I’m gonna say that again. There’s no such thing.
Few people are accustomed to being analyzed by a lens-wielding stranger. Yet we photographers often get impatient with subjects who pull faces and wear contorted expressions, and wonder why they can’t just look “normal”. An answer in the form of a question: Why don’t we all have natural, comfortable looking images of ourselves on our driver’s license? Because we aren’t comfortable, and we have no idea what “natural” looks like.
The camera does not “love” some people and hate others. The camera only does what the photographer tells it to do, whether intentionally or otherwise.
I find that people who consider themselves “unphotogenic” generally fall into two groups.
There’s the shy, observer types who are used to being the watcher, not the watched. Add in the permanence of a photograph, and it can be a bit off-putting. It’s not necessarily a matter of being self-conscious, but rather a matter of not enjoying being put into the spotlight. It’s the photographer’s job to forge a connection strong enough to make the photograph secondary. The subject is not going to forget he or she is being photographed, but a skilled people person (with a camera) can take the focus away from the outcome and help the subject enjoy the process.
The second group are those who, like me, tend to be very animated with their facial expressions. The more expressive the face, the easier it is to catch it between expressions, resulting in all kinds of awkward shots. This is particularly a problem when a photographer is intent on getting a dynamic subject to talk. Ugh. You might as well photograph me eating. It may make the photographer more comfortable to getting the subject talking, but some people are much better photographed listening. Most anything that calms a dynamic subject will tone down the range and rate of expressions, producing a more flattering shot. Calm voices, soft light, and even a little bit of (gasp) silence can do wonders for us Super Expressers.
I present to you as evidence the following image of Erika, a self-proclaimed unphotogenic person. Whatever.
Photographers, I preach it all the time and will have to do it again here. Make it a point of putting yourself in front of someone else’s lens, at least a few times a year. Empathize with your subjects. It is not easy to be photographed, and it takes a lot of skill, and a lot of tools in the toolbox, to learn how to catch your subjects at their best. Suck it up, do it, and embrace the pain. It’ll make you a better photographer.