Take a fantastic photo — or look fabulous in one — with these tips.

’Tis the season for parties and pictures, but taking a great photo is a timeless skill — and so is looking great in one. Here are tips from some of the pro photographers and stylists who make our experts and fitness models look good!

Mark Kuroda
photographer and videographer

01 Bring in opposites. Like in life, balance in your photos is aesthetically pleasing.

If the photo has lots of blue in it, a touch of red or yellow — the opposite spectrum of color — looks great.

I was curious if this could work with emotion, so I began asking the people I photographed to split their face into segments; hold a thought of intensity or even malice in the eyes, and smile on the bottom. Some of the most interesting characters we like looking at are like this: Steve Jobs was focused, driven, not known as kind, but he delighted in his creations, so his expression was often a mixture of delight and intimidation.


02 Try to facilitate the real emotion of your subject. We are conditioned to cease experiencing what we are feeling, and then smile for the camera. People choose to interact with art, including photos, because they want to feel, and I think that’s the purpose of a photo, to communicate a feeling or an essence. If you can, make feeling a part of your shot.

  • For example, for a Christmas photo, let the kids run wild and do what they enjoy to bring out true feelings of elation, instead of making them line up in front of the Golden Gate Bridge and say “cheese.”
  • Or, tell a grumpy person to look as angry and grumpy as possible — it’s a ridiculous ask that will lead to laughter, and then a good photo.

03 Look for what makes someone unique, and stay with that, encourage that and celebrate it. Perhaps someone is shy, but mischievous, like the character Amelie. Instead of making him or her try to look the way you want, respect his or her space and celebrate that personality, and catch that person being himself or herself — perhaps a curious look, or focus in on what makes them unique, perhaps it’s their hands or feet, or just eyes.

04 Help your subject get to that emotion. It takes imagination and empathy to understand where the person you’re photographing is emotionally, and how to get him or her to the place that you are imagining.

  • Instead of saying “look happy,” create a scenario for your subject: you just ran into the Apple beta test crew, who gave you a new watch for free, no strings attached. How would that feel? Then shoot as the emotions happen (quickly!).

Check out Mark Kuroda’s work at kurodastudios.com
Instagram: @markkuroda

Todd Domenic Cribari
photographer and videographer

01 The most important thing to consider is lighting. Light, lack of it and the placement of the light are essential to the mood of that moment.

  • Look for a place with good-quality, even light. Hard daylight or harsh indoor lighting can present unwanted shadows, high contrast with dark and light colors, glare or reflections.
  • When you’re indoors, make sure the main light source or your “key light” isn’t directly above your subject, because it creates shadows in the eyes and puts nasty “hot spots” on people’s noses or bald heads.
  • Stay away from mixing lighting temperatures. Indoor lighting is warm-toned and outdoor is blue-toned. The camera will have a hard time interpreting the colors of mixed lighting. For example, when you’re indoors, decide if you will use the sunlight from the window, the flash on the camera or the fixed lights in the room.


02 Focus is also important: not only the clarity of the image, but also the focal point of your shot — the center of interest or activity. All great photographs draw you right to what they want you to look at.

  • When you are setting up your shot, ask yourself first, “What is it that I want to see,” and then make sure to create an emphasis on that thing.
  • Make sure the camera is focused properly. Tap your cell phone screen so the camera will dial into what you want to be the clearest. On most point-and-shoot cameras, hold the button halfway down gently and let the camera automatically shift focus before you push it all the way.
  • Breathe and calmly press the shutter release button while holding the camera still — pushing it too hard or jerking the camera can ruin the focus. If you are manually adjusting the focus, make sure you’ve calibrated the eye piece to the lens. Then when shooting, move the focus ring back and forth a couple times until you see the sweet spot.

03 Composition is a necessity to a good photo, and one of the easiest things to mess up. We’ve all handed our phone to a stranger to take a photo of us with friends or family, only to find the shot is off-center, or too far away or too close-up to capture both people and scenery.

  • Try moving the frame around to see how it completely changes the energy of the look. Use your instincts and be patient — let what you see make you feel good about what you’re shooting before you snap the shot.
  • But “when in doubt, center it out.” Never cut body parts off unless you’re sure it’s the right look. You can always play with a picture later if you have more to work with, rather than less or nothing.
  • Stay away from big, open voids in the frame unless it’s your intention or it’s a skyline. When you have your subject framed the way you want, then widen out just a bit. You can adjust the composition with cropping later.
  • Keep your subject prominent in the shot so you can see the details and make it personal.
  • Create balance in your photograph. Let all elements in the shot share the space and do their part in making the image awesome. (Look up “the rule of thirds” for more insight.)

Check out Todd Domenic Cribari’s work at inspirostudio.com
Facebook: Inspiro Studio
Instagram: @Inspiro_Studio
Twitter: @Inspiro_Studio

nikoleNikol Elaine
makeup artist and hair groomer

01 My first tip for how to look your best in a photo is what you do behind the scenes. Holiday food can be salty, and we might have a few more cocktails than normal. Make sure you are drinking plenty of water to flush out toxins and keep skin clear. If the skin looks glowing and well-rested, I know your photo will turn out great!

02 Find a reason to laugh. Some of us (including me) don’t like being in front of any camera lens, so to find any excuse to laugh and be a little silly makes for a great photo full of energy. Laughter is the best medicine.

03 Add a little color into the mix. This might mean a bright or brighter shirt than normal. Or putting on a bright lipstick. These little things can stand out in just the right way in a photo.

Check out Nikol Elaine’s work at nikolelaine.com
Instagram: @nikol_elaine

Mariah Nicole
hair and makeup artist

01 SMILE! A smile will always make a great photo.

02 Take some extra time to style your hair. It’s one of the most visible aspects of a photo, whether candid or posed. If you’re a guy, take a few extra minutes to comb, brush, coif or put your hair into a bun to keep it in place and looking great. For women, I suggest getting a professional blow-dry or curls, or do something more styled as fits the theme.

nicole03 When it comes to makeup, pay attention to skin tone! Make sure your foundation is the right color for your skin. You may have to go lighter, since summer is over. Also, you don’t have to copy every Instagram fad, but keep in mind that defined eyes, eyebrows, cheekbones and colored lips greatly enhance your features in a photo. Depending on your makeup experience, try enhancing one or all!

Check out Mariah Nicole’s work at Mariah Nicole Beauty, mariahnicole.com
Instagram: @mariahnicolebeauty