I get asked, often, how to take better pictures of oneself. People of all ages are getting on the self portrait band wagon, and studies have been done on the effectiveness of images over text only content. Businesses are being seen online more, and personal connections are less rare among those posting relatable images of themselves. Taking a great selfie isn’t limited to just the younger generations of tech-savvy pros and anyone can get some great images with nothing more than just their cell phone or digital camera.
Here’s some tips from a professional portrait photographer to help you amp up your selfie and online content game.
- Find. Your. Light. The light you use can make or break your image and will determine everything from the angle, background, style, and even the quality of your image. If you’re indoors, I recommend looking for a window. Stand by it and experiment with where it falls on your face. Put your back to the window. Turn sideways to the window. Face the window. Keep going in a circle until you start to notice where the shadows fall and what looks best for your face shape. Facing the light directly will minimize blemishes and wrinkles, while having the light to the side will give your face more depth and can have a slimming effect (and its usually my personal favorite). Backlighting can be artistic and a great way to combat harsh shadows. If you are outdoors and the sun is high and bright, look for some space in the shade, or stand in the sun and embrace those harsh rays!
- Speaking of light, don’t mix it. Your lamp light is probably considerably warmer than the natural light. When you mix cool tones with warm tones, it’s impossible to make it look natural. Something will always be yellow or something will always be blue. Unless I’m using strobes and my big girl camera, I will 100% of the time choose natural light over artificial if possible.
- Know your angles. Spend some time looking at yourself, even if it feels weird at first. Whatever is closest to the camera will be biggest and whatever is furthest away will look smallest. Use this to your advantage. If you feel like you have a large forehead, tip your chin up just a little so your forehead is further away from the camera. If you have high cheekbones, emphasize them by turning your cheek towards the camera. Want to make your eyes look bigger? Yup, you’re going to angle them towards the camera. Just like playing with your light, play with your angles. Try moving your camera around your face like a clock and notice how each angle accentuates a different feature. A couple tips here: holding your camera near your chest pointed up at you will give even the slenderest of people a double chin. Don’t. Shoot. Up. Your. Nose. No one wants to know how well you groom those nose hairs. Just… ew. And don’t shoot directly above you unless you are wanting to look like a giant bobble head with a teeny body. Try to keep proportions accurate. Less is more.
- Speaking of less is more: clean up your background. YOU might be looking at your face, but if there’s a pile of laundry in the background, everyone else will be looking at your underwear. Take away the distractions. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but tidying up can go a long way, or even just changing angles to hide the mess.
- Don’t fake it. People are learning to spot inauthenticity and imperfection is often more flattering than perfection is anyway because it’s relatable. I guarantee people will notice your awkward expression before they notice how perfectly your lips pout. A great way to get a less cheesy expression is to genuinely create the emotion you are wanting to capture. If you want to look happy, think of happy things: your last success, the way someone you loves looks at you when they caught you staring at them, a dumb joke your coworker said, your dream vacation, or that inside joke you have with your bestie. Laugh. Out loud. And then keep laughing at how ridiculous you probably look. Capture THAT. Want to look busy? Then BE busy. Start on that letter you need to send, update your schedule, think of the clients you need to follow up with. If you want to look thoughtful, ask yourself some deep questions and ponder them in your mind. What you are thinking will be expressed in your face. If you think you look awkward, you probably do. Create the emotion you want to capture.
- Surround yourself with your favorites. It’s normal to tense up in front of the camera for a lot of people (myself included). Its a bit like stage fright, honestly! If this resonates with you, don’t do it alone. Grab a friend, co-worker, or a loved one and take a few together. Do some silly. Some serious. Some laughing. If you want one of just yourself, then incorporate things that make you… well, YOU. If you’re an artist, get some of your art or art supplies. Coffee addict? Get your favorite mug and a delicious cup of joe. If you love your planner, get it in your shot. Favorite fuzzy socks that don’t go with your outfit? Wear them anyway.
- Don’t underestimate the power of the self timer. Set your phone or camera up agains a windowsill, table, or get a tripod and set the timer. This will allow both hands to be showing and make your image seem less “selfie”-ish and more portrait-ish. Once again, don’t forget to play with angles.
- Use basic composition rules to make your image more aesthetically pleasing. Use the rule of thirds (imagine a tic-tac-toe board on your image and put whatever you want focused on in one of the intersecting lines, generally off-center), and look for triangular shapes with your body. Basically: if it bends, bend it. Tip your head, pull your arms close so they frame your face, relax your fingers so they are stiff and straight. Pop your hip out a little.
- Lastly: don’t overthink it. Even if you take a million shots and end up with one good one, that’s good enough! Don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself, make funny faces, roll your eyes. Be silly. It’s part of your story.
I hope these simple tips help you create more more images and more self-confidence! If you have any questions, send me a message or comment below!