Ask Margot-I Don’t Photograph Well

Short of engaging a high-fashion photographer, what can I do to create a photo worth posting?

By Margot Carmichael Lester

ear Margot,
I know my odds are better online if I have a picture with my profile. But I’ve taken so many and I don’t like any of them. I’ve tried different poses and
I took 63 pictures of myself without finding one I could even contemplate posting.
backgrounds, but I’m never happy. Short of engaging a high-fashion photographer, what can I do to create something worth posting?
- Digitally Deficient in Detroit

Dear DD,
I hear you. One night I took 63 pictures of myself without finding one I could even contemplate posting. I finally stopped trying, snapped something quick and — lo and behold — got one that looked natural and flattering.

The moral to this story: Stop trying so hard. But if that was the sum of my advice, this would be a short column. Luckily, I’ve got more to say.

First, take the pressure off. You don’t have to be a one-man band. Get a wingman (or woman). Hand your ally the camera and see what another person can do. Or take the shots yourself and then ask him or her to choose the best one. One catch: the decision is binding. They choose it, you use it.

To help you make the most of your mug, I compared notes with my friend Sherman, an erstwhile professional shutterbug:

1. Look ’er in the eye. In a survey, singles revealed that the physical attribute they valued most was eyes (40.2%). Make sure yours aren’t covered by dark sunglasses or a shadow from the bill of your cap.

2. Light up your life. Try different flash settings to find the most flattering light. Same goes for natural lighting. Shooting in the late afternoon will cast you in a warm glow that can be very appealing.

TIP: Avoid too much flash or you’ll wash out, giving you a face only a paranormal fanatic could love. To look spectacular in spectacles, adjust the lighting and flash so they don’t reflect in the lenses. Same goes for mirrors and windows in the background.

3. Simple sells. Steer clear of clothes that take away from your face, like gaudy collars, an outrageous tie or a busy pattern. Dress in colors that contrast your skin tone so your features stand out.

TIP: Avoid backgrounds that keep the viewer from focusing on you. But if the background’s cool — a coastal panorama or a nifty architectural detail — step to one side so the viewer can see your surroundings.

4. Lights, camera, action! Nothing’s worse than a photo that looks like a mug shot. You want to look engaging and interesting, not like the third guy on the left in a Law & Order lineup. Talk to your friend — or pretend to — while you’re in front of the camera. You’ll appear more relaxed and natural. Chances are you’ll feel goofy enough to crack a smile — which 42.3% of women said was very important to them.

TIP: When it comes to facial expressions, practice makes perfect. I’m not a fan of vanity, but sometimes it pays off. The more you
The more you practice in front of a mirror, the more natural you’ll look.
practice in front of a mirror, the more natural you’ll look. Except for laughing, that is. Almost no one can fake a laugh.

5. Up close and personal. Yes, we want to see your face. No, we don’t want to do a pore inspection. Avoid severe close-ups that make your head look like a melon. Instead, let your head and shoulders fill the frame and take up most of the available space in the shot.

So much for the dos; now for the don’ts. Here are three mistakes that get photos rejected:

1. Obstructed view of the real you. Shadows, falling snow, too much flash, or cigarette smoke obscure the main attraction. Are you trying to hide something? Unless you’re in the Witness Protection Program, show your face!

2. Wardrobe malfunctions. If your best features are normally undercover, keep ’em that way. Leave something to the imagination.

3. Copyrighted or celebrity images. You might fancy yourself to be Megan Fox, but you could run afoul of the law if you use her picture. And it probably won’t score points with potential matches, even if they agree with your adulation.

Now that you’re ready to take your best shot, adjust your expectations. You don’t have to look like Angelina Jolie (unless you actually do, of course). Your photo simply has to portray your image accurately. With this adjusted attitude, chances are you’ll find a photo or two you can live with — and love with.

Ask yourself this: Is my picture accurate?
Nothing’s worse than arriving for a first meeting and not recognizing your date. Survey friends and family not only to find the best portrait — but to find one that best captures your true looks and offers at least a hint of your personality as well.

Margot Carmichael Lester is a freelance writer based in North Carolina. Send your faith-based dating questions to
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