Saturday, December 6, 2008

Taking Better Self-portraits

Photography is an expensive hobby. A good camera can run in the thousands of dollars, and pro equipment for a studio racks up cost very quickly. I've run into people who think they can't ever take a good photo because they just can't afford it, so in this entry I'm going to give some tips and tricks for taking better pictures with the camera you have. I've also included some of my earliest photos that were taken with a small samsung point and shoot.

Attack of the myspace photos! (or: why aren't my photos getting attention?)

You need a photo for your [insert social network site here] or decide that you just want to take some self-portaits. You grab your digital camera and start snapping. You upload all 500 photos you take, and are rather upset that no one comments on them or pays attention. Why is this happening?

We all know what a myspace photo is - someone grabs their camera or cell phone and starts snapping away at a 45 degree angle to their head. This is not good photography. You can argue all you want but I am here to tell you that those photos are a dime a dozen and generally suck. If you are trying to take a good quality self-portrait and actually express something about yourself other than the fact that you can rotate your shoulders and raise your arms above your head, you have to move beyond them.
Variations of this include pictures taken above your head to let everyone see down your shirt. Don't be a slut, no one wants to buy the cow when they can get the milk for free. There are ways to be sexy in photographs without being cheap and trashy.

Other common mistakes are:
-Close ups of a body part (generally eyes) that turn out blurry. What is the point of sharing these? If you have beautiful eyes, turn on the macro function of your camera, stand next to a light source, and have someone else take the photo.

-Shots very close to your face with the flash on. Yes, this will wash out (over expose) your face and make your skin look flawless, but it also erases your nose and most of your features. If you feel self conscious about your face then get creative and find ways to cover it, or take this is a great way to work on your self-esteem and acceptance of your body (which is what you should be working on in the first place).

-The trout.
Pushing your lips out, pouting, and sucking in your cheeks. This doesn't extenuate your lips or make your face look slimmer... it makes you look like you've eaten a lemon and it's not attractive in the slightest. Try a gentle close mouthed smile for a classic and attractive portrait. Practice in the mirror, and you'll get it down.
You can also use the mirror to see what angles flatter your features (not the 45 degree above the head angle) and use this knowledge to your advantage. A good full body pose is to stand with your hips point slightly to the left or right of the camera and twisting your torso at the waist to face the camera more head on. It generally takes weight off your tummy and minimizes any extra jiggle you might have.

-Mirror picture with flash
Using a mirror isn't always a bad way to take a self portrait, you can get some very interested effects with them. However - TURN YOUR FLASH OFF. What would have been an otherwise good photo can be ruined by a huge white splotch over your face from the flash firing. If the room is dark, turn on lights, use a lamp nearby, and open shades to let natural light in (bonus: natural light makes your skin look better).

-Abusing photoshop
Photoshop is a very powerful tool, and a lot of fun to play with. That being said, don't go crazy with filters. They can turn a perfectly fine portrait into something that looks very unskilled and juvenile. Polarizing filter and sharpening are two drugs of choice I've seen people overusing.

-Sensory overload.
I generally upload one picture per day or one picture every two days to deviantART
Uploading two or more photos, let alone twenty, is a great way to make people ignore you. Uploading just one or two give people time to look at them and appreciate them instead of being bombarded with image after image. And restricting yourself to just a few also makes you more critical of your photos so you only chose the very best ones to share.

I hope this has shed some light on ways to improve your photos! Next time I'll talk about ways to DIY your own studio equipment to take great photos without spending lots of cash.

1 comment:

Dylan Martin said...

Great post, Stephanie! Those are some very helpful hints, and I'm sure many others will agree with me. :)