How to look (and feel!) amazing in your wedding photos

May 27 | Guest post by Rebecca Ellison
All photos by Becca
All images ©Rebecca Ellison Photography

Wanna know how to look amazing in pictures? I can help you with that!

Since I'm a wedding photographer, I photograph a lot of regular people — people that are not used to being photographed, and usually feel clueless as to what to do. Hell, even if you aren't getting married, and you just want to know how to look amazing in pictures, keep reading as this applies to all sorts of photo opps…

The secret is being confident

It’s pretty easy, really. Ever heard the phrase, "fake it till you make it?" Well, there is some major truth to that when you find yourself standing in front of a camera wondering what you should be doing. Try to be relaxed and confident that you are looking good. A good photographer will tell you if what you are doing doesn't look right from their perspective, and give you guidance on other ways to stand or look, to arrive at the image that we want to capture. Stop second guessing yourself — it will show through in the photos.

Body language is super important in photos

Every tense part of your body finds a way to show in your photos, from your toes to your fists, shoulders, and eyes. Here are a couple of tips to keep in mind while in front of the camera. Let's start from the bottom up to see how to look and feel amazing in pictures…

Feet:

It's important that your feet are in line with the rest of your body. In normal life, if you turn your top half a direction, your feet follow, but I see people all the time move their top half in a different direction for a photo, but their feet are pointed the other way. It disconnects your top half from the lower half and can make you look awkward.

Hips:

How often do you ever stand with equal weight on each hip? Pretty rarely, huh? Then why would you do that in front of a camera? The quicker you get into a stance that feels natural to you, the faster you will relax and have fun in the session. As a general tip, put your weight on the back foot (farthest from the camera) and put a slight bend to your front leg. It can add a really appealing feminine S shape (especially with your arm slightly bent as well) to your figure.

Now, there's something about tuxes that make everyone stand like a mannequin. I know it isn't your normal attire, but pretend you are in your favorite outfit that you KNOW your partner likes, or one in which you are super confident. Mentally dress yourself in that and hold yourself as if you are wearing that, not the penguin suit. And check into your hips as well: how often do you stand straight up and stiff normally? Stick a foot out lean back and breathe. Those are the photos you’ll love the most.

Hands:

It’s amazing how unconscious people are about what their hands are doing while they are uncomfortable or nervous. Try to keep your hands from instantly clenching when they are at your sides. Finding something for your hands to do will also help make them (and you) more relaxed. Play with the ring on your finger, hold your hands together, or put them in your pockets.

Seriously: if you have pockets, use them! There is something automatically relaxing about having your hands in your pockets, and your entire body will react for the better for it. If you're wearing a suit, put your hands in your pants pockets. Pretend those suit jacket pockets don't exist, as they are too high up and can make you look goofy.

Bouquets are also great if you don’t know what to do with your hands. It’s the perfect built-in prop to give you something to do, and keep you looking relaxed. If you don’t have your bouquet, rest the palm of your hands on your hip or on your partner. If you can’t have your palm touch something because your fingers are in the way, you are clenching and should relax. Also, always have a bend in your elbow. The slight bend to your elbow creates an appealing curve to your body, which will show in the photos.

Shoulders:

Most people hold tension in their shoulders. If you are uncomfortable or cold, your shoulders will move up and close you in, which in turn makes your chest turn in and give a look that says “go away.” Release your shoulders whenever you feel them tensing. Roll them down and back and the rest of your body will release tension as well.

Eyes:

Eyes are the window to the soul; when being posed by a photographer, trust that. Even though you don’t know what I am looking for, your eyes do. So, if your photographer tells you to look over to them in a specific way, take a breath, relax, and look at them in that specific way AS IF IT WAS YOUR IDEA. By owning up to how you are looking at them, your eyes will show that confidence, and you will look stunning in the photos. It’s when you find yourself thinking “Am I doing this right?” or “What do I look like right now?” that your eyes will show the question and the image won't be as powerful.

Remember rule one: Just fake it like you know what you are doing.

So, in short remember these quick tips:

  • Point your feet in the same direction of your body
  • Put weight on one hip or another, not evenly-weighted
  • Relax your hands so they are open. If you don’t know what to do with them, lightly put them in your pocket
  • Keep your shoulders relaxed and down, even if you are cold
  • Don’t second guess how you are looking or standing, as it will show in your eyes.
  • Tell yourself you are doing exactly what you should be doing, and the confidence will shoot out of you!

Examples in how to look amazing in pictures

All images ©Rebecca Ellison Photography www.rebeccaellison.com

Take a look at this photo. You see how they are both standing on one leg, so their hips are angled and one leg has a slight bend to it? Also they both have their hands in their pockets. Her hand is lightly in her back pocket which gives the small bend to her elbow and adds shape. His hand in his pocket is also adding shape and giving dimension even though he is in a black sweater. They are also leaning into each other which tells our subconscious that they are a couple.

how-to-look-amazing-in-pictures

Even though these two are leaning up against the wall, they have shape to their bodies, their legs have a little curve, their hands have purpose (it might even look better a bit better if her right arm was bent at the elbow) and they are both confident in their expression.

Purple-Orange-DIY-Farm-Wedding-lamb-1web

These two are super close together, which translates beautifully in photos. Their faces are touching, which sometimes can feel weird, but translates visually as intimacy. He's holding his jacket, which is another great option, as it gives his hand something to do, while also gives a shape to his arm. Her arm is around him which is a perfect alternative if the bouquet is not in the photo, while also having the awesome benefit of showing off her tattoo!

Now that I've shared my tips, anyone else want to share their secrets to looking and feeling awesome in photos?

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  1. I heard somewhere that if you smile with your eyes, your expression will follow, and you'll capture a feeling of excitement in the photo.

    2 agree
  2. If you find it difficult to smile naturally placing your tongue against the roof of your mouth really helps!

    1 agrees
  3. I tried this over the weekend when I went to a gaming convention and got my picture taken with Doctor Who cosplayers (a Three, two Fours and a Twelve if anyone was wondering!) and I was really pleased with the results! Thank you so much, I'll definitely be using these tips when I'm being photographed at the wedding in a few weeks.

    2 agree
  4. Great article, Rebecca. I am also a wedding photographer and thought I would throw up a couple more ideas that help loosen up the body parts mentioned int the article.

    1. Fall into the rhythm of the shoot. With most engagement and bridal sessions, you will find that the early parts of the session are awkward and somewhat painful. Most of these photos tend to be throw-aways and this is where you tend to see those body parts working against you. This is because there is a groove that the photog has to get into with the clients. This usually comes in the form of posing call outs and minor body adjustments. And the sooner you hear the rhythm of those call-outs and relax into that groove, the sooner you discover natural positioning and movement that feels comfortable.

    2. Dance. It's a funny one, but sometimes getting out there and just shaking that rump can open up new positions and really loosen up that body language. I love for my clients to move a lot in the beginning. It helps shake off the nerves, but it also opens up the posing possibilities. That sense of rigidness dissipates and the session can really become fun.

    3. Turn your back to the camera. Sometimes some of the most interesting images are those that you aren't supposed to do. I love shooting couples as they look away from me into the world that's before them. I also believe that it's good for your body to take a few minutes and find its own place away from your mind's focus on that big glass lens. Once you can loosen that up, the hands, the feet, the shoulders, etc will follow.

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