Crash Course: How to Consistently Look Cute in Photos–No Photoshop Required

A local boudoir photographer shares some tricks of the trade.

You don’t have to be in lingerie to look this adorable. Photograph by Shelby Leigh 

Okay, so maybe we’re not hounded by the paparazzi on a daily basis. Yet in the age of Facebook and the ubiquitous camera phone, it seems like each day brings a new opportunity for friends near and far to see how good (or bad) we’re lookin’ as we move through daily life. And who has the time to primp? Lucky for us, photographer Shelby Leigh of Cupcake Boudoir and Shelby Leigh Photography spends her days bringing out the inner-supermodel in regular gals, and she’s here to share her tips. Whether you’re smiling for your BFF’s Instagram account or just trying to beef up that OKCupid profile, here’s what you need to know about putting your best face forward.

First and foremost, what’s a good way to produce a natural smile? 
“When you get in front of the camera, laugh! You’ll feel silly but it truly does work for making your smile look amazing and natural. [And you don’t have] to be hysterical–just a little giggle will do. There are too many people who look like they are in pain because their camera smile isn’t their real smile. If you’re going for a more serious smirk, just relax your mouth–so there is a bit of air between your lips–and ‘smile with your eyes’, which basically means make sure you still look happy and not angry.”

What type of outfit looks best on camera?
“The clothing that reads well on camera–and in real life, for that matter–is clothing that fits and is flattering. [As a photog], I tend to gravitate towards images that look timeless, so it’s usually the really tame ensembles I love–like a little black dress. You can look at that image at any point and it will always just be a classic.”

Makeup: What should we exaggerate and what should we play down?
“I insist on false eyelashes for boudoir shoots and I recommend them for anytime a woman is getting her photo taken, whether [it’s] for a professional session or at an event like a wedding. Lashes are like magic, they make your eyes look bigger, younger, and your whole face more soft and feminine. Individual lash applications are more natural looking in person then strips but either look good in photos. For a typical sultry look, it’s a soft smoky eye, pale or pink lip, and lots of shading and highlighting to make some features smaller and others larger.”

What kind of poses are the most flattering?
“The ‘skinny arm pose’ (placing a hand on the hip) isn’t bad. It gives the appearance of a thinner arm because the arm fat isn’t being pressed against the body. However, there are some other, more subtle poses that you can add to your repertoire. An updated version of the skinny arm is to instead stick your thumb in your back pocket and let your elbow bend and upper arm float away from your body. This is much more natural and casual. Another trick to minimize arm fat is to tuck your elbow behind your back and rest your hand on your front hip or thigh. To look more attractive overall, try to stand at a 45-degree angle to the camera and mimic an ‘S’ shape with your body.”

Okay–we’re almost ready for our close-up. Which way should we look at the camera, and should we pose head on or turn to the side?
“You should look up or straight on. Looking down at a camera gives the appearance of extra weight, and I’ve never met a woman in my life that wanted to look heavier. If you push your chin slightly out and down it gives the appearance of a thinner face. Angling your face so you’re not straight on also adds a little seductiveness. And like I mentioned before, standing at a 45-degree angle and in an ‘S’ shape with enhance your curves. Sometimes when I’m posing women they feel like contortionists, but it pays off in the end with amazing images–no Photoshopping required.”