“I don’t like myself in front of the camera, so if you can make me look not awkward that would be great.”

I laugh because I’ve heard this more than once. In fact, a lot of my clients over the age of 18 aren’t the biggest fans of being in front of the camera sans selfie, but alas, they hire me to work with them.

Girl in photo smiling

Tara Jackson at Parker Palm Springs. She assumed she couldn’t take photos. Clearly that’s not true.

And I get it. Though I take photos of people, being in front of the camera hasn’t always been easy for me either, but I’ll give you a few tips that will help you feel comfortable in front of the camera, and no it doesn’t involve changing your weight or relying heavily on Photoshop.

Find your best angles.

Some of us feel we have the best side. Science says most people’s face is asymmetrical, so it makes sense that we favor one side over the other in photos. Take time in the mirror and work your angles and take selfies from those angles.

girl with blonde hair standing in front of yellow wall wearing a green sleeveless shirt

Personally, I don’t believe Maria has bad angles, but we played around with a bunch of them anyway.

Study them. What does want to ensure the most? Do you need to open your eyes bigger or squint them just a bit?

This isn’t about having, “The wrong eyes.” Your eyes are fine. What I mean is, sometimes our smile or pose will make us look a way we don’t like. I have naturally big eyes, so I have to learn to relax them when I’m in front of the camera so I don’t look “shocked.” A friend of mine has smaller eyes, so if she’s posing she has to make her eyes appear bigger. This, of course, is not a cultural thing. Some people’s eyes naturally go into a squint so they have to do tricks to appear less squinty. For this, I tell them to close their eyes and open them big on three with a smile. It sounds silly, but it works.

Determine your best smile.

Some have a great closed-mouth smile. Not me. It looks like an RBF (resting b***h face) or a failed attempt at being sexy. Or I’m extremely bored. I tried to master this but I haven’t gotten this down yet.

girl in red dress standing in front of a greenery

Instead of forcing her to smile, we thought of happy things: her husband, plants, getting out of direct sunlight, etc.

However, smiling with my mouth open works for me because it gives me some personality.

And of course, you don’t have to have one way or another. Work on the number of teeth you show in your photos.

Tap into past experiences to bring out your desired emotion (or make up a story).

I ask my clients to name five things that make them happy then choose the one that I think will bring out the best emotion. For moms, it’s more than likely their kids, so I tell them to go with the funniest thing their child has done. The facial expressions and body language change and become more relax because they’re not thinking about how they look.

Black woman standing in front of a yellow and white mural outside wearing a leather jacket. She is smiling, looking to the left.

Riche Holmes Grant shows her genuine smiles. We talked about her mini-me, Raven, who is adorable.

Create a mood board

Create a mood board with poses you like, with people that have features similar to yours. Knowledge is power, and in this case, knowing and studying your favorite poses helps you become more comfortable.

Most importantly, communicate with your photographer

With my clients, I like to talk to them to get to know who they are and leave the floor open for any questions they may have about the shoot. They also create a mood board and share it with me on Pinterest gives your photographer an idea of what you’re looking for. Knowing ahead of time helps ease the pressure off of both parties and helps the day of the photoshoot be enjoyable.

Black girl sitting on turquoise couch. She is smiling looking at the camera, wearing a black shirt, blue jeans, and black flats.

That’s me. Let’s communicate so we can make magic together (Photo by Melissa Claire Photography).

I don’t believe people can’t take a good photo.

I believe people aren’t aware that they can, therefore psyching themselves out into doing so. Getting comfortable in front of the camera takes work, but by studying your lovely body and face, you’ll be able to work with your photographer to have photos you’re proud of.