Should You Look At The Camera When Having A Picture Taken? Eye Contact In Photos:  Should You Look Away In Photos? Should You Look Away From the Camera?

As a professional photographer, one of the most common questions I get is whether the subject should look at the camera or away. Whether it’s for a business profile, social media outlet or dating photo, there is always some question around if one should look directly at the camera or not.

Looking Away In Pictures In Popular Culture

It’s important to understand the origins of people looking away from the camera in photos. Most people make the mistake of following others or trends when it comes to photos which can lead to rather cringy and poor decisions. The biggest mistake people make is taking direction from a photo they like and applying it for their purposes. See cute photo, replicate that pose.

bad linkedin profile picture

bad linkedin profile picture

Stories in major news publication often feature a photo in the story in which the subject is looking away, looking sad, looking pensive or trying to look confident. These purposes are mostly used to tell a story within the story by adding a face to the person being covered. Those photos are accompanied by text and by stories that help to convey a point or sway an audience.

Similarly, photos in dating profiles have largely been swayed by news articles and dating app studies that suggest people should look away to appear more attractive and get more likes. The biggest culprit is the OkCupid 2010 study that says it’s best to look away in your photos. It got so much attention that countless articles, blogs, coaches and photographers swore by it.

11 years later, there are still online dating photographers who reference this outdated study on their sites despite the fact that OkCupid has since deleted the blog post because it’s no longer accurate or relevant per the disclaimers they now add at the bottom of all their posts:

“This post was originally published in 2010 and has since been updated to reflect OkCupid’s current values.”

The main intent in media publications is to get readers to follow the gaze of the subject whether it’s something close, distant or abstract. The purpose in looking away is a specific intent and headshots and dating photos are typically take for different purposes.

 

Why People Look Away In Their Photos

Many people hate having their photo taken. Some folks are physically unable to look at themselves in photos, mirror or camera. Others don’t like the way they look whether it’s a pose, teeth, smile, hairline etc. Whether its wrinkles, shadows around the eyes, crooked nose, asymmetrical eyes, yellow teeth, bad smiles, hairlines or double chins – these small details are enough to get someone to feel uncomfortable in front of a camera.

Sometimes it’s easier to have your photo taken if you are not looking at the camera similar to getting a shot at the hospital. Who likes to see their blood drawn anyway?

In business or professional settings, sometimes corporations have specific requirements for their employee headshots and directories. It’s not uncommon for firms to have stringent requirements for lighting, angles, crops, eye contact and guidance on smiling. Sometimes the aim is to replicate those big newspaper and magazine articles looks but those just don’t work for professional headshots.

The other reason why people look away in their photos is that they are attempting to look candid in their shots. While candid shots are great for dating photos, they often times look staged, forced or cheesy. In a professional setting, people are taught to make eye contact to signal confidence, control and power yet looking away at the camera in photos can suggest avoidance, disinterest or lack of confidence.

These poses can have the opposite effect at what you are trying to convey. Looking away can feel fake or signal lack of authenticity and in some extreme cases make you look pompous or self-absorbed. In some cases, looking away at the camera can suggest you are trying to hide something from others (bad smile, blemish, nose or teeth).

Why You Should Look At The Camera In Your Photos

Looking at the camera should ideally convey two important things: confidence and approachability. Photos act like a business card. They should convey authority, reputation and prestige but also communicate a personal side to you.

This is true if you are trying to recruit candidates for jobs, convey trust with partners, signal approachability with dates or build a connection with someone by giving your attention by looking right at them. Dating photos are even more pronounced as photos are being compared more closely to others in a short period of time.

Looking at the camera also makes it easier to recognize you in public. If you are building a brand or selling yourself, you want to make sure you are not hiding. Even in dating photos, looking like a fool but looking at the camera can be the ultimate example of self-confidence coupled with the ability to laugh at oneself which is unique and hard to come by when everyone is trying to look like someone else.

Should You Look Directly At The Camera

There is a fine line between looking in the direction of the camera casually and staring intensely at a camera. Bug eyes (wide open eyes) can feel scary. Relax the pose, squint a bit and relax the jaws and body frame.

Crazy Girl With Big Eyes Meme

Crazy Girl With Big Eyes Meme

Hinge suggests that men get 102% more likes by simply looking at the camera vs away from the camera. Women’s data suggests the opposite but I have my opinions on that (hiding facial features, avoiding the camera and coming off as shy and introverted even submissive).

How To Look Photogenic In Your Photos, How To Take Better Photos

Not everyone looks great in front of the camera. There are many factors that communicate how one is perceived in photos including wardrobe, pose, lighting, angles and intent/outlet of said photos.

Merely turning to the camera may not make you look more authentic or confident – it can sometimes backfire and make you give off that deer in the headlights look. This is particularly true if you don’t want your photo taken, don’t like where you are, or don’t agree with the reason why a photo is being taken.

Practicing smiles, angles and lighting. It helps to come prepared to take photos (good rest, hydration, confident clothing, soft light and a good photographer who knows how to put you at ease). No face or body is perfect, everyone has some imperfections that they are not thrilled about. With that said, embracing your imperfections by looking at the camera make for better photos than shying away.

 

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Additional Reading:

How To Look Photogenic In Photos

How To Look More Attractive In Dating Photos

How To Take A Professional Headshot

Linkedin Headshot Tips

About Eddie Hernandez

San Francisco Photographer: Professional Headshots, People Portraits, LinkedIn Photos, Natural Headshots, Not So Corporate Headshots, Casual Corporate Headshots, Business Casual Headshots, Company Culture + People Photography for non-profits, startups, small business owners, professional firms and local organizations.

Specialties include: casual employee headshots, work style corporate headshots, LinkedIn headshots, business headshots, executive portraits, professional headshots, office headshots, creative branding portraits, CEO portraits, modern company culture and environmental office head shots. I primarily shoot outdoors, public spaces and client sites (on location, before work, after work, lunch breaks) and specialize in location scouting and creative direction. Assistance with wardrobe and styling is available. 

My ability to put people at ease, guide poses, provide unique backgrounds and create a fun photoshoot filled is what separates me from others. If you hate taking photos or are camera shy, you have come to the right person for your pictures.

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