What makes a person photogenic?

There are certain things people can do to make themselves more or less photogenic. Still, there are certain things that some people are lucky enough to have, which means that they’ll take a good photo, and that’s got a lot to do with maybe bone structure, and probably as well, being able to smile naturally and look natural in front of the camera which doesn’t seem to something that everybody can do. If you need advice on your wedding photography, check out our photography packages and services at Wild Romantic Photography.

The kinds of things that people can do to make themselves look more photogenic are things like, for example, a study recently where camera angle can make people look more or less attractive, depending on whether they’re male or female. So a camera angle tilted looking down on a female face makes her look more feminine and, therefore, more attractive. In contrast, a camera angle looking up at a male beginning makes them look more masculine.

There are things that women do, obviously like wearing makeup which tends to give you a healthier appearance, and we know that a healthy appearance is closely related to attractiveness. Things like having a healthy skin colour and skin texture, things like having blood perfusion in the skin, so someone who exercises regularly has a lot of blood circulation, makes them look healthier.

Evidence recently from the perception lab at St. Andrews shows that these things are related to the diet you eat. If you’ve got lots of fruits and vegetables in your diet, you’ve got better skin colour, and you look healthier and, therefore, more attractive.

So there are things that people can do to enhance how photogenic they are. Still, I think ultimately, it comes down to how naturally people behave in front of the camera and perhaps fundamental things like bone structure.

So the combination of genes, good health, cosmetics, and the skill of the photographer. But what makes a face attractive in the first place? There are things like having an asymmetrical look, so not having too much asymmetry in the two halves of the face tends to be associated with attractiveness, and that’s just good luck and good genes.

We know that women with feminine facial features are treated as much more attractive, so things like having bigger eyes and a smaller jaw. In men, it seems to be more complicated. Having sort of a feminine male face is attractive, and so is having a masculine male look.

The knowledge that everyone is photogenic informs all of my work.

The word ‘photogenic’ literally means “light-generating”, so this statement can be considered a spiritual metaphor.

Affirming that everyone is photogenic is a reminder that everyone that we cross paths with has the potential to illuminate our lives if we are open to it. And that every one of us has the potential to be lights in the lives of those around us.

What does photogenic mean?

I am photogenic means looking good in pictures. 

The word “photogenic.”

First of all, let’s talk about the idea of using the word “photogenic” to describe a person. My dictionary gives the following definitions:

photogenic – adjective

  • (esp. of a person) looking attractive in photographs or on film: a photogenic child.
  • Biology (of an organism or tissue) producing or emitting light.

Setting aside bioluminescence, I’ve got a big problem using this word, primarily to refer to a person. Proper use of the term “photogenic” refers to scenes or moments. There are plenty of scenes that are easier to photograph than others. If you’ve got the proper lighting and a complimentary background, any photo taken in that context will already look pretty decent.

A photogenic scene may be a particular landscape at a specific time of day for a specific season with just the correct cloud cover type. Another photogenic scene might be a particular outfit in front of a particular wall, in a nice patch of light. It’s a photographer’s job to recognise or create photogenic scenes.

When a person’s eyes light up in true heartfelt joy, now that’s a photogenic moment. They can be hard to catch. Again, that’s the photographer’s responsibility, and if they miss it, that has nothing to do with the person being photographed.

Even if we’re accepting this idea of using the word “photogenic” to describe people—then it must be evident that we’re *all* photogenic because you can take an attractive portrait of anyone. Your photographs will be your most treasured wedding keepsake. Not sure where to start when it comes to looking for your wedding photographer of choice?

But if you look ugly in pictures, doesn’t that mean you’re ugly in real life too?

What makes a person photogenic?

Nope. Many people assume they must look the same in pictures and person, but that’s a myth. Few people are ugly. Most people fall around average-looking. However, it’s widespread for average-looking or even beautiful people to look bad in particular pictures.

Pictures do not “tell the truth.” Our brains are wired to see things slightly differently in person vs. looking at pictures, so it turns out images are much harsher than real-life — meaning they over-emphasise flaws.

