This is a guest post by photographer Steve Mize.
So you’ve looked through the photos of you on Facebook and none of them are really projecting the sort of image that you want to put out to the ladies.
You need to start fresh, and so long as you’re at it you might as well put yourself as far ahead of the game as possible.
There’s a process to getting a decent photo of yourself, and it really only has three steps
- Get yourself looking good for the photo.
- Set up the shot in a way that makes you look good instead of bad.
- Take the photo.
That’s it — everything else is just tips and advice. Since this article is way too short, however, let’s get into some of that as well:
Get Yourself Looking Good for the Photo
Start by cleaning up. Hit the shower, tidy up — there’s nothing too complicated about this so long as you remember that you’re trying to put your best foot forward with a woman you’ve never met before. Don’t go into this badly overdue for a haircut or with a beard you haven’t trimmed in a week — what says “rugged outdoorsman” to you might say “unibomber” to her.
Next think clothes. You don’t have to suit up, but that ten year-old t-shirt with the stretched out collar isn’t doing you any favors. Put on an outfit that that will make a decent impression, the sort of thing you’d wear on a first date.
Set Up the Shot
Pro photographers use complicated free-standing flash gear worth thousands of dollars for a reason: It’s hard to take a good photo using a regular camera’s flash. The light hits the subject head-on and washes them out, makes the features on the face look flat, and generally works against the subject.
The upshot here is that you should avoid using a flash at all costs. This means taking the photo outside or in a brightly-lit room.
If you go outside, predictably there’s more to think about. Taking a photo at noon will cause odd shadows on your face and shade your eyes — they use this sort of lighting in movie posters to make the villain look more shifty. You don’t want that.
The best time to take a photo outside is the hour or two before sunset. Photographers call this the “golden hour” — it not only gives you the best angle of light, but the light takes on a warm color that makes anybody look better. Set up so you’re looking about 30 degrees away from the sun and you’re in business. Be sure you’re looking far enough off that you don’t feel the need to squint.
Finally, think about your surroundings. This is about making a good impression, so you don’t want the best photo ever taken of you to be in your buddy’s back yard with a pile of pizza boxes and empty beer bottles stacked behind you.
Take the Photo
First, a word on gear: You don’t need expensive camera gear to take a good photo, but that camera on the back of your old Nokia probably isn’t the best bet either. If you don’t have at least a basic point and shoot camera, find a friend who does — the American Association of Photographers recognizes a six pack of decent beer as the proper level of compensation for helping out on this sort of deal.
Even if you have a decent camera, you’re better off having some help here. Taking a picture of yourself is a frustrating pain in the ass, and frustration isn’t what you want the ladies seeing on your face during their first impression of you.
Stand 6-10 feet from the camera and have your helper zoom in on you. People look better under a moderate level of zoom — the reasons for this are tedious and technical, so just take my word for it.
Finally, on the odd chance that you’re still not getting good results, I present you with three of my favorite photographer’s tricks:
- Take a walk around the block. Physical activity will sharpen you up, something that will translate into the photos.
- Joke around with the friend manning the camera. People are really, really good at spotting a fake smile, so if you can manufacture a genuine one you’ll be significantly ahead of the game.
- Take a break. If you’re not getting good shots, quit for a while. Go someplace else. Heck, even try again later — sometimes it just ain’t happening, and in that case you’re better off just trying again later.
Steve Mize is a San Francisco-based photographer with ten years experience behind the lens and is an occasional contributor to The Distilled Man.