I have a confession to make:
I hate, and I mean I hate having my photograph taken. I really, truly, and positively do. There's nothing I abhor more. Like most people, I pick apart every final image of me that I see -- the grey hairs, the tiniest blemish, the unsightly roll. It is a rare person who can take a photograph of me that I find acceptable.
Also? And this is the shameful part: part of the reason that I love being a photographer is that even in social settings, having my camera with me tends to keep me behind it, instead of being in front of it. People rarely pressure me into having my picture taken, since they expect me to do the taking.
I know. I know.
Thing is, if you blog (and many of you do), self-portraits can be incredibly important part of your site. Personally, when I hit an "about me" link on a new blog I've just found, I find myself inordinately disappointed if there isn't a photograph accompanying the biography. The truth is I'm not trying to determine if the author of a blog is good-looking or not -- that's, frankly, the last thing I care about. I like to look at bio pics because it gives me a sense (rightly or wrongly) of the person behind the website. Does the author seem smart? Warm? Quirky? Funny? It helps me feel closer to the person writing. And if I do feel a connection, I'm more likely than not to return.
So we're back to having that picture taken. And if, like me, you hate having your photograph taken, then do what I do:
Take the photograph yourself.
I know this might seem an awkward way of getting your portrait taken, but think about it: you know which side is your good side, you know what you'd like to hide, and you know what you'd like to people to focus on. So why not do it yourself? And even if you're not a professional photographer, there are a couple of things you can do to make sure that the image that goes on your site is as breathtaking as possible. So, without further ado, my Top 5 Tips for Taking A Stellar Self-Portrait:
Number 5: Do what you need to do to feel attractive.
It's an incredibly self-confident person who loves how they look the moment they wake, so for most of us, that's the last time we should be taking our photograph. For some of you, you won't feel comfortable unless your makeup is perfect -- so take the time to do it right. For others, it's about freshly-washed hair. For still others, it's the glow they have after a workout and a shower. Have a favourite sweatshirt you love to wear? Look amazing in the particular shade of chartreuse? Whatever, man. Do what it takes to make you feel great and self-confident. It'll make taking the shot easier.
Number 4: Use a mirror.
I'm not talking about using it to primp (although, in my experience, primping rarely goes well without a mirror). I'm saying that when taking your photograph, actually take a photograph of your reflection, rather than trying to aim the camera at your own face. By aiming at your reflection, you'll be able to see exactly what you're shooting, both in the mirror and in the viewfinder of your camera. And that way, you can shift your angle to hide that unsightly blemish or that annoying cowlick to your heart's content.
Number 3: Pick a well-lit place and get in close.
I've taken several self-portraits in my daughter's bathroom (which has great lighting), but I've also been known to take a large mirror out in my back garden during the light of day to take a shot. If you're using a mirror to take your picture, you're not going to want to use your flash, unless you want your bio pic to be just an image of a blinding light -- and as radiant a personality as you might have, this would sort of defeat the purpose. So lighting becomes very important. Also? When you take the photograph, make sure that your face and neck fill up the majority of the frame of the shot. Often, the space used for a bio photograph is small, so you want to be sure to maximize the space to show what your reader wants to see: your face.
Speaking of which, this is no time to be coy: don't take a self portrait from behind the camera. Aim the camera at your reflection, move your head from behind the viewfinder, and shoot.
Number 2: Take lots and lots and lots of shots.
I mean, take lots and lots and lots of shots. Don't give up. You know how critical you can be of yourself? Well, you're going to want to have lots of choices as you pick each final shot apart. When I've taken self-portraits, no lie, I've often taken about 100 of myself at one time, so that I have a lot to choose from (and a lot to delete). Make faces at yourself in the mirror. Smile. Frown. Be silly. Be serious. Give yourself some variety from which to make your decision.
And my Number 1 tip for taking a great bio photo:
I can't think of anyone who doesn't look better smiling. Even if you end up using a more serious shot, give yourself the option of having a few smiling photographs to choose from. Smiling conveys sincerity and warmth, and who doesn't want to read the blog of a sincere, warm person?
Besides, with your dazzling smile, people are less likely to notice the grey hair, tiny blemish or unsightly roll.
Karen Walrond is a writer and photographer in Houston, Texas. You can see more of her work at Chookooloonks.
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