Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tips & Tools: Self Portraits

Let’s pause Dressin’ Up Week for just a moment…

t and t tuesday

I have somewhat of a love/hate relationship with self portraits. I like them because I can control the shot—the angle, where the focus is, how much of me is actually in the picture, etc. I hate them because I feel so awkward taking them. But when 90% (rough estimate here) of the sewing and crafting projects are meant to be worn by me, they have become a must.

I feel like I’ve kind of gotten a formula down for taking a good picture of myself—one where I don’t look too angry or physically awkward. That doesn’t mean I don’t delete plenty. But at least now I only need to take 5 pictures to get a decent shot rather than the 20-30 of the past.

So here you go: my tips for taking a better picture of yourself. Keep in mind, my camera is typically balanced on top of a plastic tub sitting on my step ladder. I just move which step it sits on for which part of me needs to be highlighted.

1. Lean against a wall.

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Use that wall to create a solid back drop behind you. If you have both your butt and shoulder blades touching the wall, your posture is more likely to look good. When you use the wall, you aren’t left trying to awkwardly find a way to stand attractively.

2. Turn the hips and pop a knee.

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Just standing straight up and down, straight at the camera is going to make you look wide and flat or wide and curvy in the wrong places. Turning slightly slims your line and makes you look more appealing. Play with different positions for your legs. I find that one knee turned inward in front of the other can be a great way to improve any pose.

3. Do something with your hands.

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My hands and arms are my biggest causes of bad photos. Put them on your hips, stick them in your pockets, press your palms against the wall you’re leaning against. Just don’t let them hang there. If you do put them on your hips, try doing a softer elbow (note in the left picture, my hands are actually on the lower end of my hips, that way the angle of my elbow doesn’t have to be too severe) and a harder angled elbow (where you place your hands a little higher up). See which one looks better on you.

4. Don’t always look at the camera.

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Since what I’m really wanting to show you isn’t my face, I don’t need to be smiling for every picture. When I do look away, though, I have to work hard not to end up looking angry. Serious takes some work! I intentionally soften my eyes, stare off at nothing in particular, and make myself smile just enough so my lips just barely come up and my cheeks shift a little. Looking downward can be an easy look.

5. Crop yourself out.

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Remember that if the real purpose of your pictures is to show something you made, your face really doesn’t have to be in the picture (or at least it doesn’t need to be in all of the pictures). Use yourself as a mannequin an pose so your project is shown. In all of the pictures above, the original photo had more of me in it. Then I just cropped it down to highlight what I thought was the most important part of the picture.

6. Look at the lens.

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When intentionally looking at the camera, look right at the lens. You want the person viewing the photo to think you’re looking directly at them. This is done by looking at the lens—the eye of your camera. People will notice if you’re looking just above, below or beside it (they may not be able to say what they notice, but they’ll feel less connected to your picture). And if someone else is taking the picture for you, look at the lens. It’s tempting to look at their face. But these days, so few people put a camera to their eye that you’ll be looking a the wrong place.

7. Use the timer.

Set your camera to timer mode. Put the camera in its place and make sure you know exactly where to stand, then hold the button half way so it focuses on that spot. Press it the rest of the way so the timer starts, then get in position. Typically cameras beep at once pace while it’s counting down and then the beep speeds up or a light blinks faster right before the picture is taken. Get familiar with the cues your camera gives you so you know how quickly to move. Have an idea of your pose before you start the timer, that way you’re not frantically trying to figure out what to do before time runs out.

8. When doing a mirror shot—look at the lens in the mirror.

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This one took me a while to figure out what I was doing wrong. It made more sense to just look at myself, but the same principle as in point 6: look at the lens. Even if it’s in the mirror.

9. Look at the viewfinder.

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If you feel awkward looking at the lens all the time, just look at the view finder. Then your doing something completely acceptable—making sure your camera is pointing to the correct spot. Just be sure and have at least a little smile—otherwise you might look angry.

10. Have fun with it!

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You may feel like an idiot. Your neighbors who drive by may think you’re an idiot. But if you don’t take yourself too seriously and have fun trying different things, you’ll find some great poses along the way. And then you’ll get more comfortable taking the pictures. And then your readers will love seeing what you’ve made even more. And they’ll comment telling you how much they love it. And you’ll love them even more. Can you feel the love?

Just because you take a good self portrait doesn’t mean your self absorbed or egotistical. And you don’t have to be a supermodel with the perfect figure to look good in a photo. Pay attention to what other bloggers do for their pictures. Try some of their looks and poses, but find yourself along the way. Some of my favorite self portrait ladies in blog land are Nina, Ashley, and Cori.

I know this was a whole lot of me, but hey, since we’re talking about self portraits, that’s what it had to be right? How about you? Are you afraid of photos? Feel like you’re awkward and uncomfortable looking in front of the lens? Or do you have some tricks you’ve mastered as well?

Parties I’ll be linking up with:


  1. Thank you, thank you. Fantastic photo tips that will really be a help for me.

  2. You are VERY talented! I look forward to reading your blog and what you will create next. I happen to have your same hairstyle and can only seem to style it one way (not very creative I guess). Would you ever consider doing a tutorial on how you style your hair (various looks)?

  3. Your tips are very helpful! Thanks!
    Love the ruffled white shirt. Very pretty.

  4. This is super helpful! I love it! I always feel like an A plus #1 goofball when I am taking pics of myself for my blog! Thank you!

    I am a new follower and would love a "follow back" if you have time!
    Come see me at www.cookieandclaire.blogspot.com

    Thanks again!

  5. This is true...taking pics of yourself can feel very weird. Thanks for taking some of the newbie-mistakes out of the process. Now if I can just have a good hair day, I would have that headshot I want for my blog : ) Thanks again, very helpful and well written.

  6. Thanks for the tips! I always feel very awkward in front of the camera. I'm at a weight I don't like so I'm overly critical of all my photos. So I take photos of my kids. Maybe using your tips can help me with that.

  7. all of these tips are so great. I'm repining this for later reference. I loved the one about turning the hips and popping the knee! So cute. I started a link party at my blog and I'd love for you to link this up. I also have an awesome digital scrapbooking giveaway going on. If you're interested it's http://caribbeanmissionarywife.blogspot.com/

  8. Thanks for all the tips. I really do need to work out the time on my camera so I don't annoy my husband on weekends taking photos (especially since he doesn't really know how to use my camera and he thinks it's best to just take lots of photos, hoping that at least one turns out ok).

    Now I have to find the details of the clothes in all those photos!


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