countdown, there’s always one person looking away, another person with their mouth open asking a question, and one camera-ready queen stealing the show. Just give everyone this baseline moment to focus. 

Loosen Up

Movement and action are your friends. My great friend taught me that throwing your arms above your head relaxes your shoulders. This isn’t realistic for brides necessarily, but we can get walking, and that’s often when the best photographs are taken. Any kind of movement you can employ is excellent, and it gets you to stop fixating on putting your arm on your hip, etc.

Ask the person you’re photographing what they want out of the session. Your job isn’t just to take the photographs; there is a psychological duty that accompanies your role as a photographer. You should help the people you’re working with feel beautiful, natural and comfortable. You want to capture natural beauty, authentic smiles, laughs and dimples. If someone isn’t satisfied with their body or their profile, there are endless ways to work with them to make sure they are happy with the way they look in their pictures.

A Primer on Angles

A change in angle can have a dramatic impact on the nature of your shot. Even a slight adjustment can take your subject from uncomfortable to sweet and inviting. 

Make sure the camera is at least eye level—if not higher—when taking pictures. This angle will highlight those gorgeous eyes and hide any less than flattering elements under the chin.

Your angle options boil down to three: high, low, and eye level. Choosing the right wedding photographer in Melbourne to capture every moment on your wedding day. 

High Angle 

This is an excellent option to make portraits more eye-catching. They are raising the camera higher than eye level adds definition to a person’s features and has a slimming effect. The higher you go, the more the subject will have to look up, making a face the point of focus. Extremely high angles add vulnerability and loneliness to the issue because they look into the camera like children looking up at their mother.

Low Angle

The low angle makes your subject more dominant, giving him or her a larger-than-life vibe. This can express power and importance, which is why executives love this angle. Or, when used playfully, it can instil your subject with an adventurous quality. Think hikers standing on rock formations. The low rise also elongates lines and figures — perfect for a flattering outfit or an action shot of your family’s star basketball player.

Eye Level

The go-to angle for portraits. Many of us shoot eye-level reflexively, but you might find that taking an eye-level shot that doesn’t feel flat can be challenging. Pose, outfit, lighting, background, and action all play a role in determining a quality eye-level shot.

Gone are the days when every photograph is taken from a straight-on angle. As a photographer, you are a creator; there are endless possibilities for exciting angles and shots. There are also some angles that you may want to stay away from to best flatter your subjects, whether large or thin.

For those cute sitting pictures, make sure your subjects’ legs aren’t flattened or squashed. Lifting their legs about a fourth of an inch creates an allusion that they are fully sitting down and results in a more flattering photo. Likewise, encourage your clients not to flatten their arms against their body.

Good posture is vital for portrait photographs. When your subjects sit down, make sure they are sitting straight up. It is even a good idea to lean forward a bit. Otherwise, parts of the body can end up looking more significant than the head. Tell your clients to bring their head forward a little and tilt it down slightly. The forward position will decrease the chance of neck wrinkles or a double chin.

In most cases, don’t photograph people upwards. For the most flattering results, shoot from eye level or looking downward. Of course, there will be cases where an upward angle provides a unique and creative photographic effect. In this case, the people may be more of a prop and not the main focus. Experiment with various angles, and you can pull the best results from those.

For standing shots, the most flattering angle is rarely straight on or entirely from the side. If you photograph your subject from a 45-degree angle, it’s the most slimming shot. People appear thinner from that angle than straight on.

Good advice for achieving flattering photo angles is to experiment and take a lot of shots. One downside to this approach is that it leaves you with loads of photos to sift through when creating your photo book.

Consider framing

Certain things look strange in pictures, but you don’t necessarily understand why if you’ve never studied photography. 

Think of standard film shots: close, medium, and wide. Then, relate them to how tight you are on a person. In a close picture, you might be focusing on the face and eyes, so cutting a bit off the top of their head looks fine—though it would be considered an extreme close up. But the further away you get, the stranger it appears. Conversely, it will look better in a wide shot if you can get the whole body—not most of the body, but the feet are out of the image. Wild Romantic Photography has the best range of services of wedding photography Yarra Valley. Check them out here.

Wear the Right Outfit

Clothes that don’t fit never look good—whether they are too big or too small. Encourage your subjects to wear clothing that they feel attractive in. It sounds simple, and it is. If people aren’t comfortable during the photography session, the final product will reflect that. People’s styles will vary, but a good rule is to stay away from clothing that is too tight or too loose. The tight dress can accentuate unwanted curves, and too-loose clothing can drown a person, also unflattering.

Horizontal stripes can visually widen someone’s body, so this may be a nix pattern in your next photography session. In addition to selecting flattering patterns, look for colours that make your subject feel beautiful. Those who want to look thinner in photographs should wear dark shades. Black is a figure-trimming colour. You can also try other hues like navy blue, mocha, burnt orange or a variety of others. But above all, your clients should feel comfortable and gorgeous no matter what colour they wear.

When picking colours, it’s best to avoid crazy patterns and colours that are too close to your skin tone. Pick something that provides a nice contrast to your skin.

Wear Bolder Makeup

How do I take flattering photos?

The camera washes out our features. Filling in brows, a bolder, brighter lip, and curling your eyelashes with lots of mascara all help your parts look more like they do in real life. I’m not suggesting that you overdo it, but it doesn’t read the same way in real life. We recommend testing it out a few times at home.

Mascara and lipstick (or lip gloss) are the essential makeup elements when posing for a photo. It’s easy to get carried away with eyeshadow and blush, but they can distract, so keep it simple and light. But really, the key to great makeup is the way that it makes you feel: Use what makes you feel beautiful because it’s not the makeup but your confidence that will make you shine.

