By Michelle Konstantinovsky
Pop quiz: When faced with a camera lens, you: a) Hold your breath and assume a deer-in-headlights position, b) Forcibly pull anyone within 10 feet into the shot, or c) Use one hand to raise your cocktail and place the other on your cocked hip, achieving full “sorority girl pose” status.
If you go into full-on panic mode when asked to strike a pose, the answer might be d) All of the above. Mercifully, San Francisco event photographer extraordinaire Drew Altizer has three simple rules for avoiding a photographic catastrophe: “Relax, relax, relax.”
Sure, there are other basic guidelines as well, but Altizer says the real secret is to suspend all shoulds. “The trick is not to be so eager,” the 15-year industry vet says. “It’s hard to break it down to technique because it has everything to do with knowing yourself, calming yourself down and believing you can present a face people would like to look at. And not letting your insecurities get in the way.”
Sounds simple enough, but can awkwardly “smizing” (smiling with your eyes) disciples of the Tyra Banks School of Top Model-ing glean any tangible tips from the pros? Here’s why Altizer says these subjects aced their shots:
The biggest lesson here: Do not try this at home. “That pose would be terrible at a party—you’d look like an insane person,” Altizer says. “But for a celebrity on a red carpet, it works. She’s presenting the public face of a celebrity designed to be seen by tabloid publications. These people are professionals at work.”
Had Niedzielski described her stance prior to posing, Altizer says he wouldn’t have expected it to work. But it wound up perfectly epitomizing her persona. “She’s chic and able to present herself that way,” he says. “That’s why these things are so individual; what works for one person, another person couldn’t possibly do.” One noteworthy detail is Niedzielski’s expert style exhibition. “She knows how to present her outfit and she’s figured out how to show it off without looking like a spokesmodel.”
“If you have a snake and you think you can pull this off, go for it.”
Here, Hale breaks a cardinal Altizer rule: No drinks allowed. But the signature move is central to the society icon’s identity. “The glass is her thing,” Altizer says. “She’s the rare exception because it’s what she does.” Aside from the pose, Altizer says Hale exudes the poise and confidence of a subject fully at ease.
Douglas Friedman and Kimberly Bini
“They’re at ease and they’re not freaked out,” Altizer says. “That’s 90 percent of the game.” While he wouldn’t typically recommend a hands-in-pocket pose, Altizer says the cool, casual stance works well for Friedman because it looks like a natural choice. Both subjects have also nailed the “serious but approachable” expression Altizer says is key to giving good face.
Lucy Page and Libby Murdock
While clutching onto friends for dear life rarely works for photos (“Often, but not always, it makes people look insecure, like they’re not holding their own”), Page and Murdock effortlessly pull of a subtle hand-hold. “They’re doing it for the cameras but they know how to be hammy without being cheesy,” Altizer says. “It was just a spontaneous moment of them being fun; they’re not posing, per se, and it wasn’t a calculated thing. They’re just being themselves and being a little silly.”
Drew’s Quick and Dirty Tips for a Flawless Photo
• Put down drinks, coats, wraps, big bags, iPhones and everything other than a chic clutch or small bag.
• Never let anyone shoot you with a name tag on. Ever.
• Abandon the sorority girl/teapot/flamingo pose once and for all.
• R-E-L-A-X. The people who do it best are able to convince themselves that they’re someone we want to see, and then they show up and play the part.
• Stand on your own two feet and resist the urge to glom on to those around you. People look more confident when standing together, but not entwined.
• Tyra was right: Smile with your eyes and subtly squint to look happy, confident, and approachable. The eyes give away your fear of the camera or demonstrate your self-confidence.
• And don’t forget to smile with your mouth. Smile as you would with someone you like very much. Let us see you as someone who likes us, the viewers. It helps us like you back.
• Your chin and jaw position can make or break a photo, but Altizer says the correct posture is best demonstrated in person. So you have an open invitation to pull him aside at your next soiree and request a tutorial.