May 31, 2007  •  In Art/Design, Beauty, Photography

The Anatomy of a Photogenic Face

I admit that I’m very un-photogenic. Even my own mother tells me so. “Why do you look so bad in pictures? Practice how to pose in front of the mirror!” Perhaps it’s my natural awkwardness and/or low self-esteem manifesting itself on film. Or maybe I just don’t have the face for it.

Being an artiste, I’ve studied human anatomy and the human form many times (heck I had to stare at naked bodies for 8 hours straight every Saturday for an entire summer). Working in marketing, I sometimes have to pour through hundreds of photos, examining face after face. And I’ve noticed that there are certain features that definitely makes one easier to draw, or more pleasing to the eye when photographed:

  1. Large eyes with dark, thick lashes
  2. Small chin on women, large chin on men
  3. Full, thick lips
  4. Fairly symmetrical features

This isn’t too surprising. After all, these are the same features that scientists have declared to be what we, as humans, find the most attractive in the opposite sex.

I’m sorry to say that I don’t have any of those features. I have small eyes with non-existent eyelashes, thin lips, and a strong, prominent (masculine) jawline. However, I believe that these features “work” for me. I don’t have classically beautiful features, but I have been described as being “exotic” several times. There have even been instances where strangers have stopped me on the street to tell me that I’m beautiful (and not in a shady, I’m-hitting-on-you way).

Nonetheless, the fact remains that I still don’t photograph well due to these features.

I know a girl (I won’t mention her name lest she gets embarrassed) who is drop-dead gorgeous in real life, and many people agree with me. However, the very features that give her the unforgettable, exotic look (upturned almond-shaped eyes, slightly asymmetrical face) make her look horrible in pictures.

I also know of some people who look fabulous on film (thinner, younger, and generally more attractive) but they don’t look that great in real life. I often find myself comparing their pictures with their real-life-selves and wondering how they could look so good in pictures, even better than they are in real life. And I see that they have the same exact features I’ve outlined above.

There are also those who look exactly the same on film and in person.

Which category do you think you fall under? Are you happy with the way you look on film? Do you think you’re unphotogenic?

Also, if you want to know my opinion of whether I think you’re photogenic, leave me a comment and I’ll let you know.

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19 Responses to “The Anatomy of a Photogenic Face”

  1. I think I’m pretty photogenic, but I definitely feel and look better in person

    Note, I need to wear a BIT of makeup to look awake, with brown eye liner and concealer, but other than that, I’m pretty much makeup-free most of the time

    I’m my best when I first wake up and my hair is all curly and tousled. I don’t know why that is… ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. eemusings says:

    Oh, I am most definitely NOT photogenic! I shy away from cameras and avoid close up pictures. I feel your pain! Even on good days when I think I’m looking pretty good, it never comes through in a photo. I have a strong jaw, lidless Asian eyes with no lashes and an asymmetrical (not to mention halfway receded) hairline. Ah well.. But you, missy, have amazing skin, I’m jealous!

  3. sara says:

    I am very frequently told I am beautiful by random people and I always seem to attract plenty of male attention, but in photographs my face looks like a ruddy potato. I have a round forehead (think kate bosworth) and a very tiny chin, and while my cheekbones look nice in person in pics they look flabby and fat, I always manage to have a double chin, and my bone structure seems non-existant. I also seem to always have puffy looking eyes and huge teeth. Now, I am not just making this up, I am the most unphotogenic person I know. strangely, I look a lot like my uncle, who is very handsome in person, but also photographs hideously. I think it is how our foreheads and chins fail to reflect light in a flattering way. But I have accepted it, thought it would be nice to have a decent picture of me.

  4. Rose says:

    This drives me crazy – I think I am very photogenic. I get compliments on photos all the time, but in real life, I'm just eh. I'm plain and a bit frumpy. I wish I looked like I do in photos!

  5. Cassie says:

    I think I can look good in pictures…if I’m the one taking it, and I have to take at lest 100 shots before I find one that I’m satisfied with.
    Overall I tend to stay away from pictures since I’m insecure, and I don’t like the way i come out.
    I don’t care much since I never go back and look at old pictures. too lazay

  6. Janina says:

    I look slightly better in pictures than in real life but for the most part, I look the same. I have the big eyes, small and narrow chin that you described though I didn’t know these features contributed to one being photogenic. I also have the tendency to look slightly Asian in my pics because of my upturned almond eye shape and people who see my pics think I’m part Asian. What I noticed is that the biggest factor between an average looking pic and a great one is the lighting. I look good in pics taken in natural daylight when it’s overcast outdoors and the camera flash is not needed. Once I use the flash, unflattering shadows are introduced that would otherwise have not been there. I’ve had some rather unflattering pics with the flash because of the shadow issue. Another factor would be the angle of the shot. My best pics are ones taken by someone else where my face is slightly turned to the side.

  7. dramaqueen says:

    I find that people with sharp features are naturally photogenic from any angle. The people with a sharp nose and pointy chin.
    Also, I’ve noticed that people with flat faces – that is without a rounded forehead and the upper lip space flat (without an overbite teeth) photograph better.
    eg. Aishwarya Rai (an Indian model, won Miss World 1994) she is incredibly photogenic and her face has all the above mentioned qualities. Check it out.

