21 Insider Tips For Making Your Face Even More Photogenic Than It Already Is

You're gorgeous, but sometimes cameras don't get the memo. Here are foolproof, pro-approved ways to prepare to be photographed.
Publish date:
May 2, 2013
primers, blushes, eyeliners, eyeshadows, makeup, foundations, powders, bronzers, photos

One of the perks of being a magazine editor is lurking behind the scenes at photo shoots and seeing all the magic happen.

I was always mesmerized to watch the transformation. Usually, a model would roll in looking pretty but not altogether impressive, wearing sneakers and no makeup and a messy topknot. But by the end of the day--and after many talented professionals got their hands on her--the finished product would be jaw-droppingly gorgeous.

Creating a photogenic face is no easy feat. It takes a lot of experience and a true understanding of light, shadow, angle and color.

Luckily for me--and you--those magic-making photographers and makeup artists are usually really nice people, and over the years, I've gathered the following advice. So, whether you're getting married soon (like me), have a big birthday coming up, or just want to look cuter on Instagram, try one or two (or all) of these tips before your next close-up.


  • Wash your face with a mild exfoliator and apply a lightweight moisturizer to face and neck.
  • If you've got any unwanted facial hair, get waxed at least two days prior to allow redness and swelling to subside.
  • For your most glowing skin, use a hydrating or revitalizing mask two days beforehand (the wiggle room is to give any sudden breakouts time to settle down).
  • Choose a high-quality primer--Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer is stellar--and apply all over your face; blend onto neck with downward strokes.
  • Always apply makeup in natural light so that you can see just how much you're putting on and how light reflects off of different products.
  • Everything shows up

    two times lighter in photos, so keep this in mind when applying makeup. When in doubt, take a few snapshots while getting ready to gauge the final result.

  • Avoid shimmery or glittery products because they can reflect light in odd ways and look distracting in photos. Stick with matte finishes if you want a classic look.


  • To frame your face, fill in your brows, even if you don't do so normally. Thin or light-colored brows don't show up well in photos. A little definition will draw attention to your eyes.
  • Curl your lashes and use two coats of waterproof black mascara (even if you usually use a lighter color) to make the whites of your eyes look even whiter and brighter. For a big event, false lashes create maximum impact and many look quite natural in photos.
  • For those with a propensity for eye redness, use eye drops, like Visine, beforehand.
  • To make eyes look big and open, use a light hand with the eyeliner, applying only to the outer third of the eye. Lining the waterline or the entire eye makes eyes look smaller.
  • Use eyeshadow in hues complementary to your eye color to really make them stand out.


  • Use a "high definition" or "photo ready" foundation like Make Up For Ever HD Foundation to minimize blemishes. Blend very well with a foundation brush or sponge and set in place with a sweep of translucent powder. This creates a smooth, clean finish that evenly reflects light.
  • Contour under your chin, under your cheekbones, at the temples and on the sides of your nose with a bronzer that's one or two shades darker than your natural skin tone. Use a highlighter to emphasize apples of the cheeks, bridge of the nose and middle of the forehead.
  • Use a bit of powder before and even during the photo session to minimize shine. In hot or humid conditions, use oil-blotting sheets, like Boscia Blotting Linens, in tandem with powder to avoid excessive makeup build-up.
  • Even if you're a big fan of mineral formulas (like yours truly), they can come off as shiny in photos. Go for something more matte.
  • You know how your cheeks flush after exercise and other... uh... fun activities? Opt for a blush in a similar hue, which will look most natural, and apply it a bit darker than you would for everyday wear so that you don't look washed out. There's a reason they say NARS Orgasm looks good on everyone.
  • Concealer can be very visible in close-ups, so be sure to blend well.


  • Apply foundation or primer to the lips to make color last. Then line with a natural-colored pencil for definition and further endurance.
  • To make lips look fuller, apply a lighter color in the middle of your lips. Top with gloss for even more of a plumping effect.
  • For a timeless look, avoid trendy hues and go for something more natural looking, not too far from the color of your bare lips.

Got any tips to add?