This mini-guide will show you how to take your own awesome profile picture with a basic set-up and a simple photo shot-list.
This month I challenged myself to get out from behind the camera and step in-front of the lens to get some new profile shots for my website. It had been on my to-do list for months. I knew that the old one wasn’t cutting it, but I had a serious case of FOLO … Fear Of Looking Odd. No, it’s not a real internet acronym, but you know what I mean, right? I seem to have a knack of always ending up with my eyelids half closed, mouth in a weird position, way too much of a toothy smile or the horrid double chin. And if I try to look cool or sexy, I just end up looking crazy. FOLO.
Before my DIY photo-shoot, I looked at the ‘about me’ pages of all my favourite online entrepreneurs and bloggers, analysing their profile pictures to see if I could learn the secret of looking natural and engaging in a portrait shot. I checked out all the tiny profile pics on their Pinterest and Instagram accounts to glean a common thread to looking casual yet professional. And out of that research I collected a handful of simple poses, that even the most camera-shy person can try. I’ve pulled them together into a mini-guide below, to help you also eliminate FOLO and capture your own portraits that you love and are happy to share.
Give it a go! And if you post them on Instagram, make sure you add the hashtag #miniphotoshootwithsam. I’d love to see them!
If the thought of getting in front of the camera is making you feel uneasy, then here a few tips to help you prepare:
1. Find your happy place. Spend a few moments to ground yourself. Get out of your head and let go of all the stories swimming around in it… you know, the ones about what people are going to think, or your self-criticisms. Instead, give yourself permission to have fun with it. Maybe find a mantra that works for you, or use one of the following:
- You don’t have to be perfect to be confident.
- Your insecurity is not your identity.
- Do the Universe a favour, don’t hide your magic.
- There is only one you for all time. Fearlessly be your true self. You matter.
Or if these photos will be used for your business, how about this one…
- My face is my fortune (This one is challenging, but I really like it! I got it from the Lucky Bitch Podcast: 3 Money Affirmations to Change your Life).
If you can come to the photo-shoot with a positive vibe, you will feel more in the flow, have more confidence and an authentic smile will shine through.
2. Practice your poses. Write down a list of the poses that you will try during the photo-shoot and practice them in the mirror. To save you time, I have put together a handy photo shot-list that you can download here. Print it out and refer to it during the photo-shoot.
When you are practising in front of the mirror, take note of your preferences. Is there a side of your face the you prefer? Practice tilting your chin up and down and consider how it might affect the image. Practise smiling with your eyes. Trying the poses out before you actually get in front of the camera can save you time later and give you more confidence on the day.
What you will need
Time – Give yourself at least an hour. Or if you don’t have that much time, just choose one or two poses to try.
Place - A spot with lots of natural light. You might want to sit by a window, or in your backyard. And you if you are doing this on your own, then you might like to also choose a spot with a bit of privacy.
Tripod - Or a way to prop up your phone or camera.
Chair or stool - That you can sit on in front of the camera.
Remote shutter release – Either through a timer on your phone or camera, or an external device. (If you are doing this with a friend, they can take the pictures for you instead).
A few optional items...
Keep those high vibes going with some music, a cuppa (or maybe a glass of sparkling!) or a copy of your mantra.
Consider makeup, hair and clothes - You don’t have to go overboard here, but after you take one or two pics, assess the situation. For example, you might be able to see that the colour of your top is distracting in the overall image and you can make any required changes.
Reflector – This can be a simple piece of white cardboard. Again, take a couple of pictures and observe if there are any harsh shadows. Reflecting some light onto your face might be able to soften the shadows and brighten the overall image.
Clothing and location changes – If you have lots of time and want to create extra content, you can try changing your outfits and location for some added variation.
Camera position: Place the camera directly in front of you, so that you are looking directly into the lens. You might have to take a few practice shots to make sure you are in the right spot and the focus point is on your eyes or face.
Taking the shot: So now that you are sitting with a smile in front of the lens… how do you actually take the photo? You need to find a way to compose the shot, get in place and remotely activate the shutter. You will need to get creative to work this one out. Expect some trial and error and practice shots as you find your method. Here are a few ideas you can try:
For a phone camera:
- Use the front facing camera, so that you can see yourself in the screen and plug in your headphones and use the volume control to take the shot. You can hold down the volume control for burst mode (ie. capture continuous images, one after another). Just makes sure you keep the headphone wires out of the frame.
- Use the back facing camera in conjunction with an app (such as gorilla cam) that allows you to set a timer and use burst mode. This gives you time to get back in front of the camera and get multiple shots in that position.
- Note: I haven't yet found an app that you can use between two devices (say an iphone and an ipad), where one acts as the camera, and the other as a remote shutter with a live view of the other screen. That would be ideal, so if you know of one, please let me know!
For a digital SLR
- Use the flip screen and live mode so that you can see yourself in the screen. Then use a shutter release device to take the photo. Continuous shooting can also be helpful to get multiple shots in the one pose. This is the set up that I use.
- Check if there is an app for your camera, to convert your phone into a remote shutter device with live view. There is one available for new Canon cameras.
In all cases, you will need to check images between photos (or between bursts of continuous shooting) to make sure you are in focus and in frame. If you are using your headphone cables or leads to remotely release the shutter, check that they are not visible in the photos too! Don’t worry if you take a lot of photos – it means that you are more likely to capture one that is in focus, with a facial expression that you like.
Photo-shoot: The Poses
Now you are ready to strike a pose and capture your beautiful self. Remember, try to relax and have fun with it. If you start getting frustrated, then take a break and come back to it later. As soon as you get frustrated, it will become difficult to maintain that authentic smile.
I have shown you 4 simple poses in the image grid below. But if you want to explore more options, I have 15 variations in the shot-list guide, that you can try using the same set-up and position.
- Lean forward slightly and look directly at the camera and smile. Try to smile with your eyes too.
- Keep leaning forward, but this time, put your hand 'lightly' on your face.
- Look to the left or right of the camera, smiling or laughing into the distance. In this shot, I am also including my hand by lightly touching my hair.
- Hold on to your knee/leg. You can try a few options here, looking directly at, or away from the camera.
Note: It is helpful to check your images between shots, so that you can pick up any issues. Ideally, I would have removed the hair tie around my wrist and reflected a little more light on the side of my face that is in the shadows.
After you have finished your photo-shoot, I recommend that you try editing your photos. I’m not suggesting anything major, just check to see if your image can be enhanced by adjusting the white balance, the exposure, or changing the curves. If you don’t already have your own favourite photo editing apps, I recommend trying Snapsneed or VSCO. I usually edit in Lightroom, but I might tweak the image on my phone in Snapseed before posting.
And there you have it! I hope that you found this mini-guide useful. Give it a go for yourself, and I’d love to see your work. Don’t be shy! Post it up on Instagram with the hashtag #miniphotoshootwithsam. See you over on Insta!