Thursday, August 7, 2014

Smile Pretty

By Paula Gaikowski

Paula-via-Jamie_Austin_1999 I enjoy corny jokes and still chuckle when I hear this one.

How can you tell who the crossdresser is at the family reunion? He’s the only one who knows how to work the self-timer on the camera!

Yes, it’s true we love to take pictures.

How far it’s all come in the last 20 years! I remember driving several towns away to have film developed for fear someone would recognize me. I still enjoying seeing those now vintage photos that were scanned and then uploaded onto bulletin boards followed by that new thing called the Internet.

In 1999, I had a professional makeover and photoshoot with Jamie Austin and at that moment, the picture-taking floodgates opened. Okay --- enough about the ole days, Auntie Paula!

Today we have digital cameras with the capability to take hundreds of photos and see them instantly.

Pictures provide us with an invaluable tool to guide us through our evolution towards womanhood. By looking back, we can see the mistakes we’ve made, but also recognize the clothes and accessories that made us look better.

Pictures help us build confidence and raise our self-esteem and create a personality that we can use online to build friendships and community. During times when I can’t express Paula, I look to my photos for a pick-me-up.

I’d like to share some of the tips and techniques I use to get better photos.

First, learn about your camera. Don’t wait until you are all dolled-up and then start experimenting. Get familiar with that self-timer, read the manual and learn about the different features.

Next, find the area you’ll use for picture-taking. A light-colored wall without clutter works well. There also should be plenty of natural light or indirect artificial light. Light equals glamour. I sometimes use two desk lamps reflected off the walls to produce light.

Many digital cameras can be mounted on a tripod. Investing in a large tripod is not necessary. I found this Gorilla Pod at Wal-Mart and it’s priceless in helping to get good shots at home or away.

When you are in boy mode and the pressure is off, start taking some practice shots to get your settings and lighting correct.

I had trouble finding poses that were feminine and natural. So I began noting how women news anchors pose themselves when standing. That is how I learned these basic poses:

  • My basic go to pose is simple hands behind my back and one foot in back of the other.
  • Front-standing with feet together and hands crossed above hips.
  • Ladylike with one foot forward and the other leg back and turned to the side. You’re your hands above your hips, cupped or slightly opened. Don’t be afraid to act girly --- let her out!
  • Sitting. The key to a ladylike posture are the curves. Your body should form an understated “S” shape. This is critical for a feminine posture when standing also.

You’ll notice women keep their hands cupped or have their fingers curled inward while holding their hands idle. Women also tend to keep their hands above their waist.
Become an observer of women. Find a mentor and note her movements and gestures. Then practice and don’t be afraid to act feminine.

When I first started going out in public, I was hesitant to act feminine, then it dawned on me. “You’re wearing a dress, idiot! Of course, I should act feminine.”

Observe yourself in front of a mirror as if you were rehearsing lines in play. Let your feminine nature come to the surface. Use the above poses as a starting point, however, don’t become mechanical --- let your inner girl take over. In photos, being overly feminine plays out well.

Photos taken from a slightly elevated level seem to look better, compare this photo verses this one and you’ll see the difference. Use your new mini tripod to get a slightly elevated view.

I know you have heard it before and I’ll say it again “Smile”. Pictures where you are smiling come out much better.

Let’s talk about taking pictures when we are out in public. Having a keepsake photo of that wonderful occasion you attended as woman is precious.

When taking a souvenir photo select a setting that tells a story. Stand near a sign or use a display to show the viewer where you are. At restaurants, the entrance works well. At museums or stores, displays tell a story.

I used to feel very self-conscious about taking my photo in public or asking someone to take my photo en femme. Nevertheless, I overcame my inhibitions about asking someone to take my photo and found that like all of my other fears and worries when it came to femulating, they were unfounded. Sales associates are always happy to oblige and at restaurants, the waitstaff is eager to please. If outdoors, I’ll always ask a young woman to take a photo and have never been turned down and typically, had friendly conversations afterward.

Getting high-quality photos take practice and more practice. With digital photography, we can make adjustments as we go and delete the shots we don’t like. Accept the fact right now that many of your photos are going to look terrible. On the other hand, from the many comes one, yes, one great shot --- a second caught in time when it all comes together. The iconic shot of the flag rising on Iwo Jima was 1/400 of a second taken over the shoulder of a war correspondent. Experiment and have fun using your photography to express yourself and grow as woman.

My Jamie Austin photos changed my life. They showed what I could achieve if I worked at it. They gave me assurance that I could look good as a woman.

As I started taking more photos, my attitude and confidence increased. It was work, but it was satisfying and enjoyable to see myself mature into a woman. It was all part of being a woman, that is, learning how to dress, accessorize, style my hair and do makeup. In time I not only saw a positive female image emerge, but I personally changed and evolved also.

Please remember to enjoy the journey, the practice, the friendships, the accomplishments and even the failures. In the end, it’s not the photo that’s important, it’s the big picture you need to focus on.





Source: Rent the Runway

Wearing Milly.





Actor Andrew Garfield femulating in Arcade Fire’s 2014 music video We Exist.


  1. Dear Paula and Stana,

    Thank You for an excellent article. I think the MOST IMPORTANT factor in having your picture taken en femme is to SMILE. Otherwise, you will almost always look ANGRY, rather than feminine. So, for attractive photos of your girl self, please SMILE, SMILE, SMILE in EVERY photo.



  2. Hi Paula and Stana

    I concur with Sheila...fantastic article. The info is timeless, and I will be referring back to it often! Thanks so much!


  3. If you have a Samsung Galaxy (some models and I suppose other makes too) use voice control and in the forward facing mode or selfie, say open camera and then say "cheese". In normal photo direction of course, the resolution is much better. Not many people are aware of this, including my local Samsung representative!


  4. You can point the camera both ways I mean, camera lens forward gives the best quality. You can say shoot or almost anything and the phone will take the pic. I too have abandoned my digital camera and just use my phone now,