Photographs and facial paralysis

Photographs can be difficult for many people with facial palsy as they may feel self-conscious, especially in this modern age of selfies and camera phones. These are just some of the tips shared with us by photographer Kirsten Holst, therapists and people with facial palsy. If you have your own tips you would like to add please get in touch.

  • Natural light is by far the most flattering – use an outside location wherever possible.
  • Never have the subject looking into the sun (i.e. have one’s back to the sun) – that is good advice regardless of whether one has facial palsy.
  • The ideal lighting is in the shade on a cloudy day.
  • If in a big group, try not to stand nearest to the photographer – the least flattering position.
  • For special photos such as weddings, try to have a chat with the photographer beforehand to talk through the issues.
  • For portrait photos other than those with strict rules (e.g. passports), it might be helpful to hold one side of your face with fingertips to support it.
  • Another thing to consider can be slightly turning one’s head.
  • Relax as much as possible (practice relaxed standing, talk to the photographer and others in the picture).
  • You might want to try and gain confidence by taking selfies, but remember that selfies are the least flattering photos. Asking a relative or good friend to take photos could be better.
  • Using photos to track progress through treatment can be helpful for some people, whilst others can find them quite upsetting.
  • If you regularly do facial stretches, doing those before a photo can help to loosen up the facial muscles.


If you have experienced a sudden facial paralysis it is natural to feel shocked. Being unable to identify with the person you see in the mirror can be extremely difficult. These feelings are related to loss of identity and not vanity. You may decide you don’t want any photos taken of you during these early days. Those who make a good recovery and also those who don’t, often regret not having more photographs taken. We always recommend that people have photos taken rather than miss being documented in important life moments. If these are your personal photographs you can choose to put them away until a time when you are ready to look at them. That day, more often than not, does come.

We are not used to seeing our own animated faces, most people don’t stand in the mirror laughing at themselves. Even those born with facial palsy can feel a disconnect between their animated face and their resting face. This may be because their animated face is unlike other faces they normally see and they aren’t used to it, it is unfamiliar.

Apart from one, my parents didn’t keep any photographs of me with an open mouth laugh. I destroyed any photographs I didn’t like as a teenager. Recently I have been going through negatives trying to find old pictures of me where I look happy and I can’t find any. I wish I had embraced my asymmetrical laughter and had those moments captured in pictures. My facial palsy doesn’t bother me so much as an adult. If I could, I would tell my 10 year old self to celebrate my differences and always be in the photo. – Adult born with facial palsy

I was diagnosed with Bell’s palsy just before giving birth. I had it in my head that it would disappear within weeks so was expecting to be able to gloss over it all. Sadly that wasn’t the outcome. I didn’t have many photographs taken and most were of me looking down. I do regret not having more photographs taken. I think if I had known at the time that I wasn’t going to recover fully I would have definitely had more pictures taken. – Adult diagnosed with Bell’s palsy during pregnancy

Last reviewed: 04-04-2018    ||    Next review due: 04-04-2020