How to Look Photogenic (Even If You're Not)

January 5, 2024

What does it mean to be photogenic? That’s a question many of us have given up on, a few hundred photos ago.

The camera just seems to like some people more than others. While we’re captured mid-blink with a forced smile plastered across our face, their eyes are captured full of expression, paired with a confident grin that reveals just the right amount of teeth.

We can read about squinching, nap with fresh cucumber slices covering our eyes, and hydrate until our workday is completely disrupted by bathroom breaks, but no matter what we try, do we really have a shot at consistently producing the kind of poses that result in a photo that captures us at our best?

This article will highlight the science behind being photogenic. We will look at studies done by researchers, much smarter than us, who sought out to uncover why I look so ugly in pictures, what it means to be photogenic, and how me and you both can make a habit of being more photogenic.

Ready to dig in?

Photogenic young man wearing a suit

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What does it mean to be photogenic?

How many selfies have you taken only to immediately deem them unusable and reach for the delete button?

To be photogenic is to look good when photographed. To optimize towards photogenicity—yes, that’s a real word—is to make certain adjustments to your appearance, at least temporarily, in an effort to maximize your attractiveness in front of a camera.

It feels truly great to own a photo in which you are happy with how you look. So why not lean into that feeling, learn how to be photogenic, and start taking more usable photos of yourself.

“Why am I not photogenic?”

Researchers have been chipping away at uncovering the factors that make someone photogenic for quite a while now.

A few popular scientific theories include:

Facial attractiveness: evolutionary based research, for example, explores how perceived attractiveness relates to our evolutionary psychology, causing us to be more attracted to individuals who appear as healthy potential mates.

Human facial beauty : Averageness, symmetry, and parasite resistance suggests that facial symmetry contributes to attractiveness, again, because of what it may suggest about a person’s health.

And then we have one of my personal favorite studies, Why am I not photogenic? Differences in face memory for the self and others, which goes in a different direction by suggesting that your mental image of how you look isn’t even all that accurate to begin with.


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But as much as the science-backed research appeals to me as a nerd eager to focus on “what’s proven”, when it comes to being more photogenic, these studies don’t offer us much actionable advice.

You could rack up a few quick wins in the attractiveness apartment by exercising and getting a tan. These actions, ironically enough, improve your health, which has a side effect of making you more attractive.

Or you could book a dermatologist appointment to have cosmetic work done in the pursuit of a more symmetrical face—not that we’d recommend this approach.

But this isn’t the kind of advice most people are looking for when they ask themselves “why am I not photogenic?”. They don’t want to embark on a journey through dozens of evolutionary psychology textbooks. They just want to know to consistently look better in front of the camera.

“Why do I look so bad in pictures?”

Now that we’re established that optimizing towards becoming more “photogenic”—in the true meaning of the word—won’t lead us very far, we can relax our definition of the word.

“Photogenic” has mostly become slang for “why do I look so bad in pictures”. Learning new ways you can look better in pictures is much easier—and cheaper—than trying to craft a more symmetrical face on the surgeon's operating table. Finally, a problem we can solve!


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How to become more photogenic

Everyday is photo day

You won’t be left wondering “why do I look so ugly in photos” if you put in a little extra effort on photo days. At the bare minimum, treating everyday like photo day will have you leaving your home feeling a little bit more confident in your appearance.

Now, we’re not talking about dressing formally or applying double makeup here—just leave enough time each morning to take care of yourself: hair brushed and styled, face washed, outfit you set out the night before.

Look good, feel good. That’s the morning mantra that will keep you ready to have your picture taken every day of the week.

Take action: Don’t just read this and brush it off. Try it for a week. Spend an extra 5 minutes in the mirror with the thought of “I am going to have my picture taken today” and see the difference it makes.

Practice fewer poses

There are few things photographers love more than writing listicles on the “best photogenic poses”, “top 5 power poses”, or “the underrated charismatic poses of 2024”. And yet not a single person would tell you such an article changed their life, transforming them from an awkward duckling to a gasp-inducing model.

The truth is that 90% of those articles are a complete waste of your time. But that 10% can make a real difference if you put in a little effort. Here’s what I mean: it’s worth your time to master 1-2 poses you can reuse for the rest of your life.

The fewer the poses, the quicker you will master them, and the faster you will shed the awkwardness that plagues you in all your photos where you don’t know what to do with your hands.

Take action: Choose 1-2 poses and use them every single time you’re taking a picture. Nobody will ever notice, and it won’t take long to start seeing the results of a more confident you in front of the camera.


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Take more photos

Let’s imagine you’re game to cough up $300 and go to a professional photographer for an impromptu photo shoot. You spend an hour bouncing between a few different locations.

How many photos do you think they take of you within that hour? Probably a hell lot more photos than you would take at home, trying to nail a DIY professional profile picture, right?

Taking a truly great photo is a numbers game. Professional photographers may have a higher batting percentage when it comes to taking homerun quality photos, but even you can pull 1-2 off if you take enough swings at it.

Like anything else, taking better photos requires more repetitions. You can increase your odds of taking a great photo if you simply take more photos.

Take action: Take 1 photo of yourself everyday for a month. Did you notice that twinge of discomfort you felt just reading that sentence? This exercise will help with that.


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Using AI to find your most photogenic self

We’ve run into a few unintended use cases for HeadshotPro during its lifetime as an AI photo studio.

Producing incredible professional headshots is not one of them.

But a number of customers have submitted 5-star reviews that claim that they found value in one of the extra photos they won’t use for a professional profile picture—because the AI has them posing a certain way, or maybe has their hair styled a certain way, that they wouldn’t have thought to try on their own.

This is an underrated feature of allowing HeadshotPro to generate hundreds of versions of yourself: you’re going to end up with at least 3-6 profile-worthy headshots, but you’ll also see what the most photogenic version of yourself looks like.

When your AI headshot is generated, the facial lighting is perfect, the background lighting is perfect, you’re never caught blinking, and your expression is a full one. Save for the outtakes—because there’s always a few wild bloopers—you get an entire collection of photos that show the most photogenic version of yourself possible.

For those keeping score at home, that means you’re getting a set of professional headshots done and learning how to be more photogenic from your AI counterpart, all for as little as a one-time cost of $29.

Do you need a reality check?

It can be discouraging to wade through all these research papers on being photogenic only to walk away with little actionable advice—aside from the advice we gave in this article.

The cold hard truth is that very few people believe themselves to be photogenic. Everybody has more “bad” photos of themselves than good photos. And comparing your worst photos to somebody else’s best photos is poison for your mental health.

Are there benefits to being photogenic? Absolutely.

Can people who aren’t photogenic, like you and me, reap the same benefits photogenic people were born with, by using an AI headshot generator? You got it.


Multiple headshots for different profile uses. Quick, painless and very cost efficient. - Ian, HeadshotPro customer

Start being more photogenic

By following the advice in this article, you’ll slowly start to look forward to each time there’s an opportunity to take a photo with friends and family. Until then, use HeadshotPro to generate studio quality headshots you can use at work to benefit from the effects of being photogenic. They won’t even know it’s AI.

Need your professional headshots today?

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