Below are a few things you can do to look relaxed (even if you really aren’t!) for a photo:
1. Start moving. An easy way to relax in a photo is to start moving. Create motion. Breathe. When I’m directing someone in a photoshoot, I always start the person off walking or doing something that involves movement. It’s hard to look stiff while you are in motion.
2. Tilt your head. When humans flirt, show compassion, or want to connect, they do a little head tilt. It’s a psychological reflex. To look natural in pictures, tilt your head. It’s like saying, Hey, I’m cute! Keep in mind that the tilt should be subtle. I’ve seen photos of myself when I over-tilted and trust me, it looks weird.
3. Touch Heads. For photos with more than one person, it looks less stiff when heads touch. I use this a lot on the wedding day when the bride is taking portraits with each individual bridesmaid. I say, “cheek to cheeeeek!.” As soon as cheeks touch, smiles naturally get bigger and more authentic. I never ask guy friends to do this (“bro” dynamics are more particular), but sometimes they voluntarily do, and when that happens it’s pretty sweet. Touch heads and connect!