Also, depending on the camera angle and how close the lens is to you, cameras can distort your features, so – for instance – your nose or arm looks more significant than it is. Pictures can also catch you in action, capturing a split-second ugly expression that no one would have ever noticed in person.

In fact, according to research out of Princeton, it’s possible to look like an entirely different person from one picture to the next.

Are some people born photogenic?

Yes, in that, some characteristics naturally photograph better.

People with highly angular faces (sharp cheekbones, square jaw, etc.) naturally look good in pictures because these shapes capture light well. This is as opposed to rounder faces, which the light bounces off of in all directions.

It’s not that people with angular faces are always better-looking. It’s just that they have an easier time getting good pictures of themselves. It should be noted that lots of professional models have round faces and still manage to be highly photogenic. This leads us to the following question:

Can you become photogenic?

Yes, you can look more attractive in pictures through learning and practice. So if you’ve been asking yourself, Why do I look bad in pictures, the answer is because you haven’t practised.

Here’s excellent proof of this: Women are, as a whole, more photogenic than men, but also, women statistically have softer, rounder facial features than men. Planning your dream wedding and don’t want to miss out on the special moments on your big day? Worry no more, Wild Romantic Photography has you covered.

This means that men would be the more photogenic ones if we only accounted for the way people are born. But because women are culturally conditioned to take more pictures of themselves, more women than men have the skill.

How to stop taking bad selfies forever


Learn about what looks good and what looks terrible in selfies and other photos.


Knowing what to do is just the start. Unless you practice, you’ll never do the right thing when the cameras come out. Practice ensures that you’re correctly following the techniques. It also builds muscle memory, so you don’t have to think about it when the moment comes.


Finally, when you think you’ve mastered some basic techniques, you need to get feedback from someone else about how you look.

You might be tempted to skip this step, but it’s important because research shows we’re terrible at seeing pictures of ourselves objectively. Your friends and family – believe it or not – can’t see them entirely objectively either.

For example, you might look at a photo of yourself and think you nailed a sexy face. And your best friend might think so too. But a stranger might look at the same image and think you look mean or arrogant.

Photographing people

What makes a person photogenic?

There are indeed particular challenges in getting good results while photographing people. Much like with any other subject, the picture needs to be well lit and well-composed. You may need to pay attention to your shutter speeds and apertures, contrast ratios and depth of field and countless other variables—but light and composition are the main things in most photographs.

However, with human subjects, you’ve got these extra variables that you need to factor in: comfort, emotion, and timing.

The beauty in people is there all the time, even when a camera’s not around. People are beautiful when they’re finding joy in life, being kind to others, and enjoying themselves. Of course, the photo will be more vital if you’ve nailed the lighting, composition, focus etc.… but people look beautiful in pictures if they are comfortable and happy and if you’ve caught them at just the right moment. That’s all there is to it. It’s certainly tricky to see real emotion in a photograph. And it’s a lot harder if your subject isn’t comfortable. But those are challenges for the photographer to deal with, not the issue.

If you’re photographing babies, they’ll let you know right away if they’re uncomfortable – but as we age, we start to be trained to pose for photographs, and we try to hide our discomfort behind our best fake smile. We sometimes tolerate being photographed because a situation dictates it, but it’s not always a pleasant situation. The truth is that being photographed (or photographing someone) is far from a natural social interaction.

Instead of seeing eye to eye, one of us has a big hunk of metal in front of her/his face. Instead of expected personal space relationships, the photographer’s compositional choices may dictate that s/he be strangely close, far, or coming from an unusual angle. This kind of interaction can be downright weird for most people. It can result in discomfort, which then leads to worse portraits. We have the best wedding photographer in Yarra Valley to capture your beautiful moments on your wedding day.

The “secret” to looking good in pictures

You already look great. If you want to know how to look good in pictures, here’s the trick: Don’t stress out about it. Make sure you’re having fun. And of course, have a good photographer around. Let’s be clear about this: If they want to create good pictures, it’s the photographer’s responsibility to make sure you’re comfortable with the process, not yours, just like it’s their job to pay attention to lighting and composition. And if someone takes a pile of hideous pictures of you, it simply means that they’re not an exceptionally gifted portrait photographer; it has absolutely nothing to do with you.

