Emma Samms: Snap happy

Many people don’t like having their photograph taken, but at this time of year it’s hard to always d

Many people don’t like having their photograph taken, but at this time of year it’s hard to always dodge the camera - Credit: Archant

Many people don’t like having their photograph taken, but at this time of year it’s hard to always dodge the camera

Despite the fact that I’ve been a model and an actress for nearly 30 years, I hate having my photo taken. In truth, there aren’t many people who actually like it and one would be a little suspicious of someone who did (I’m thinking Kardashians here).

There are still a few tribes of people in distant parts of the world who believe that when you take their picture you are stealing a little bit of their soul and nowadays, with the omnipresence of camera phones and the never-ending reach of social media, I can relate to that.

This time of year, with its office parties and family gatherings, the chance of being asked to pose for a photo increases considerably, so I thought I’d offer a few helpful tips using my experience on both sides of the camera.

As I mentioned in a previous column, I have had a side-career as a professional photographer for many years. My entrée into the business was pure luck; at the time I was dating a lovely man called John Maucere, who happened to be deaf. He lip-read well, but he didn’t speak at all and over the months he taught me American Sign Language. I’m proud to say that I’m still fairly fluent in that beautiful language and I sign with the Southern Californian accent I acquired from my informal education. (Yes, signers have accents too!) But I digress. John is an actor and he needed some new headshots but often had trouble working with photographers because the moment they put the camera in front of their face he couldn’t see their lips and communication ceased.

At the time, I had a fairly decent camera, though no true knowledge of how to work it, but I offered to have a go. I probably took over 100 photos of him and by the rules of ‘Monkey at a Typewriter’, one of them turned out OK. Or at least good enough to be used as his headshot.

A few months later, it was spotted by the head of advertising for Revlon who happened to be in John’s agent’s office and was talking about a new campaign for a men’s cologne they were working on. They wanted photographs of real men, not models or actors and they wanted the photos to be “unusual.”

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My photo was “unusual” only because I didn’t know how to do “usual”, but based on that one image I was hired to do a massive campaign for Revlon, travelling all around the US, searching rodeos, factories and sports grounds for attractive men. And I got paid for this. I told you I was lucky.

These were the days before digital cameras and I had to learn on the job but when the photographs were first shown, in an exhibition at Bloomingdales, they miraculously received excellent reviews. I assured the press that I wasn’t about to give up my day job as an actress, but my career as a photographer was up and running. Since then I’ve photographed the Rolling Stones, the playwright Neil Simon and many more.

I use all of the lighting and posing tricks that I’ve observed and acquired from being photographed myself and I so enjoy providing a flattering photo to people who have always thought of themselves as un-photogenic.

I do regret that the way we look is considered so important these days. They say that attractive people are statistically more likely to do better in business, which is clearly absurd, but if that’s the way it is, then I’m delighted to use the simple tricks of the trade to give people’s confidence (and possibly careers) a little boost.

So, someone is pointing their phone at you to record a happy moment. What do you do?

• Firstly, don’t grimace or make a face. It’s a natural reaction for those who are camera shy, but it only compounds the problem. So smile. A real smile is always the best that we look.

• Make sure you’re facing the strongest light source. Your photographer’s back should be to the window or the brightest light in the room so you have a nice even light on your face.

• Ask the photographer to raise his/her camera or phone as high as they can (definitely above eye level) to take the picture. This opens your eyes and helps with any double chin issues.

• And, as regular readers already know my feelings about overhead spotlights, do not stand beneath these malevolent scoundrels at any cost.

You can follow Emma on Twitter: @EmmaSamms1