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expert tips: how to look your best in photographs

The holidays seem to wind up the most photographed time of year. Being with family or friends naturally leads to group pictures and food coma candids. Instead of spending those precious moments worrying about your appearance, learn to feel comfortable (get rid of that awkward picture smile) and make a lasting memory. I asked Katie Noble of Katie Noble Photography to share her top tips on how to look natural and get the best photograph possible. 
1. When is the best time of day to take photographs?
Photography is all about lighting. Even with all of the things that play a part in a photo I believe what makes an image truly beautiful depends on the quality of the light. To start a shoot on the right note, always try and schedule my sessions around the time of day when I know the lighting is optimal. You have probably heard the term “golden hour”– this is one hour before sunset. Here you get nice long shadows and interesting light that is also flattering to the skin and eyes (less squinting). The other time that is great is the hour or two after sunrise. But that’s early! As a photographer, you can’t always control when the photographs will need to happen so I can make the other times of day look beautiful by manipulating the light (using shade or using sunlight/flare as a part of the image), gear (sunshades and flash) and positioning (putting your client in front of the sun) to name a few. But if I have the opportunity to make the call, I’ll pick golden hour!

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2. What is the go-to camera setting for portraits?

For portraits and any photo in general, it’s really all about the photographer’s vision. There is no right or wrong answer. Maybe you are going for something that is out of focus to create a mood or maybe you want something that’s tack sharp– it all depends on what you see in your mind’s eye. I tend to shoot in manual or aperture priority mode. Here, I can control all of the factors that come into play in my image like depth of field and shutter speed. I try and use the lowest ISO for the given situation for a good exposure, natural light when possible (adding a flash when the quality of the light is poor) and switch between my continuous and single focus modes. For people just starting out in photography I usually suggest getting an entry level DSLR (digital single lens reflex) and putting the camera into manual mode. I also strongly recommend reading the camera’s manual. Sounds dorky but by reading the manual you get to know what all of the buttons mean! I have read all of my camera manuals—my rule of thumb is two pages before bed. By doing all of these things the pieces of photography start to come together.

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3. What is one trick to feeling comfortable in front of the camera?
This may sound like a ridiculous answer but I often think getting your photo taken is the same feeling you may get before walking into a party or function knowing only one other person. For me, the anticipation of wondering what to wear, how to do my hair and the fear of the unknown can be anxiety inducing. In the situations when I’ve worn something that really feels like “me” that nervous feeling dissipates more quickly. I think it’s the same way in a photo shoot. By feeling comfortable, I think it helps those anxious feelings disappear. Plus, I believe photographs are meant to be an authentic yet flattering expression of whom you are. So, there shouldn’t be pressure to look/be someone that you are not.  For me, before having my photo I’ll make sure I’m wearing cute yet comfy shoes and probably will get my hair done. For someone else, it may mean wearing a pair of old jeans and some extra time to do makeup. Overall feeling like yourself means something different to everyone and it’s about feeling what’s right for you. And I’ll never judge anyone if they need a glass of wine before a photo shoot! I also like to tell clients that nerves and being giddy in front of the camera looks amazing. Here I can get some beautiful laughter and emotion that’s way better than a highly trained model that has done “happy face” a million times before. A nervous subject is giving me honest, real emotion and that’s the best!
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4. Where has been your favorite setting for capturing a photo shoot?
That’s a tough one! I generally love any shoot that’s outside and allows me to play with things like shade and sunshine. So, I’ll pick spots for portrait sessions that have those options for me. Usually that means an open area (field, ocean, beach) and a spot with trees or shrubbery. All of those factors allow me to put my clients into the right light so all that’s left is for me to interact with them.
5. What is the most flattering camera angle for portraits?
In general, the most flattering angle for a tighter portrait shot is where the photographer is raised
slightly above the subject. Raising the lens and looking down onto someone can have a slimming
effect, but this has to be used sparingly otherwise it can make the subject look powerless/dismissive. Other things, like using straight on angle and putting weight into the back foot can help to minimize features (think noses and hips). I think one the biggest things a subject can do is move his/her chin slightly away from the neck. This helps to separate the chin from the neck and also elongates the neck. But keep in mind everyone is different and may have different angles that look best. I love a side profile shot of my husband and for me I have one eye that’s slightly bigger so I like a slightly side angle of my face to create a more symmetrical look.

photos courtesy of Katie Noble Photography
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