The “unphotogenic” cycle

It’s important to remember that the photograph’s quality reflects on the photographer, not the subject because frequently, people can get stuck in a nasty cycle of bad photos. If someone sees some bad pictures of themselves, they tend to take it as a judgement on their appearance or self-worth. They start to think of themselves as “unphotogenic”,… and when a camera next comes around, they are fearful of more bad photos, and therefore less comfortable around the camera… This self-fulfilling fear makes for more bad shots and a spiral of discomfort that results in a no-less beautiful person and a lot less comfortable around cameras.

The people who are the most comfortable in front of cameras are actors, models and celebrities who are used to being in front of an audience all the time. Even though our society idealises them, it’s important to remember that their situation is the strange exception, not the rule. It’s perfectly normal and healthy to be uncomfortable in front of a camera. What isn’t fit is that we are taught to be more concerned with our appearance than with our actions.

The Beauty-Industrial Complex

There are giant industries built around reinforcing this idea that some people are “photogenic.” They promote insecurities and then sell you things to try to make up for it, or sell you stories about other people who are somehow more important or better than you.

When you next see a model on the cover of a magazine, remember that someone spent a lot of money to create that image; outside of the frame, there’s a team of assistants, stylists, and specialised lighting equipment. The background has been specially arranged, and the image is probably heavily photoshopped. They may have created a photogenic scene in the studio and put that model in there… but that in no way means that that person is more photogenic than you are.

As big corporations have tried to reach larger audiences through mass media, the content that they sell us has become dumbed down to the lowest common denominator. It’s all pop-stars and cheap distractions because that’s the easiest way for them to make money.

But the most important and relevant stories are happening in your community. Just take a moment to shake loose that filter that society has conditioned you with and take a good look around; you’ll find that all around you are lovely, unique, beautiful people doing incredible, fascinating things to make the world a better place. Just take a moment to appreciate it. At Wild Romantic, we have the best wedding photographer in Mornington Peninsula to capture every single moment on your wedding day.

Beyond simply looking good in pictures

Most people who ask how they can be more photogenic want to look attractive instead of evil or ugly in selfies and other pictures taken of them. But there’s more to looking good in pictures than just looking… well, good.

Sometimes being photogenic seems like a trait that a lucky few inherit genetically, and yet some folks appear to improve over time. Celebrities and high-powered executives often start out looking terrified and stiff in their photos, but after a few years in front of the lens, they appear more natural and poised. So is being photogenic be learned and practised? Does it just take time and about 60 bajillion shutter clicks?

Hard to say, of course. Looking great in photos can be traced back to confidence and relaxation: If cameras make you nervous, you’ll involuntarily cringe. And even a tiny cringe will be magnified in a still image. If you don’t mind cameras, you’ll grin and be yourself. And in the latter case, you needn’t be drop-dead gorgeous to take drop-dead stunning photos. We couldn’t say how, but cameras can capture––and even magnify––confidence. Confidence in a photographic subject is what makes an image compelling and mesmerising. Lack of confidence makes an image strangely upsetting and often causes the observer to feel uncomfortable in sympathy with the subject.

Of course, it can be a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation. Just flat-out telling someone to relax and be confident? Especially when a camera is involved? Not typically very effective. It a little like telling someone to think about anything besides zebras. You can do your best to fake relaxation and confidence by breathing deeply, rolling your shoulders back, and thinking of something truly funny or joyous when someone hauls out a camera. But can you fake it till you make it to being wildly photogenic? We honestly don’t know. Since every phone is also a camera and every image is likely to be shared across several media, many of us hope so. If you’d like to work with professional photographers for your wedding, book with us at Wild Romantic Photography.

This is important:

Next time you catch someone describing themselves as “unphotogenic”, – take a moment to remind them that the whole idea of “some people” as “photogenic” is just a harmful construct. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves. And remind others. So remember this: Right now, with that bit of hint of a smile on your face, you’re the cutest.