Just me

by Tom Cooper
(New jersey)

Well I hate taking myspace pictures but finally I took some and they never come out good.

Just tell me what you think.

(For convenience, all links below open in new windows)
My first thoughts here were "Oh dear!" and my finger was hovering above the delete button. But then our unyielding desire to help people take better photos took over. So let's take a closer look, and see if we can give Tom (and anyone else who is trying to take a 'photo of myself'!) some tips on photographing themselves.

First off, there is the use of a hand-held camera (or maybe a phone). It's extremely difficult to take a self portrait if you hand hold your camera. This is because you just can't get enough distance between the camera and yourself, unless you are in possession of Inspector Gadget extendable arms!

The solution is to use the self timer on the camera. Set the camera up on a reasonably steady surface, and place a chair where you are going to sit. Then get a pillow, and sit it upright in the chair. Focus your camera on the pillow, and then press the shutter button down to start the timer. Run round to the chair, throw off the pillow, sit down, and wait for the camera to fire.

The reason for using a chair and pillow is that it gives the camera something to focus on while you are out of the scene. If you are going for a head and shoulders shot you won't even see the chair.

The second big improvement in Tom's photo is the use of flash. The flashes on compact cameras and phones are never flattering. It's best to turn them off, and use the light in the room (open the curtains and blinds, bring in some extra lamps . . .). Click here for more flash tips.

As an alternative, why not take the photo outside? Try to avoid the middle of a really sunny day. If it is sunny, take your photo during the Golden Hour. This will provide more flattering light than the light in the middle of the day. Click to read more about the golden hour here. If it's not sunny, any time of day will do.

My final tip would be to get some distance between yourself and the background if possible. This may well be easier to do outside than inside. The reason for this is that if you sit too close to the background (a wall, a book shelf, a bush . . . ) you'll look a bit cornered! Better to move yourself forwards a bit to separate yourself from the background.

There we go then, a few tips on how to take a better self portrait. Give it a go, and if you get good results, submit them and we'll be able to compare the before and after shots.

Thanks for the submission,


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Return to Digital photography tutorials - submissions, March 2008.