Anyone that has worked with a photographer will know that we typically don’t like having our photo taken. We much prefer to be on the other side of the camera creating the image rather than being IN the image. That is of course, until recently. What has changed? Technology and social media! Everyone everywhere is taking photos of their friends and families and of course they are also taking selfies. This has had a tremendous impact on the world, and not only because we get to see everyone posing with what they are having for lunch! No, it has made people much, much more comfortable with having their picture taken. This is true even for us photographers… well, for me at least!
It’s no secret that I have been a part of many of my own personal project before (this image is really what started it all). If you were to have asked me to be in a photo 10 years ago I would have said no! If you would have asked me to take a self portrait I would have run away screaming! But that has all changed now that we have become so accustomed to having our photos snapped every day. From the point of view of a photographer, I have found that taking a professional selfie comes with huge benefits (besides everyone getting to see my gorgeous mug!).
Learning by Taking Selfies
The single biggest advantage to taking a professional selfie is that you learn, a LOT. When a photographer normally takes a photo he or she can direct the pose, move the lighting, and move the camera to get the look and composition the photographer envisions. When you are taking a selfie this isn’t possible. You can’t direct yourself from the perspective of the photographer. Instead you have to envision everything before hand. Judge the composition without the subject in the frame. Judge the lighting position and height without a subject or a test model. It’s only after you hit the timer, sit or stand in your spot and hear the shutter fire that you can see what was right, and what was wrong.
For this self portrait, I had a very specific image in my head. I knew EXACTLY what I wanted from the photo. This proved to be essential, but also made for a long day! By knowing exactly what I wanted, positioning my light was easier, setting my camera height and positioning myself was easier. If I hadn’t known what I wanted from the photo I would have been shooting even more blindly than I was! The part that made it long was me? My posing, my expression, my look. Having taken quite a few professional selfies in my time, I have learned my lighting and compositions quite well. This time though, I was very much focused on my face and my expression and this was new to me. I didn’t have a model that I could say “more attitude” or “more moody” and they would nail it. Instead I had to nail it, and I wasn’t quite used to that! What helped though were some tricks that I had always said to models myself but had never practiced myself.
“Exhale through your mouth” is one that I use all the time. This helps the model separate their lips and gives more emotion to the photo. I did that here and it made a huge difference. Even though you can’t see that my lips aren’t touching, they aren’t and it’s by just enough that it added a lot of emotion to the image. “Give me more in the eyes” is another one. This one took the longest for me to get in the photo…the eyes. Too much squinting (which isn’t what you want) was most often the mistake, or simply not enough and I looked completely emotionless. It really came down to smiling with the eyes, putting the emotion into the muscles around the eyes. That was my biggest learning from this selfie, and it is now something that I can not only explain to models but also demonstrate what I mean as well!
Taking a professional selfie (perhaps I should just go back to self portrait?) is definitely something I will continue doing. It’s not only a great chance to experiment, but it’s a tremendous way to learn!
Have you taken a professional selfie? Let’s see them, post them below!