Long ago, I was a child model. I loved it. I did beauty pageants, posed for magazines, and lived an extremely lavish life of getting to eat PB&J every day, sleeping in pin curls, and getting new pageant outfits. I was cute AF and incredibly photogenic. A natural, if you will.
Then, I got awkward, uncomfortable, and self-conscious (middle school, amirite?), and my intrinsic talent and ease in front of the camera dwindled to nothing. As an adult, it’s basically impossible to stay away from photos. Coupled with a love for sharing my makeup selfies with the world and working in media, I can’t dodge the camera anymore.
I enlisted the help of one of our favorite people here at The Everygirl. If you read our site consistently or just follow us on IG, you’ve seen photos of the beautiful and talented Cassandra Senior. She radiates no matter where she goes, and she’s whip-smart and a joy to be around too! Cassandra has been modeling for The Everygirl since last spring, but she dominates our Insta feeds with gorgeous photos that show her confidence and style.
I asked Cassandra, as well as some of our editors, for their best tips for taking Instagram photos and getting comfortable in front of the camera. Remember, you don’t have to be a professional model with thousands of Instagram followers to want to take good photos. Whether you’re gearing up for a wedding or graduation photoshoot, getting professional headshots taken, or just want to add some cute new photos to your feed, these tips will help you!
Cassandra recommends practicing in front of a mirror with a self-timer if you’re trying to get the flow of taking photos without booking a photographer first. “This will allow you to see in real-time what angles you like, what poses you’re doing and how they translate on the camera. Once you know what works for you, you can emulate that during a shoot and build on it with small movements that give you a variety of good shots,” Cassandra said.
2. Get used to taking photos first
Taking your first photoshoot in the heart of downtown wherever can be intimidating. It’s awkward to pose and feel yourself when tons of people are watching — even for the pros! Before you head off on your grand ‘ole photo adventure, try doing a shoot in an area with less foot traffic first, Cassandra recommends. “If you’re just getting started, gaining confidence and really owning a shoot can be hard with a ton of people watching you. Once you get a few shoots under your belt, you start to get a feel for what works for you and confidence will start to grow organically. From there, it gets easier and easier to own the camera.”
3. Move around
Instead of staying in one place the entire time someone is taking photos of you (or you’re selfie-ing it up — no shame), keep moving. Our editors Maddie and Josie both said their biggest advice was moving around and laughing. “[The] in-between shots are often what looks better than just standing and smiling,” Maddie said.
Josie said to slowly walk in circles while the photographers takes the shot — although it feels awkward, the photos come out looking natural and actually candid (which is always the look we’re going for).
4. Don’t stick with just a smile
Social Media Editor Abigail suggested to try other facial expressions than just smiling. Whether it’s laughing, putting on a little soft smile, or just having fun with it, your face tends to tense up after doing the same smile over and over again. Cassandra suggests opening your mouth slightly to look more natural. You also can never go wrong with a laughing shot — bring a friend along who can make you laugh!
Don’t leave it all to your smile too. “Not to sound too Tyra Banks, but it really does help if you smile with your eyes. By doing so, you really look more natural and in the moment,” Cassandra said.
5. Change up your positions
Along with moving around, you shouldn’t stay in one pose the entire shoot. This is a waste of time for your photographer, and it looks uncomfortable and unnatural. “Nothing looks more awkward than being so stiff that you look like a mannequin,” Cassandra said. Instead, she shifts the weight between both hips, moves her shoulders in different positions, and changes the direction and how she holds her neck.
6. Use props
No one (and I repeat: no one) knows what the heck to do with their dangling arms and hands when taking pictures. Props eliminate that awkwardness by giving you something to do. According to Cassandra, they “provide an anchor for your hands” and “keep the shots feeling fresh and dynamic.” It could be as easy as a purse, a drink (Starbucks or alcoholic, either is cute), or sunglasses in your hands.
A prop our editors love when taking photos is our hair! Touching your hair is a natural movement we all do, so it looks breezy and candid in a photo. Doing a little root fluff, playing with the ends, or even adding a playful hair flip are easy ways to give your hands something to do and help you look more in-the-moment.
7. Highlight the features you like
As our social media goddess, Abigail knows a thing or two about feeling comfortable in front of the camera. (And she’s so good at it!) Her biggest tip was to highlight the features of yourself that you like and find ways to conceal or downplay the ones you don’t. “I like my butt, so I’m always willing to do a looking-back pose or side angle.” Do that practice thing we talked about above to find the angles that make your best features shine.
And because we’re all going to do a few (or a hundred) mirror selfies in our lives, Abigail gave us an amazing tip: “I think my smile is awkward, so in mirror selfies, I cover it with the phone!” This also works if the good lighting is about to leave you but you haven’t put on your makeup yet — genius.
Josie also suggested having the photographer shoot from the chest angle to elongate the body. This way, you stand taller and look even more confident and powerful. #Love!
8. Talk to the photographer
Don’t be afraid to talk to the person taking your photo to make sure you’re getting exactly what you want. While this might feel uncomfortable at first, you have to remember that you know your body best. If it feels awkward, it probably looks awkward. Senior Graphic Designer Kelly says that while it feels high maintenance, always ask to look at the photos. Then, you can ask your photographer to adjust the camera height to get different angles if you wish.
Also, Kelly recommends knowing your body and being confident in saying if something doesn’t feel or look right. Just because a photographer suggests a pose, doesn’t mean it’ll work for you. Speak up when something feels uncomfortable, and try something else.