Feeling Relaxed in Front of the Camera – How to Avoid the Dreaded “Photo Face”


After 17 years as a portrait photographer, I have encountered just about every possible facial expression that people are capable of making when they have a camera pointed at them – from the dreaded rictus to the stony stare and everything in between.  So what’s the solution? What does a photographer do when the person who’s been happily chatting away to them only a few minutes before suddenly metamorphoses into a marble-like effigy with an immobile countenance?  Telling them to “relax” seldom works; I find that people welcome more direction from the photographer and so I will gently guide and direct them during their photo shoot.

Renowned royal photographer, Lord Lichfield, once said “Remember that the person you are photographing is 50% of the portrait and you are the other 50%. You need the model as much as he or she needs you. If they don’t want to help you, it will be a very dull picture.” So don’t forget that although the photographer has their part to play in ensuring a successful outcome, you have to work too!

Whatever the type of portrait, whether it be a simple business headshot or something more personal to you,  if you dread having your photograph taken or think that you never look good in photos, here are a few tips on how to achieve a more relaxed countenance.  It’s natural for most people to tense up when being photographed as they feel they have to sit stock still and be as rigid as possible. Instead, try doing the following:-

  • Don’t stand or sit bolt upright as this will create unnecessary tension in your back and shoulders. If you do yoga or Pilates, then you’ll know all about the importance of your core muscles, so think more about lifting up tall through these instead and lengthening your neck too.
  • For a business headshot, turn 45 degrees to the camera rather than facing it squarely – this helps avoid the dreaded “passport photo” and is much more flattering.
  • Relax your mouth: as well as the hands, the mouth is one of the places where tension shows the most as people try and use it to control their expression.
  • Instead of smiling with your mouth, try smiling with your eyes. A genuine smile comes much more from the eyes than the mouth, and it’s not all about showing your teeth for the camera.
  • Relax your hands and if they’re going to show in the photo, don’t clench your fists or link your fingers together, as both of these gestures convey tension. If you’re having trouble relaxing your hands, try shaking them out a few times to loosen the fingers.
  • Look at the photographer as if you mean it and don’t just glaze over. Don’t forget that you’re looking at another person, even though they may have a camera in front of their face.
  • Have some good thoughts going round in your head; if you’re constantly saying to yourself how much you hate having your photo taken, then it’s going to show in your expression.
  • Prepare for your session. I always advise my clients to think carefully about what they would like to wear and for women I also suggest applying a little makeup or even booking a professional makeup artist – not only will this give your images a more polished look, it also gives you a little confidence boost too.
  • And lastly, don’t forget to breathe!

Here’s a selection of recent images all of which show relaxed, natural expressions where the subject is fully engaged with the camera and me. I realise that men can be anxious in front of the camera too, but I know from experience that it’s much more common for a woman to tell me she hates having her photograph taken or that she never looks good in photos!

008-copyright-Anna-Saverimuttu-Photography 009-copyright-Anna-Saverimuttu-Photography 010-copyright-Anna-Saverimuttu-Photography


If you’re thinking about booking either a headshot or a more personal Couture Portrait session, then why not drop me a line at anna@annasaverimuttu.co.uk or call me on 01483 571119 for a chat? You can also view more images on my website – www.annasaverimuttu.co.uk

You may also like...