At a recent high-society gala, two men were about to be photographed. One quickly removed his glasses, explaining: "This is the real me." The other kept his spectacles on.
Neither will regret his choice, says Alan Berliner, the Los Angeles photographer who took the picture. He gives both men top marks for making themselves comfortable, exuding confidence and looking like happy campers, all essential to taking a great picture during the busy party season.
Experts agree that men tend to have fewer photo phobias than women. "But when they're bad, they're really bad," says Charles Bush, whose celebrity shots appear on magazine and book covers.
Vice President Al Gore, however, is a polished pro. Photographed recently at UCLA with a flock of corporate chiefs, he knew what to do, Bush says. Aware of his most flattering side and body position, Gore "got into a position he had experience in and he didn't move around a lot. He stayed warm and friendly to the camera."
Some call that "romancing the camera," an art perfected by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis as well as Princess Diana, who never takes a bad picture, says Anne Crawford, fashion director of Town & Country magazine. Di, it seems, has discovered her best angle. "In every picture, her chin is down and her eyes are up," Crawford says.
The chin dip is an excellent trick for a lot of women, but it can backfire. "Be careful to keep good posture. You don't want to get your chin down too far," cautions Crawford, who suggests working out photo hang-ups in private, in front of a video camera. "Set it up on a tripod. Talk to it, carry on a conversation with it."
Berliner suggests practicing in front of a mirror to find the best side, smile and stance that lurks in us all. A quarter turn of the body, for example, prevents the lens from accentuating the hips and shoulders, he says. Turning too far, however, may highlight profile flaws, such as "a little excess under the chin or a bump on your nose." Dropping the chin and lining up the eyes with the camera can downplay minor defects.
Above all, look like you're having a good time, the experts say. But not too good: "An excessive smile brings up every line and gives you less eyes," Berliner explains.
Still, Patricia Kennedy, former model and frequently photographed member of the Joffrey Ballet's executive committee, insists that "a terrific smile is a woman's greatest asset."
But it's not the only one. "You don't look good by accident," adds Kennedy, who says she can get ready in one hour--despite a detailed agenda. It includes spritzing her face with Evian water before applying foundation--with a sponge--followed by powder, to achieve the matte finish all photographers recommend.
Kennedy sticks to classic clothing shapes. And she strongly recommends last-minute revisions to prevent photo-album atrocities. "If the dress doesn't feel right, don't wear it. If the makeup doesn't look like you, take it off."
Very light makeup is always a mistake, the photographers say. "It's like shooting into a bin of flour," Berliner says. "You get a white face and red lips. It's not flattering."
And neither is a worried face. "If people are afraid of the camera, they tighten up," Bush says. "Fear is an adversary for sure."
If nothing else, remember to put your shoulders back and exhale, says Crawford, sounding like everyone's mother. "Holding your breath is one thing that kills a photo. You can see the stress. And you shouldn't be clutching anything to your chest--unless, of course, it's an Oscar."