Create a Flattering Pose

People naturally square their bodies and faces directly at the camera. The resulting image is a flat angle, which can be not-so-flattering. How do you make your subject stand out in a portrait? Pose them.

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Have your subject turn their body about 45 degrees from the camera, so roughly three-quarters of their body shows. Leaning on their back leg will remove that unnatural rigidness while leaning forward adds a sense of presence. Having them lean against a wall or railing adds a relaxed quality.

We recommend starting with the three-quarters pose and adjusting from there. Here’s how to do it:


Have your subject hide their back arm behind his or her body while the other arm is positioned in some way. It can be resting on their hip or posed near the face. We don’t recommend letting it hang at their side like a limp fish. The golden rule here: If it bends, bend it.


Have your subject turn their head to one side and lean their forehead slightly to the lens. This step will reduce flatness and add definition. You’ll want your issue to lead with their good side. Not sure which side that is? Take some practice shots to find out.

You can try poses that don’t follow the three-quarters rule if it doesn’t fit your approach’s location or angle. The takeaway is that small changes can breathe life into your subjects and your photos.

Find a Great Light Source

If you’re taking a selfie, turn towards the light. If you’re inside, face the window and put the phone between you and it rather than having the window behind you. If you’re outside (preferably late or early), you can face the sunset for a nice glow. Often the most significant background doesn’t match up with the most flattering light. For example, you might wish to have the ocean in the environment, but the sunset is behind you. As a photographer, I always favour the flattering light over the background; it’s often cropped out anyway. And of course, when it lines up well, fantastic!

The more light, the better. Smartphones and point and shoot cameras are getting better, but low light is still their weakness. Wherever you can find some light—whether it’s a window, a doorway, a candle, or a bathroom mirror—go towards it and take the picture there. This is one case where you want to follow the light. Also, keep that light in front of you and not to the side, which will result in unfortunate shadows on your face.

For portraits, we suggest starting with diffused light. Whether filtered through clouds or shade, diffused light softens your subjects. It’s even light so that it won’t hide part of your subject’s face in shadow. And while bright light may accentuate blemishes, diffused light makes for a smoother complexion.

Light offers infinite possibilities. It all depends on what you want to do. Dappled light shining through a tree’s crown creates mystery. Bright light from the side reveals a living Rembrandt. Sunsets paint with warm hues and striking shadows. And a child staring intensely at their reflection in a window always entices.

Can’t get away from a bright and direct light source? Consider repositioning your subject, so the light source is behind them. This will outline your issue with a luminous glow, which can have a very striking effect.

Unless you’re working in a studio, you won’t be able to control every aspect of your lighting. This is especially true if you enjoy creating memories outdoors. So, don’t worry too much about the best lighting. Instead, use your creativity to do the best with the lighting you have. We have an exclusive range of wedding photography Mornington Peninsula services. Check them out here.

Smile As You Mean It

This is a hard one, and everyone will have a different kind of smile that works best for them, but here are a few tips: The best smile is always an authentic one, so think of something or someone who makes you smile when posing for a photo. Genuine smiles come from within—so, happy thoughts! If you need to fake a smile, try pushing your tongue against the top front of your mouth. This will help lift your cheeks and make your smile feel real. Finally, when all else fails, look at the pictures of yourself where you like your smile and learn to replicate that. 

Shoulders back, elongate your neck, chin slightly forward but not up. If it feels funny, it’s usually working. The other old trick is to rest your tongue on the roof of your mouth when you’re smiling to avoid a wide grin. It works!

Shoot from slightly above. Shooting people from somewhat above (especially if they’re sitting) is more flattering than straight on. It slightly thins out the face. That’s why we hold our selfies just above when we’re taking them. Too much with a full-body makes you look short, but for a tight shot, it works wonders.

Group Shots

How do I take flattering photos?

Remember how we said extremely high angles give a feeling of vulnerability? That’s true, but it can have the opposite effect in the group shot.

Getting high above your subjects makes it easier to include everyone and offers an opportunity to spruce up the shot with a bit of action. The group can throw their hands up in a celebratory pose or engage in a group hug. If you try similar photos at eye level, chances are you’d lose someone in the crowd. (Oh, and please be safe in your quest for height.)

If you’re going for a more traditional group shot, then we recommend looking for a location that isn’t too busy, finding diffused light/shade, and posing people in a way that feels natural while still allowing for faces to be seen.

The traditional two-row image has its place, but a little creativity can go a long way. Family shots can have subjects in a loving embrace. Children can be staggered on bright, colourful playground equipment. And isn’t it just like Brad to hang upside down from a tree branch?

Be Wary of Photobombers

Check the background—don’t pose with random people or things behind you that distract you.

Do Something With Your Hands.

Don’t just leave them hanging! Put them in your pockets or on your hips, cross your arms…basically, anything is better than just having them hang there.

Bottom Line

This seems like it should be basic knowledge, but I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve asked someone to take my picture, handed them a phone, and then stood there frozen as they turned it towards me…and nothing happens. Are they taking a photo? Are they looking through my email? What’s going on over there? Unfortunately, we seem to have abandoned the art of taking other people’s pictures.

When people ask you to take a picture of them on their phones, continuously snap photos of them while they get into position and begin posing. They’ll have a selection and end up with a better shot. If you’d like to work with professional photographers for your wedding, book with us at Wild Romantic Photography.

This is a fun tip for getting candids, but it shows how disconnected we’ve gotten from taking pictures of other people. You can get better photos with a bit of direction and a few adjustments. If you have a terrible photographer in your life, forward this post to them. If it doesn’t, you might be (probably are) the culprit.