How to look great in a photograph...

OK, what's the secret? Diana's not that fantastic looking, after all. Maybe we'd all look that good if we only knew what to do in front of the camera? Emma Cook asks the experts

As the hysterical rapture subsides after the publication of Diana's "extraordinary", "sensational" and "very sexy" photographs on the cover of July's Vanity Fair, one question niggles. Given that she has access to the best lighting, make-up and photography that money can buy, why doesn't she look this good more often?

Photographed by Snowdon she looked cold and formal, but through the flattering lens of Mario Testino in Vanity Fair, she looks anything but. Di may be the most photographed woman in the world but, rest assured, when it comes to looking her very best she's down here with the rest of us. For her, like everyone else, truly flattering photographs are like gold dust. Look no further than self-conscious "meeja" circles, where the image of so many authors and celebs rests eternally on that one mugshot above their name, sultry, black and white and invariably ten years out of date. (See all Birchill's bylines. Ditto Amis.) Who can blame them though, when you consider the horrors contained in most of our photo albums?

So, why is a pleasing photo such a rare occurrence? According to the image experts, it doesn't have to be, with the help of some simple techniques. They say lighting, make-up, poise, and, yawn, "inner confidence" are as important, if not more so, than what you actually look like. Robin Derrick, art director for Vogue, gets nearer to demystifying the whole process. "To look good you need an awful lot: a great looking subject, great clothes, great hair, great lighting. And then you've got a chance." The rest will always be hit and miss - as even Diana has discovered. With this in mind, the following guidelines can at least improve the odds...

1 Attitude

First, and most important, relax and "be yourself." It's absolutely vital, say the experts. For proof, see this month's Vanity Fair pictures - if Di were any more relaxed she'd be comatose. Make-up artist Sally Kvalheim says, "The important thing is to be comfortable with yourself, not tense." Damien Demoulder, technical writer for Photo Technique magazine, has a novel approach. He always asks his models to say "Dog shit." "It makes people laugh and then you can take the picture while they're smiling."

2 Bonding

Building up a rapport with the man (or woman) behind the camera is the key to looking relaxed. So why should it be that loved ones in possession of an instamatic have such a tense effect on their subjects? Because they're probably not skilled in putting their subject at ease. Fashion photographer Peter Warren says, "It's making the model feel good. My way is to say something encouraging like, 'You're looking beautiful.' It sounds like a cliche but it works." Robin Derrick says, "In the Vanity Fair shots Diana is laughing and mucking about because Testino is a charming, funny man."

3 Lighting

Avoid bright sunlight and stick to something more subtle and diffuse. "Use nice side-lighting. Harsh sun makes you squint and can give massive nose shadows," warns Demoulder. He also recommends shooting outdoors: "Stand in the shade or wait for an overcast day." Newspaper photographer Jason Buckner advises, "Use a lot of light on the face to get rid of shadows and shoot down if they've got a double chin. If you're inside stand by a north-facing window with net curtains so the light is diffused." If all else fails, Buckner suggests one fool-proof addition. "Use a diffuser for a soft, hazy look - a pair of tights over the lens can work."

4 Strike a pose

If you want to look thinner Demoulder suggests sitting slightly sideways rather than straight on. "It can give the picture more depth and your body less width." Also, be aware of your hands - they often get in the way. Demoulder says, "Don't put them behind your back - you'll look like you're in a football team. Don't lean on them either - they can squash your cheeks. They're best kept in the lap." Keep your back straight and chin up and be aware of posture.

5 Make-up

We all know that the au naturel visage doesn't exist in photography - it's the result of a make-up artist who's deployed a ton of base and powder but skillfully disguised the fact. Experts are divided on whether or not to make-up for the camera. "Wear more foundation than normal - make it slightly heavier because photographic lights tend to show up all the blemishes," recommends Demoulder. Kvalheim disagrees. "Unless you're used to it, don't overly make-up. You'll automatically feel uptight and you won't be comfortable with yourself." If you want to disguise the plumper face, there's always the Liz Taylor technique; she famously wore a turban to pull back the surplus, giving a leaner, taut look.

6 Know your strong points

If you're vain enough to have read this far then this last guideline shouldn't seem too self-obsessed. Spend time poring over your photographs and noticing where you're going wrong. After about a year, you can learn how to look in front of the camera. Demoulder agrees. "Look through pictures and decide what you don't like. Then work out how to avoid those things." Learning which expressions are the most photogenic is probably the soundest advice. It makes all the difference to know whether a pout to the camera can give you sexual edge or just a couple of extra chins.

Where did they go wrong?

Be honest. Two 'IoS' guinea-pigs expose their worst, and best, snapshots to professional scrutiny


David Sandison, picture editor: "In the first photo, the printing makes her look particularly cold and pale. She's got very pale skin so she should wear a bit of of make-up - I'd also warm the lighting up slightly. The second shot is nicely side-lit. She looks more comfortable not smiling."

Mykel Nicolaou, photographer: "In the first shot, the framing and red- eye reduction could be better. She should be given the chance to pose beforehand - closing the eyes just before the shot relaxes facial muscles. The next pic is obviously better framed and the hands create a nice tension."


DS: "In the first one, he's been shot with an amateur flash which doesn't do him any justice. I'd photograph him with a slightly uneven light to give more texture to his face. Also, I think he's got quite interesting eyes, so I'd drop his chin down and make him look up. In the next shot, he's concentrated towards the camera and he's got a really nice smile."

MN: "There's too much shadow behind Iain in the first picture - one of the biggest pitfalls in snapshots. Like Emma, he should be given more of a chance to pose before the shot. The next one has caught a nice moment. The smile is really infectious."

Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol
art'Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' followed hoax reports artist had been arrested and unveiled
Life and Style

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

Stephanie first after her public appearance as a woman at Rad Fest 2014

Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
peopleJust weeks after he created dress for Alamuddin-Clooney wedding
Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
Arts and Entertainment
Leonardo DiCaprio talks during the press conference for the film

Film follows park rangers in the Congo

Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
Adel Taraabt in action for QPR against West Ham earlier this month
footballQPR boss says midfielder is 'not fit to play football'
First woman: Valentina Tereshkova
peopleNASA guinea pig Kate Greene thinks it might fly
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Nursery assistants required in Cambridgeshire

    £10000 - £15000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Nursery assistants re...

    History Teacher

    £60 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: Job opportunities for Seconda...

    ** Female PE Teacher Urgently Required In Liverpool **

    £120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: Job opportunities for Secon...

    ** Cover Supervisors Urgently Required In Knowsley **

    £60 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: Job opportunities for Seconda...

    Day In a Page

    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Let's talk about loss

    We need to talk about loss

    Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album