We’ve all done it. We’ve all held a camera out in front of us, lens toward our face, and tried desperately to take a halfway flattering photo. Often we fail. We look bored because our eyes aren’t looking at the lens, or we’ve given ourselves double-chins, or you can see straight up your nose. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be this way.
First things first, look at the lens, not at the screen. It can take a bit of training to convince yourself not to look at the screen. If you’re taking the photo, it’s the instinctive place to focus. Don’t! Everything will be fine for the split-second when you look away from the screen and at the lens.
Check your lighting. You don’t want shadows as dark as caves (usually cast by a very bright, high light) or blinding shiny patches (normally from strong, direct light). If you shoot with very bright light behind you, you’ll likely end up with a silhouette. Silhouettes are cracking, but they’re not what you always want. Artificial lighting often gives your shots an unflattering colour cast; natural, even light coming in on a diagonal is your best bet.
Look behind you! When you’re taking a photo of someone else, it’s easy to see if the background is working or if she or he is going to have a streetlight growing out of her or his head. You don’t have eyes
in the back of your head, so turn around and have a look.
Alter your angles for interesting shots
Back in the old days of point-and-shoot cameras you used to be able to set a timer on your camera so that you could press the shutter release button, run like a speeding train into your shot, take a breath, and almost compose yourself before it took the picture. Your smartphone camera might not have a delayed shutter mechanism, but it can run apps that do. Take a look at Gorillacam for a start.
A self-portrait doesn’t have to include your face. True, pictures of feet might’ve been overdone, but if you’ve been taking them for years you’re hardly about to stop now. But look out for other signifiers that are typically ‘you’ to act as a pseudo-you, for example your glasses.
Don’t try too hard, don’t try to pull a sexy face, or try to look cool: just be.
Social Photography is Daniela Bowker’s fresh new guide to smartphone photography. It tells you everything you need to know to get the most of your smartphone camera: all the tricks of composing a great photo – and the pitfalls to avoid. Find the best platform for sharing your photos, discover the apps that will expand your creative horizons, and be inspired by fabulous examples from masters of smartphone photography.
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