Faced with a camera lens, it seems that few people enjoy having their photo taken. “I hate having my photo taken” is a comment I hear a lot before taking people’s photos, so below are seven tips to bear in mind the next time you’re photographed.
Even in today’s world of smartphone selfies and social profile pictures, images of ourselves and our personal reactions to them can be deeply complex. It can encompass issues of self-image, self-esteem, even body dysmorphia. We don’t want reminders of how we’ve aged compared with old images, that hairline creeping a millimetre or two back, those lines on the forehead slightly more pronounced.
In much the same way as hearing a recording of our voice sounds strangely unlike us to ourselves, how we think we appear in our heads can often be at odds with the reality. That spot on your chin looks bigger to you than it looks to anyone else. Those laughter lines other people see as part of your character, not wrinkles.
A relaxed one-to-one shoot, or an energetic awards’ ceremony will have a distinct atmosphere. People will usually be ready, willing and happy to be photographed.
But taking corporate headshots of people in offices, for use on websites and social networks like LinkedIn: that’s very different.
The approach and atmosphere is not at all the same. It can be a quick in-and-out job, no time to get to know people, try to relax them or build a relationship.
When this is the case, people can be a little nervous and worried. They can be extremely sensitive about their appearance. But then, the profile picture is a major personal currency of our fast media age; the method by which people are immediately, harshly and conclusively judged. So how can you get a better photo of you? Or at least raise your chances of not entirely hating the result? Here are seven pointers.
“I hate having my photo taken.” People can be quite adamant about this fact and nothing will change it. But if you really have to get one taken, surely it’s better to just accept it and get on with it. Try to make the best of it. It’s just a camera, not a gun. Prepare. Make sure you’re happy with your hair, face, make-up, warm those smiley face muscles, take a deep breath, relax.
If you have a few minutes to play with, perhaps even try to enjoy it.
If we’re talking selfies, you want to make sure the shot is taken from above your eye level. Shots from under the chin are generally not flattering. So hold the camera or smartphone higher, or ask the photographer to hold the camera higher.
Faces can look a little different depending on the length of the lens. Most advocate shooting natural portraits between around 30-80mm.
A photographer you barely know getting way too close in your personal space and exploring every pore of your face is probably going to be uncomfortable.
This is a biggie. Nobody wants a photo of themselves looking like they’re facing an actual firing squad. You often want to smile in photos but the eyes are just as important as the mouth.
There’s a technique known as ‘squinching’ which is all about the eyes. It requires you to slightly squint a lower eyelid while allowing a top one to come down a little. This American man claims to have invented it and here is his shouty video.
But this Cardiff photographer right here is less sure. It sounds complicated and potentially dangerous to me, but some people think it works. Perhaps best to try it out in front of a mirror before facing a lens and looking like you’re having a stroke.
This one can be highly subjective, depending on the subject. My habit is to turn people’s leading shoulder away from a wall at a roughly 30 degree angle, but others I’ve photographed have preferred the passport / convict style straight on down the barrell.
Turning a shoulder can have a slimming effect, while holding the shoulders back and straightening the neck can help to firm up the torso. Try to avoid the hunchback look. It can also just look a little more professional.
Ask your photographer to count you down from 3-2-1 before they close the shutter, so your smile or ‘squinch’ doesn’t fade out, and so you know when it’s coming.
Ask to see the result on camera so you can consult with the photographer, see what you did or didn’t like, and work out what to do differently the next time. Then have another go. Engage in the process, think about what you want and what you’re doing, and you’ll probably enjoy a better result.
And if you still don’t like it after umpteen attempts, you might have to… you know, accept that’s just what your face looks like.
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