Do you hate having your photo taken? You are not alone. Inspired by my recent, one-time experience as a poster girl, I decided it was time to get over this silly hang-up with some insider info on looking good in pictures from my favourite photographer friend. 

Meet Curtis Comeau, a photographer from Edmonton that gets to photograph some amazing people and places across Western Canada and around the world. Every time I talk with Curtis, he is just off to or back from some exotic or adventurous destination. Check out Curtis’ blog if you love beautiful photographs (including ones of famous people…) and the back story behind them. Because of his talent and because he is just a cool, laidback guy, he’s my go-to for photography. So I thought it was time to get the skinny on great photos and looking good in them in this Q&A with Curtis. 

Curtis, give my blog friends your 30-second elevator speech on what you do.
I’m a commercial photographer based in Western Canada that works with companies and advertising & creative agencies to help them sell their products or services.  I’ve been at it since 2000, and really at it since 2004 when my practice began to take off.

You have been on many amazing photo shoots. What has been the most interesting photo shoot and why?
There is so much planning that goes into a photo shoot that by the time we are ready to shoot or the subject shows up, there is very little drama and everything goes smoothly.  But I find the most interesting shoots are interesting because of the location we are in. Recently, I was in Dutch Harbour, Alaska to photograph king crab fishing season. Fishermen are a breed of their own and Dutch Harbour was beautiful, but it is a rough and tough town; there were 10 fights that happened in the one week I was there. I knew I wouldn’t get the images I needed if me and my camera didn’t fit in. So I dressed the stereotype – plaid shirt, work boots – and the guys were great. I got some amazing images simply because I became one of them.

What are five things people can do to be more photogenic?
Heels. Women should always wear heels when they are being photographed. Heels change your posture and how you look – for the better. Plus, they often make you feel sexier and better about yourself, which comes through to the camera. 

Dress up. When in doubt on what to wear, dress the best you can. I find women always photograph better when they are in a suit or dressed very nicely. Same goes for men.

Men be serious; women smile. There is research that proves that men look better in photographs where they have a serious look, while women look better when they smile.

Trust the photographer. It’s my job to make you look good – I am on your team. If a photographer tells you to smile, do it. If you give yourself to the photographer and trust that they will make you look good, chances are you will.

Confidence. It is probably the most important element you can bring to your photograph.  It can be as simple as finding one thing you like about yourself and thinking about only that, and not worrying about the rest.

What is your secret for taking a good photograph?
When there is a subject I want to photograph, I always start by shooting far away and then moving in closer. It allows me to see my subject from different perspectives. Starting farther away also ensures you aren’t kicking things off by invading someone’s personal space. When you aren’t imposing on the person you are shooting, they become more comfortable and have time to get used to you taking their photograph.

One person you would love to photograph?
I would have loved to photograph my grandfather. He has passed away but he had such an interesting face that said so much. I would have loved to have had the chance to do his portrait.

Any words of wisdom for budding photographers?
Being a commercial photographer is a difficult career choice. It’s like wanting to become a professional athlete – not everyone makes it to the show. It is a long progression and you need a 20-25 year plan.

You do a lot of corporate portrait photography – CEOs, executives, politicians and other big wigs. What feedback would you give them or their handlers about these photo shoots?
Our society has become very visual – everything is accompanied by an image, particularly because of social media. I am often asked by companies to photograph their CEO, board or executive team – but that I only have 2 minutes to get my shot. Those photographs are a key part of the reputation of your company – how you are viewed to shareholders, customers, employees and others. Is that only worth 2 minutes of time? Photographs are more important and expected than they have ever been before. It’s important to give them the time and thought that your company and stakeholders deserve.