    My features are quite soft. My nose isn’t sharp and my nostrils are huge and my teeth lean forward so that my jaw isn’t as defined! But I get compliments all the time but I look awful in photos. Maybe, because photographs are 2 dimensional and features that are sharp stick out more, thus making a face photogenic.

    What do you think?

    • VeeEss says:

      hey dramaqueen, i agree. i noticed that too. flat faces are more photogenic maybe bec they catch light and reflects it more evenly. if a face is protruding, it catches light and it is more intense on the raised areas, like the forehead and upper lip as u say. i really want to experiment by drawing the a face both on a balloon (matte) and then on a flat piece of paper with the same size and shape as the balloon then photograph the two. i havent done it yet so it still remains a theory for me.

  8. Laura says:

    I’m highly un-photogenic. I can’t stand 95 % of pictures of me. Basically, I have to be in just the exactly right combination of light and shadow or it really looks not good. But in a mirror I can see I’m a fairly pretty person, and all my life I’ve had people tell me I’m pretty/beautiful. Strange, strange ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. alicia says:

    I’m not photogenic at all. It takes me awhile to find a decent picture. But Lots of people tell me i’m pretty. So sometimes I wonder if they are lying. I think I realized that I just don’t take good pictures. But I really Wanna see what people see that I can’t… I like it this way though because I wouldn’T want to be pretty in pictures and ugly in real life lol.

  10. lalaine says:

    I am also unphotogenic.. i have this high cheekbones, deepseated eyes and quite full lips. Im not that gorgeous in real life but im on that above average range or i can say pretty enough as im always told i am very pretty. But when it comes to picture i look sick.. maybe because my high cheekbones that makes my deep eyes even looking more deep. I dont picture well espcially with flashes.

  11. anon says:

    You’ve missed that a flatter face is more photogenic than a rounder face.

  12. Jasmine says:

    I’m unphotogenic, ๐Ÿ™ i have small eyes and non existent lashes, i think my facial bone structure is quite thin but i have a lot of facial fat which im having trouble getting rid of. My lips are quite wide vertically, but very small horizontally if that makes sense. I’m only 15, so im hoping things will change as i get older, especially the facial fat. its quite depressing because im unphotogenic yet i am also not very attractive in real life ๐Ÿ™

  13. Hi
    I don’t know whether I am photogenic or not, so in that case I would explain in words of how my facial features are, I have big eyes, a thin but, not very thin, not a very long but, yet a little bit long nose, I mean in short I have a beautiful nose (as people say), have a small forehead, thin lips, small dimple chin, don’t have very thick lashes but, do have adequate amount of them, I also have a very shiny skin. People often say that I look good even in photos.

  14. peo h says:

    I’m definitely very UNphotogenic! If u look at my photos u’d say i’m an ugly face, & i don’t have the 4 features listed. I have strong features & even though i’m a woman, all my photos turn me put to be a young boy!
    I look far more better in the mirror & maybe it”s self-denial but i don’t think i look as bad as what the camera claims me to be. Just fully convinced that the camera hates me lime hell! ๐Ÿ™

  15. Austin Koester says:

    I would like to know as well. I have a masculine jawline, but my face is very flat and it bugs me quite often. I would love to hear your response as to what you think about it. Like should i do anything about it? or is it good the way it is? i’m looking for a real response, I can take anything you give to me because that would be wonderful!!

  16. Amy says:

    The thing is I have a small chin, big eyes and long lashes and I do have people’say attention when I am in a room. But I have an asymmetrical face and look bad in pictures. I have to take tons to look okay but I look lifeless. My features look exaggerated in a bad way in photos. If I smile, there is too much teeth and to much around the mouth area. If I am looking down, my dark circles are pronounced and my eyelids droop. If I am looking straight ahead my upturned nose looks like two big nostrils with a rounded tip whereas people with noses double my size look better. My eyes look droopy or fish like in a bad way. I think despite conventionally attractive features my features are not in balance and u do not have good cheeks or bone structure.

  17. Darla says:

    I look absolutely horrible in pictures… ughhhh. I find my boyfriend won’t even post pics of me.(even tho he would NEVER admit this is the reason.)
    I know he takes hundreds upon hundreds of pics, and I have found out just recently that he takes many candid shots that I was totally unaware of. Alas…all or almost all are of me with one eye looking partly closed, ( my face is very thin) so half the time i look almost emaciated.(damn why don’t you feed that girl!).
    I wish there was something I could do but I have to take MANY pics to come up with only one satisfactory picture.
    And it’s never one of those when im with a group of friends or we are out so it can be shared.
    I’ve done the old looking in the mirror and taking pics ro see what I’m best at, angles and such… but, well nothing seems to work out.
    Anyone have any ideas other than never taking pics or lobbing off my damn head I would appreciate it.

  18. Carrie says:

    I am not photogenic at all. Especially when it comes to group photos. Everyone would look perfect and then there’s me. But I have to say I love a good selfie! Selfies are everything I find my angles and can take good ones I wish the same could be said for group photos.

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