Spoiler: There's a difference between being beautiful and being photogenic. But it's impossible to identify whether a person is photogenic or not without trying it out. It happened many times that I photographed someone who looked beautiful in real life but on camera it was different.
The face looked awkward and very different than the person I had just gotten to know. Those moments are awful. You feel like you're doing something wrong, you're not good enough as a photographer. This person is beautiful, why doesn't it show?
Typically the look that makes a good photo is when the person isn't trying hard. You have to be easy and forget the camera. This is straight forward for me to explain, because I consider myself not being photogenic. I prefer to be behind the camera. This is where I feel confident.
When you put me in front of a camera, subconsciously I feel tense. I want to look perfect, my brain activates. It's figuring out what to do for the good photo. Not trying to blink. Or should I squint to look cooler? Where do I have to look? More smile, less smile? Do I look stiff? Now, take the picutre, please.
I am simply not natural anymore. And losing this state of easiness cannot be undone by actively thinking about it.
For a photograph to look good however, the subject needs to be with ease and captured in a natural state. No matter what emotion is shown. It counts for serious, happy, sad or sexy looks. The human brain is trained to spot the slightes emotions, so we can easily tell when something's off. We can simply see when you are not being yourself in front of the camera.
How do we solve this? I can say from experience that when someone takes 50 or more photos of you, you become numb to it and begin to let your inner guard down. Finally magic happens. The good news is:
It just may take a little more tries with some people. Digital photography really is your friend there. You can take more photos (at basically no additional costs), so you can find the sweet shot among the hundreds that were taken.
And there's also the opposite: People that don't stand out in real life, but in front of the camera, they nail the look on every single frame. You can't take bad photographs of them.
Or people like Christiane — who turns heads on the street and looks great in front of the cam.
But the question remains: Why do some people get loved by the camera and others don't?
I assume, it goes back to the childhood. When you get cheered and applauded for whatever you do in front of the camera, it will lead to confidence. This confidence is key to feeling safe in front of the camera as a grown-up.
At least, I was raised to be a modest person. So, for me, this could be true.
When you learned to love the camera, the camera will love you back.
And of course, being non-photogenic is a self-fulfilling prophecy. When you don't like yourself on pictures, you won't have many photos of you taken. You neither gain experience nor will know your good sides. So, you won't lose your fear and won't end up with good images of yourself.
I am quite positive, this can get solved with training. You just need to force yourself in front of the camera and take a few selfies every single day.
But you also have to want to improve. It's a thing that has to come from the inside. Maybe there should be something like a Become photogenic in five weeks course.
Photos have become the most powerful measure of how we think we look to others. But beauty goes way beyond a simple two dimensional display. There are dynamic qualities that are impossible to capture in a still image. Like body language, sense of humor, intelligence, energy, knowledge, aura or the sound of a voice. They all play an important role in the (highly subjective) definition of beauty.
Do you know celebrities that look flawless yet you wouldn't consider them to be beautiful? That's dynamic (un)attractiveness at work. You don't feel anything when you see them. Maybe they are too perfect the way they look in that photograph. Or you're missing things that mean something to you.
My conclusion is that everyone can look good in a photo. You just need to take enough photographs to show it (and with some this might be a lot photos).
Being photogenic however is a mixture of experiences that date back to your childhood, love for camera play (not even extroversion) and a good portion of fortune.
Simon Bolz, Frankfurt
Tel.: +49 (69) 95 82 02 12
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