You only get one chance to make a first impression, right? And when it comes to meeting people online, your photo is your first impression, so you want to make sure it's a great one.
To help you snap a flattering online photo, we talked to some experts whose jobs rely on knowing how to do it well. These pro tricks will help you take a photo that causes potential dates to stop scrolling and take notice! So grab a pal who's comfortable with a camera and upgrade your calling card.
The Celebrity Photographer Says: Bathe Yourself in the Most Flattering Light
"I always suggest using open shade, which means a broadly shaded area, like under a big tree," explains Charlie Langella, who shoots for Entertainment Weekly, Maxim, and Rolling Stone, and has photographed gorgeous women like Jewel and Maggie Gyllenhaal. "In open shade, there are no hard shadows and nothing brightly lit, and the soft light is the most flattering to your face." If you're concerned about wrinkles, lines or blemishes on your skin, Langella says you can correct your so-called flaws with the very basic version of reflective equipment used by the pros: "Place a white sheet beneath you to bounce the light up to your face," says Langella. "This fills in the lines and wrinkles and naturally smoothes out the surface of your skin." And for another soft touch: "Put your camera on the "cloud/cloudy" setting, which adds yellow and red to the image, warming your face up." (In some cameras, the "snow" setting creates a similar effect, to tone down the harsh bright white.) Finally, here's one last trick that professional photographers' use: "Have someone take the photo of you from slightly above eye level, with the camera tilted down about 10 degrees," says Langella. "This elongates the neck and makes you look slimmer," and it also creates the attractive image of you looking up through your lashes-very come-hither!
The Body Language Expert Says: Keep Your Heart Front and Center
"Aim your heart and your palms toward the camera to send the message that you are open and receptive," says Patti Wood, an expert in body language and communication dynamics (www.pattiwood.net). If you hide your hands say, in your pocket or behind your back, "the primal wiring in the brain sends the signal in one to two seconds that you're hiding something-something dangerous," Wood says. This is especially true in terms of how men perceive a photo. "Guys are hunters. They don't want to go after something that looks like it will be closed or dangerous. They want to know you are open, and there is a possibility to catch you." And here's one more trick from Wood that you can use just before you click the shutter: "Make funny faces, then turn toward the camera and smile. This will create a -true smile,' instead of the smile we have when we wait, wait, wait for a photo to be snapped, and the smile becomes stiff and fake. A true smile is much more engaging."
The Photo Editor Says: Steal a Pose From the Celebrities!
If you want to look your best in a photo, take some cues from the people who really know how to strike a pose on the red carpet: celebrities. "The best photos are the ones when you're in action in some way, because everyone looks fantastic walking with energy, and it looks like you have a lot going on," explains Julie Stone, Glamour magazine's photo research director, who filters through thousands of celebrity photos a day to find the best ones for the magazine. Stone's ultimate examples? "Renée Zellweger puts her hands on her hips and looks over her shoulder, which shows confidence and a little mystery. And Halle Berry always looks perfect on the red carpet. She also puts her hands on her hips and does a lot of laughing, If you're laughing, it looks like you're having a fun, happy life," says Stone. "It makes people think, -What just happened, and, wait, where was I?' And that's exactly what you want people to think." You can either use a full-length (or almost full-length) shot like this for a secondary photo, or zoom in on your face and use it as your primary photo. Finally, try this trick that women's magazine models use all the time: "Instead of looking into the camera," says Stone, "look off to the side. It's always cute and flirty, and it adds a very mysterious vibe."
The Dating Expert Says: Post Photos That Show You in Your Natural Environment
"Don't try to do yourself up with hair and makeup to look sexy, because men can see through that as being artificial," says Ian Kerner, Ph.D., author of D.S.I.: Dating Scene Investigation. "Instead, be natural and be yourself, and let your secret sexiness and a little mystery come through." But don't give guys too much mystery. "If you only have photos that show you from the neck up, or photos that are taken from very far away, men will wonder if you're hiding something," says Dr. Kerner. "Don't hide who you are. Take a full-body shot in jeans and a T-shirt and be confident about what you've got." Finally, put up a few photos that show you with friends or family. "Social networks are a large part of why we mate," explains Dr. Kerner, "so seeing photos of you within your social world really gives men a sense of who you are." Oh, and one more thing, says Kerner: Keep the guys (read: competition) out of the pictures! He may be gay or an ex or just a good friend, but men don't care about those subtleties. All they see is a woman who's taken, which will make some guys back off and look elsewhere.
The Advertising Creative Director Says: Put Some Real Emotion Into the Shot
"The best shots are the ones where we catch a bit of spontaneity, so they don't look like a staged and stiff portrait," says Pam Clinkard, a freelance advertising creative director, who has worked as creative director at Kirshenbaum Bond and Partners in New York City, and as art director Saatchi & Saatchi in London. Also, go for the side-lit shot from a window. "We were doing some Target ads a few years ago and every single shot was taken with the model posed at a 3/4 angle to the camera, and lit softly from the sides and from above-the same type of light you can get from standing inside next to a window." Like Langella, Clinkard says this is the most flattering to your facial features.
The Cover Photographer Says: Give Yourself a Wide-Eyed Expression
Before an interview I did with celebrity photographer Mark Seliger at his studio in Manhattan - he's the one famous for Rolling Stone covers like the one of Jennifer Aniston in nothing but a sheet - I was able to watch him work. To create an engaging portrait, Seliger had his female subject close her eyes while he set up the shot, then he counted, "One… two… three!" On the count of three, she opened her eyes just as he snapped the photo. This captured the moment when her eyes were wide and bright, creating an open, doe-eyed look. If it works for the pros, it can work for you!
Amy Spencer writes for Glamour, Real Simple and Harper's Bazaar among other publications, and she co-hosts the relationship talk show "Sex Files" on SIRIUS satellite radio's Maxim channel.
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