Fashion & Beauty

You, Camera-Ready!



Grab the Dark Glasses, It’s Paparazzi Time

‘Tis the season!

Not that season, the other one. When graduations strike and weddings blossom and you once again wince at the approach of the photographer.

Just hit The Pose. You’ve seen it a million times, on every red carpet, in every society page photo of Washington’s doyennes. It’s how they look fabulous shot after shot. “The sorority pose,” that’s what portrait photographer Elizabeth Dranitzke calls it, breaking it down this way:

Put one foot in front of the other with your weight on the back leg and the front leg slightly bent with your hand lightly and gracefully touching your thigh, twist your torso so it’s angled toward the camera, now arch your back and push your booty out, just this side of pain. Now tuck in your chin a little, suck in your gut, smile, and relax!

Got it? Good.  Even the size zero sylphs do it.

Get Ready for Your Close Up

Dranitzke has enormous eyes behind slightly larger glasses and laser focus, which can leave the photophobic a little unsettled, but any trauma is quickly offset by her deep and ready laugh. The owner of Capitol Hill-based Photopia, she shoots families, babies and events but takes particular pleasure in creating “elegant portraits (see example below) of women over 40.”


“Some people think they have a better side, and often they’re right,” she says. More often though, a successful photo depends on the lighting.

When you’re being shot by a professional you can usually depend on them to put you in the best light. But say someone’s coming at you with their camera… .

“Tell them not to use a crappy cell phone camera,” she laughs, knowing they will. “People need to learn to use their phones right: set it to high definition (consult instructions on your phone) and move people to the light. Many low-quality images occur when it’s too dark.”

By the way, Apple stores offer free training in composing and editing shots for those that wield an iPhone.

Bright, direct sun is equally bad. You’ll squint. “Open shade is best. In the shadow of a building or under a tree. Not dappled light, unless you’re getting artsy. You want reflected light, not direct harsh light. Or put your back to the sun.”

And tell the photographer to raise the camera a little, “it’s much more flattering to be looking up,” she says. Look at a few Kardashian selfies, if you can stomach it. See a double chin?

Still see it? You need to get that neck out and stretched like a turtle. Try this: Put your left hand on your collarbone and push your chin out and up, feel how taut your jaw is? Now hold it, smile and don’t forget to relax.


A posing don’t. The subject is looking directly into the sun and squinting. / Photo by James Kelly.

If you haven’t entirely mastered the sorority pose, simply “turn a little to the side, it’s much more flattering,” Dranitzke says. “And drop your shoulder bag and your coat. That can immediately improve your posture and the shot. Clutter drives me crazy.”

If you’re seated with your legs in view, scoot to the edge of your chair, shoulders back and down, it’s far more flattering than sitting back, “spreading in the seat,” she says. “That’s a particularly bad look in a short skirt.” Knees together, girls.

Then there are the dreaded dinner events. So often people are caught in a litter of dirty plates and napkins, with food dribbling out of their mouths as the photographer is coming by.

“Put your martini on the table, lean forward, with your chin out and down, and act natural,” she says.  Assuming you got your nails done, you can put your hand to your chin or your cheek, whatever you want to point up (or cover) but don’t press. Lightly touch with “ballerina hands,” she says. Remember those?

“Or engage in conversation, and laugh, even if your partner is boring,” she says. “There’ll be a happy picture of the event.”

Sit-Ups Not Required

The former photography teacher,  Dranitzke, who has an MFA from the California College of the Arts, also works with small groups and individuals, offering “The Ultimate Girls’ Day,” which includes professional makeup design, hair touchup, wardrobe consultation and a photo shoot. The $545 spring package is available only through June.  At Georgetown’s trendy boutique, Lili the First,  she recently taught posing for photos as brilliant shop owner Ifat Pridan gave pointers on style.

The trick, Dranitzke says, is to “pick something you feel good in. If you wear what’s you, you’ll relax and feel fabulous. We all know the difference, when you put something on, look in the mirror and say, ‘Yes! Good to go. Hot.'”

But keep in mind that not everything you love makes a great picture. Pay attention to fit. Baggy clothes don’t fool anyone, but a beautiful scarf or jacket can cover many sins.

Show off your favorite body parts with clothing that features layers and textures to create visual interest. But unless you’re the bride, “don’t wear white if you’re very fair. You want contrast with your skin tone,”  she says.  And skip sleeveless tops “unless you have Michelle Obama arms.”

Think about how you’ll wear your hair and when it looks best. Don’t think you have to go to the salon before a big event if your hair usually looks better on the second day. Maybe you’ll just need a little day-of styling. And if your hands will show, and you know they will, make sure your nails are ready for a close-up.

“Jewelry and earrings, even studs, make you look more put together,” she says. Not to mention providing distraction from that which you want to distract and calling attention to that which you wish to highlight.

A little make-up doesn’t hurt either. At the least, some lip color and a swish of mascara. “I believe more and more in working with a great make-up artist,” she says.  “In fifteen minutes they can enhance you, show you how one color can make you pop and another wash you out. It’s worth it if you’re investing in photography.” Short of that, there’s always the department store make-up counter for a quick lesson.

Photo Finish 

Just remember, no matter how awful the photo looks today, give it a decade or two and you’ll be wondering what you ever complained about.

Contact Elizabeth Dranitzke at 202-550-2520 or by e-mail. Dranitzke’s favorite make-up artists are Rhonda Stone, the Mid-Atlantic rep for Nars, who can be reached at, and Suzanne Eden at The Makeup Chic.

— Stephanie Cavanaugh
Stephanie Cavanaugh writes the Green Acre gardening column for MyLittleBird. 

4 thoughts on “You, Camera-Ready!

  1. Bette says:

    What great tips for getting a better photo. Sure can use these when friend and family whip out their cameras for quick shots this summer. Thanks!

  2. Bette says:

    Some great suggestions here for taking a better photo this summer. Hope I can remember all these great tips when friends and family pull out the cameras! Thanks!

  3. Nancy Gold says:

    Great article. Especially that tip about sticking out your chin.

  4. jeanie gordon says:

    Love the way Stephanie writes interesting, complete and yet you still want more…

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