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The Problem With Selfies

selfie image for blog post

Though it’s reasonable to think the word “selfie” was born from the advent of smart phones, the truth is Robert Cornelius produced a daguerreotype of himself in 1839. Wow, now there’s a visionary. His results were limited by the technology, but the same cannot be said for today’s modern devices. As Eve Arnold once noted, “It is the photographer, not the camera, that is the instrument”. Her point of course is great technology in the hands of an amateur can often yield amateurish results. But it doesn’t have to.

Selfies provide both a candid alternative to professionally captured images, as well as an important marketing tool through such social mediums as Twitter or Instagram. But when poorly executed they can actually cause more harm than good. Low quality images affect your professionalism at best, and misrepresent your physical self at worst. Done correctly however, they’ll allow you to show a spontaneity and unpolished look that many of your followers and clients will appreciate.

Here are some of the common problems and solutions for many of the selfies I’ve seen online.

    • Problem:
      Mind your backgrounds. No one wants to see a toilet, clothes clutter on the floor, or anything else that can detract from your self-portrait. Doing such says, fairly or not, you lack a sense of detail, you’re disorganized and unprofessional; characteristics that your preferred prospects will find unappealing.
      Solution:
      You can solve this problem simply by cleaning up the clutter or moving to a place where the background is unobtrusive. And if you must use a bathroom mirror for your composition, angle yourself in such a way that the toilet isn’t visible.
    • Problem:
      Your images are too dark, grainy, or out of focus.
      Solution:
      These three issues are often the result from the same problem; not enough light. The less available light for your image, the more you’ll see the digital noise, grain, or sometimes but incorrectly termed, pixelization. Also with low light your camera will have more difficulty focusing which of course leads to fuzzy pictures. So naturally the solution is to make sure your environment is well lit.
    • Problem:
      Distorted body shape. This should be your biggest concern because distorting your body obviously misrepresents your physical image.
      Solution:
      Have you ever wondered why glamour photographers often shoot from a low angle? By shooting close to the floor and aiming their camera upward, the model’s legs will appear longer and leaner. But of course the converse is true. When you hold your camera higher than your waist, and tilt it downward, your legs will appear short and stubby. And I don’t care who you are, short and stubby is not the look you want. So if you must hold your camera near your head, your field of view should be limited from your mid-torso, upward. Put differently, omit the lower half of your body. That said, if you want a representational full body shot, hold your camera near the middle of your body and make sure the camera face remains perpendicular to the floor. Alternatively, if you’re utilizing a mirror, the greater the distance from the mirror, the less you’ll notice the distortion. As a rough estimate 10 feet between you and the mirror should work fine.

Through proper implementation of these solutions you’ll have a marked improvement in your selfies. And rather than working against you, they’ll show you at your everyday best.

“Photography is not about the thing photographed. It is about how that thing looks photographed.”

Garry Winogrand