Wanna know a secret?
When digital cameras came into vogue, I was absolutely terrified of them.
I remember being home from college in 2001. It was December in Jacksonville, FL and everyone was showing off the Canon Powershot they’d just received for Christmas. The bar my friends were partying at had an outdoor patio; there were about a thousand empty Rolling Rocks on the ground. I had recently bleached out my hair into a revolting orange color, so when I’d see a camera edging out of a tight jean pocket, I’d hide…or worse.
Sometimes I’d cover my face with my hands like a mole person being showered with natural light.
I looked ridiculous. You don’t have to. Here are some tips on how to take better photos, build your photo confidence and keep your face on camera and out of your hands.
Take More Photos of Yourself
Though I wasn’t very cool in the first place, it was even less cool to lack self-confidence. To get over my fear of being photographed, I started photographing myself daily with my webcam. Though the shots were grainy, I eventually got used to the way I looked on camera. It’s not that I thought I looked good, either. I just knew what to expect.
Over time, I graduated from a webcam to my own digital camera. Though I’ve been known to take several slimming, forehead-first MySpace shots in my day, I also was more confident when I wasn’t in control of the image someone was taking. Instead of covering my face with my hands, I’d face the camera with confidence and fucking smile.
Remember Your Photo Math: 20% Looks, 80% Confidence
Not to sound like a hip cat on an infomercial whose “figured it all out,” but I wasn’t always this photogenic. I also don’t want to sound like one of those culty people who buy books called The Secret, either. I don’t always take great photos, but I would say that I’m happier than most people with the photos that are taken of me. I find this impressive because I’m a heavy person and heavy persons, according to society, aren’t supposed to ever like the way they look.
In fact, I think the last time I checked Marie Claire they were advising people like us to not even cross the room so we’re out of the eye-line of the skinny folk. I obviously call bullshit.
Despite these “flaws” to my physical appearance, I really like the way I look! More often than not people (who are far prettier than me) tell me, “Shannon, you look so photogenic!” or “Shannon, you take such great photos. [insert dramatic girl sigh] I always look awful in photos.” When these poor distressed people look at me with their dramatic doe eyes, I look at them straight in the eye and tell them it’s all their fault.
It is their fault because taking great photos is 20% looks and 80% confidence. I’ve seen gorgeous girls who look like crap in photos or who cover their face when I pull out my (understandably intimidating) camera. They will always look like crap because they don’t care enough about themselves to try to be poised and happy with themselves.
Ladies and gentleman, you will never be more beautiful than you are at this exact moment. You’ve never been smarter or better or happier than you can be right now if you just loved yourself. Time is forever going forward. Your body is aging. In 10 years you’re gonna wanna remember this moment. So, just fucking smile.
Go Eye Level and Smile
One time I was at a coffee shop when my friend spotted a guy she thought was pretty cute. Admittedly, the guy was an A++++ attractive indie type with a C.S. Lewis book and the easy-going looks of John Hamm. She begged me to be her envoy and send him a message of her affections. She was too embarrassed to be in the room with us when I asked, so I made some eye contact with the guy and when he smiled back, I made my way over to him.
We talked about books for a bit and about drinking blazing hot coffee during the summer and eating cold things in winter. I asked him for his number to give to my friend. He laughed and said, “I’ll give you my number, but it’s for you, not her. After all, you’re the one who seems to be the friendliest of the pair.”
I think of this story when I take photos. I think, “How can I look like the friendliest of the pair?
To look friendly, the important thing is to go eye level with the camera lens and look directly at it (almost as if it was a person). If you’re a female and have bangs, I recommend turning your bang side toward the camera. This prevents having a big nasty triangle of sweaty forehead botching up the person’s photograph.
Think of something or someone you like. Your eyes will light up in the most amazing way.
Height-Check Your Photographer
Also, check out your photographer. Are they short? I’m a tall person and short photographers take the worst photos of me. I’m a chubby girl with a lot of neck. When someone who is 5’2 takes a photo of me, I almost always look like a breast-covered Sasquatch monster. Not cool.
So, when faced with a photographer who is shorter than me, I always try to adjust myself so that I’m eye level with the camera. This might take a little shlumping on my part. Therefore, I lean forward with my legs spread wide (I usually hide that spare leg behind the clueless drunk person next to me :D)
What are your tips to taking great photos? I’d love to hear them!