A few days ago, one of my lovely long-time readers asked what my secrets are for taking good outfit pictures on my own. Most of you probably know that half the time I take my own photos, and the other half, my husband takes them. Secretly, I prefer taking my own outfit pictures — I have more artistic control, I know the shots I want, and to me it’s just fun. Plus then I’m not rushed. However, taking outfit photos by yourself can be tricky, and I am still learning things after 10 years of taking my own photos. Here are my top 6 tips.
1. Buy a tripod!
Back in the day, pre-fashion-blog, I used to take pictures of myself just for fun. I have always been interested in photography, and I used to wander the farm we lived on, all gussied up in costumes, and take pictures of myself — as well as roping my friends into it. But back then I didn’t have a tripod. I used trees, fence posts, tractors, chairs, stools, books, and many other things to prop my mom’s camera precariously up so that I could take pictures.
And then, she got me a tripod. Oh, heaven. Tripods are the best thing ever; it doesn’t even have to be expensive. Mine was from Target for $15, and after that one broke my current favorite is one we found at Goodwill for $10 or something. Having a tripod completely opens up what you can do so far as the angle and composition of your photos, plus it provides stability where propping a camera in a tree means it might fall out. Not that that ever happened… (ahem.)
2. Use natural, shaded light as much as possible.
You always hear them say that you should chase the “golden hour” of lighting during the day, but who really has time for that? While golden hour lighting is gorgeous, realistically it’s better to seek filtered light — aka, a shadow at the side of a building, the dappled light through leaves, or light coming through sheer curtains. Use as much natural light as you can, and please avoid taking indoor, artificially-lit photographs unless you’ve got an actual lighting setup! Indoor lighting usually looks pretty bad, but you also don’t want to be standing in full sunlight because it will completely blow out the whites in your pictures.
3. Be mindful of where the light is.
Once you’ve found your spot of dappled, filtered light, you’ve got one more lighting thing to figure out: the optimum position for flattering shadows. Unless you’re catching golden hour or very early morning lighting, you usually don’t want to be facing the light. Instead, try to make sure that the sun is on the left or right of you, and face ground where the light hits, to create more flattering lighting overall. As an example, take these two photos:
They are edited completely the same; I didn’t change the camera settings to be lighter or darker. The only difference is that on the left, we have a picture taken while I was facing the 10am filtered sunlight, and on the right, the sun was to my right. Because the sun was above me, by facing it I was creating shadows beneath my eyes and under the apples of my cheeks, making me look tired (I was, ha!) and detracting from the rest of my face. But by turning so that it was on my right, I was then facing a spot of ground that had sunlight on it, which acted as a reflector and threw light up into my face; as well, the sun on the right also lit up my face without creating shadow… and voila! Better lighting.
4. Change it up!
Don’t just stand there. Find a place to sit. Find a place to lay down. Twirl. Jump. Turn your back. Pose even if it feels funny. Make sure you’re breaking up your stance, moving your hands, and providing lots of variety in your photos. While you want to keep the scenery similar throughout the pictures, you don’t have to always stay in one place, or do one pose. (Notes: it’s more flattering to put your weight on your back leg while standing, and usually you’ll find you prefer your face from one side or the other. I think the left side of my face is more photogenic, ha!)
As well, try mixing up your composition — take portrait and landscape photos, photos of just your top half, just your bottom half, just your middle. Get details of your outfits and surroundings, and throw them into collages. My favorite blogs are those that mix up their shots and composition to create a visually interesting read.
5. Interact with the camera!
One of the biggest things to look like you’re comfortable is to treat the camera like it’s just a friend. Be silly for it. Make eye contact. Tell a story with your poses– smile, yell, look away, tilt your head; have a visual conversation with your camera. Two great things to remember if you’re feeling awkward in front of the camera are to relax your hands — you can always tell if someone’s nervous by what their hands are doing — and relax your face. Don’t clench your fists or your jaw, but also, don’t go blank-eyed or limp-wristed. Play with your expressions and your hands, and you’ll start to look comfortable in your photos, even if you feel silly.
6. And lastly, perfect the focus
This one is right up there with finding good light! When you’re setting your focus, be sure to set it on where your face will be. Try to focus on your eyes, if you can — usually, I have an object that I set where I plan to stand or sit (I don’t have a remote yet, so all of my photos are self-timed), and I try to make sure that my face is the part of me lined up with that spot. It drives me batty when I see pictures that are just out of focus, or focused on something other than the face. People will look to your face first, so make sure it’s clear! (And if you didn’t quite get it, you can always go into your photo editing program — I use picmonkey.com, and paint.net — and sharpen it as a little cheat way to make it look focused.)
Kimono and necklace (sold out) c/o Oasap | camisole, Forever 21 | jeans and sandals, Target | vintage headscarf, garage-sale
Most of all, though, just have fun with it. While your lighting, focus, and posing are all really important things in having great blog photos, the most interesting blogs are those where you can tell that the person is enjoying herself (or himself) in the pictures. So don’t take yourself too seriously, and don’t expect your first photos to be perfect. It’s taken me 10 years (or more!) to get where I am now, and I’m still learning new things! Jump in feet first, and enjoy the process as you learn!
(Bonus: one of my first “fashiony” photos from six years ago. Yep. I had no idea what I was doing.)
P.S. Isn’t this floral kimono gorgeous? I think Oasap is the best at creating garments that have a nice flow to them, and I’m SO happy with this beautiful piece! Plus, the fringe is the non-tangle kind, so no having to brush it out and deal with knots!