Seems more of an ethical or philosophical question, so I moved this thread from "Miscellaneous" to "Ethics and Philosophy." I have to say... I think most people can look good in a photograph from time to time, but there are some who just always look interesting in pictures all the time. Bone structure, expression, the eyes... all just come together. Georgia O'Keefe I think was quite photogenic, but probably not a traditional beauty in person, I'd guess.
I'm interested in faces, and it doesn't matter a whit if it's photogenic in the "all American model" sense... bringing out something in a face in pictures can be hard with some people, but I think with persistence just about anyone can be photogenic, and have an expressive and interesting picture of themselves made.
Clive I don't think that cgw is incorrect at all, I once took a photograph of a girl I that I thought was very photogenic but the photographs that came out were total lackluster, the tought that the girl was photogenic came from my little brain not my big brain. Emotions of the photographer (Hormones) do play a role. If one doesn't have a strong emotional connection to the subject one might see the subject in a different light. But from a purely aesthetic point of view I still believe that a strong bone structure makes a photographic face.
You know, this is a great question, because now I'm thinking about Avedon, and I'm sure he had quite the eye for the photogenic, because those folks in his American West all were! At least in the picture, but I'll bet in person they looked quite normal... which has me wondering... was it the photographer? Was is his craft that made the portraits so interesting? Was it who he selected to photograph?
Thanks for posing the question... has me thinking....
I think this is related to the phenomenon known as "the camera adds 10 pounds" :).
Slightly more seriously, as a photograph involves a two dimensional representation of a three dimensional object, I think it would be safe to say that some of the three dimensional features of some people render in two dimensions more easily and more effectively than other three dimensional features.