The rise and rise of the smartphone means barely a day passes without most of us taking photos, or being photographed ourselves by our friends and family. Photography in the not too distant past used to be something special; it entailed dressing up, posing, making optimal use of the available light and, more often than not, it was a professional wielding the camera.
Today, everyone is a photographer. The advent of “point-and-click” cameras and smartphones means that we can now document our every move if we so wish. Such widespread photography has had an unexpected side-effect, however: More and more of us believe we are “un-photogenic” and that, somehow, most photos don’t show us as we appear in real life. Talent Management thinks otherwise.
Photographer JJ Tiziou, based in Philadelphia, has a refreshing take on things. He believes there is no such thing as an un-photogenic person, just poor photography. He points out that when we see an unflattering or unattractive (to our own eyes, at least) photograph of ourselves, we automatically assume it’s our own fault. We negatively judge our appearance and start to assume we must be un-photogenic, becoming less and less comfortable having our picture taken. This, in turn, leads to more and more photographs with which we’re unhappy, since our discomfort is all too easily captured on film (or, more likely, on a memory card).
Although everyone sees unflattering pictures of themselves from time to time, the feeling of being “un-photogenic” is at least partly a psychological issue for most of us. Following some simple tips can help you to take consistently good photos with your smartphone or digital camera.
Taking Better Photos and Selfies
- Get close to your subject
Many smartphone cameras perform best at close range. They’re not necessarily great for landscapes, but can really shine when it comes to close-ups of people or objects. Most smartphones boast cameras with high resolution specifications which can make for some detailed and engaging portraits. Being closer to your subject also allows you to have more control over lighting and will really capture the soul of the person you’re photographing. Stand close to your model, but don’t zoom in on them; no-one wants a super-close-up of their lines and blemishes.
- Experiment with lighting
Very few people look good in harsh artificial lighting, or bright, overhead sun. Having your subject stand with their back to the main light source can give them a soft, flattering glow. Never use your camera’s flash unless you need to; the flash can wash out your subject and make them look far paler than they really are. If lighting is dim but adequate, you can get some great, atmospheric and moody shots, which are likely to be flattering to your subject too. If it’s dark enough to require use of the flash, make sure you’re not too close to your model.
- Turn slightly away from the camera
Rather than looking straight-on into the camera, make sure that your head (or the head of your subject) is slightly turned away. This ensures a flattering shot, especially if you turn far enough so that only one of your ears is visible. This move will slim the face a little and will and enhance the appearance of the cheekbones. Don’t let your subject look too posed or stiff, however. If they’re uncomfortable, you’ll be far more likely to struggle to get a decent and true-to-life shot of them. Make sure they’re relaxed; some of the best, most engaging and most attractive photos are taken when the subject is doing something spontaneous, such as laughing. Many people are pleasantly surprised by how they actually look when taken unawares.
- Beware of “duckface”
The classic selfie pose of holding your camera as high as you can above your head and pouting is still incredibly overdone. It’s unflattering and has had its day so beware of falling into this trap. It makes your head look too big for your body and isn’t the most flattering angle for the majority of us.
- Use a steady hand
Another problem with the classic outstretched arm pose described above, is that it’s very hard to hold your camera steady in this position. In order to get an in-focus and flattering photo, you need to ensure that your camera is steady and stable while capturing the shot. Although smartphones are fairly forgiving, you’ll still get far better results if you minimise shaking. As well as ensuring that your phone remains steady, always remember to tap the screen to focus on your subject’s face before snapping.
For tips on looking your best during a photo session, see our recent blog post Preparing for a Photo Shoot? Here Are Our 5 Top Tips.