Photos are important but you should relax

This week I took about 80 staff portraits for a couple of different websites – the Neighborhood Economic Development Corporation (NEDCO) is a client and I’m managing the launch of a shiny new website and I’m a long-time volunteer at HIV Alliance.

Taking that portraits in such short time frame brought up a couple of things that I thought I’d share.

My takeaways:

  • Man, we are uncomfortable in our skin. Too this… not enough that… “hope you brought an extra camera because I’ll probably break it.” Taking pictures always reminds me how beautiful people are. We have warm smiles and beautiful eyes, we’re friendly and genuine. Sure, we have a little gut, and our noses look weird at that angle, but who cares? 
  • It makes me very, very sad when say people haven’t had their photo taken in years. Biz portraits aren’t so important, but family/friend/life photos and capturing memories is. Your family and friends want photos of you. You will want photos of you. Document your lives! It’s nice to hire a professional once in a while to capture the great above-the-mantel portraits, too.

Portrait Squares.jpg

I get not feeling confident because it’s hard to know how to control the outcome. Sometimes little things can make a big difference in feeling more comfortable in front of a camera:

My brother-in-law is a photographer and gave me two tips that I use all the time.

1. Pull your shoulders back and down. If you roll your shoulders back, sometimes that can help. I have terrible computer posture so this one is hard for me. I’m always slouching. It’ll feel weird. If you’re a woman, it’ll feel like you’re sticking your chest out too far. But it works and it won’t look weird.

2. If you fear a double chin, which I do, push your face toward the camera – both your chin and forehead. It’ll elongate your neck. This combined with the good posture mentioned in #1 and you’ll see a huge difference.

Remember, photos are two dimensional and the you’re tricking the camera into seeing the angles you already have.

A few more tips I use if I remember:

  • Facing the camera straight on is rarely the most flattering. Try a three-quarter angle instead.
  • If the photo is of more than your face, put your hands on your hips (or in your back pockets). If your upper arms are flat against your body, they look thicker. Again, it’s a 3-D to 2-D trick of the eye (it’s not that you have thick arms!).
  • If you’re a blinker, ask the photog to count to (and shoot on) three. Leave your eyes closed until she says “three” and then open. This works well in sunlight, too, so you don’t get squinty eyes.

And a final tip to myself – when you’re shooting portraits, take your damn tripod.

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