Updated: Mar 7
Learn from the professionals.
The reason I like taking portraits so much is that I find all the faces of the world, beautiful. I believe there are no bad models either. They just have not practised enough. So, while finding the best angles for your face, be kind to yourself. Remember that you are beautiful. The camera might not perceive your face the same way as it looks in reality. Read on to know more about how to hack the face game so you look great every time you get yourself clicked, be it a selfie or a professional photo shoot.
Does your face tend to look the same in all the photos? Do you unintentionally use the same angle and side of your face every time you pose? Or maybe you fall into the other category in which you still have not figured out which side of your face looks better. It's also possible that you are blessed with a very symmetric face.
In any case, understanding face angles, camera angles and lighting will make you confident, the next time you get photographed. Moreover, it will add more variety to your portraits.
The mirror experiment
For eye-level shots, the mirror is your best buddy in finding the best angles for your face. Look in the mirror and move your face gradually from one side to the other and observe which angle you like the most. You would get a range of 180 degrees this way. Usually, the 3/4th angle (45° from the camera/mirror) is flattering for most faces as compared to the straight face and side profiles.
Another interesting angle that you can experiment with is facing away from the camera at about 60°. Check in the mirror how your face looks from different angles and which angle do you like the most.
Do selfies help?
They can help to some extent in understanding your face better. But you are essentially just using a very wide-angle lens close to your face. This results in an image with a lot of lens distortion, especially towards the edges of the face. You might have observed that your nose looks bigger and the face looks a bit disproportionate, in phone selfies. It gives little idea of how your face would look from a distance if a photographer or a friend takes your picture.
Pro tip: Go the whole 180 degrees and turn your face slightly at different angles with every click.
Practice, practice, practice
Prianca Mishra, a professional model and actor quoted, "Getting myself photographed often using different face angles and analyzing the images helped me to know my best angles."
Don’t hesitate to ask your friends and family to photograph you. The more you practice, the better you will understand the angles that work for your face. Pro tip: When doing this exercise, go the whole 180 degrees and turn your face slightly at different angles with every click.
If no one is around, just use the self-timer. Many bloggers and models are experts in taking self-portraits and they have mastered this art through practice. You can also follow them on social media and learn from their work how they use different angles while posing themselves.
The better side
Most of us have a slightly asymmetric face. That’s why one side of the face might appear more flattering than the other, in-camera. To find the better side of your face, ask a friend to photograph you from the left as well as the right side at a 45° angle. Compare the images to see which side gives your features a more symmetric appearance.
Once you find your better side, also experiment with different expressions to observe how your face contours, jawline and features change with the expressions.
Standard portrait angles in photography
When photographed from a higher angle than the eye level, your eyes and forehead tend to look bigger and your cheeks look slightly slimmer. Because depth is created with perspective, your body tends to look smaller in proportion to your face. The result can be flattering for people who have a round face. Popularly, it’s also called the MySpace angle. We use this angle most of the time for selfies and group selfies as well as for beauty shots.
On the other hand, an angle lower than the eye level can make your face look smaller and slightly bulkier than it is, if not posed properly. But many models and bloggers are experts at this angle through years of practice. Therefore, a lower angle is also a preferred one for ‘hero shots’ and for making you look taller and stand out from the background.
You must have seen a professional photographer point out a finger and asked you to turn your face towards that. They are looking for the best angle for your face when they do that.
Many portrait photographers commonly ask their models to bring their ears forward. But with evolution, most of us have lost the ability to move our ears voluntarily. What a bummer!
What they mean is to extend your jawline and bring your chin slightly down. You eventually do bring your ears forward with this action. This slight change in face position forces the skin and fat underneath your chin to stretch. And just like that, your double-chin disappears. Then your friends compliment you on your cheese grater jawline, after seeing your images.
Follow the light
"All models know that they are all secretly sunflowers inside."
Professional models and photographers see the light first when they go to a new place. Observing and understanding good light contributes the most in creating a strong image. So why not apply this knowledge while posing and find the best angles to create better portraits for you.
Observe what the main source of light is and which direction is it placed in, with reference to your position. The direction and quality of light affect how the skin textures appear in the image.
Natural light is your best friend in this regard. Facing a big window and getting photographed from the front and at a slight side angle makes everyone’s face look more beautiful.
For that model glow, try the golden hours (after sunrise and before sunset) for warm low intensity lighting. Midday light when the sun is on top of your head is considered the worst kind of light for portraits unless you are in a shaded area.
Uniformly lit locations, aka open shade, for example, at the doorway, garage wall, shaded part of a building, and cloudy days are photographers’ allies. Try to look for uniform light conditions because the shadows are fuzzier and your skin looks smoother in this kind of light.
If you want to add five years to your face or look gritty, try harsh lighting conditions. Direct light from the side of the face (90°) enhances all the textures of your face, including wrinkles, fine lines, and acne.
Put the sun at your back
After you have tried everything and when you are ready to amp up your selfie game, try backlit portraits.
Photograph yourself with the sun towards your back at an angle. It can look very flattering for smoother-looking skin. Just remember to set the camera exposure on your face. So, you don’t end up with underexposed images.
Assuming that the photographer is standing right in front of you, changing the light direction or your position such that it falls on your face at an angle and from a higher angle, can give you amazing contrast.
If the light direction is fixed, you would need to move your face in such a way so the desired lighting pattern is achieved. You can research more on portrait lighting patterns, especially, butterfly and loop lighting for portraits.
I hope these tips will ensure that you never shy away from the camera again and you look in pictures, just as beautiful as you are in person. Comment below what else challenges you to pose in front of the camera and if you found something useful in this post.