I cringed at the “portrait photo” a colleague posted on Facebook. The selfie combined some of the least flattering aspects of this kind of photo. Taken from the person’s desk and looking up at the writer’s face, the image showed my friend with:
Except for sharp focus and correct exposure, that selfie did almost everything possible to reflect badly on the person—who really is a competent professional.
Digital photography is great. I’d never go back to the days when taking a portrait meant not only the session with the camera, but also hours in a darkroom developing the film then making the print.
But with the ease of digital photography—especially the convenience of tablets or smart phones—it’s easy to substitute spontaneity for the elements of flattering and effective visual communication.
A photo of your face taken at arm’s length will distort your facial features.
It’s fun to show your social followers you’re at a scenic place, doing something special. But you’ll get better results if you realize a photo of your face taken at arm’s length will distort your facial features.
The lenses in phones and tablets take in a wide area—and make what’s closest look larger. That’s true whether it’s your arm, your forehead, your nose, or your chin. It’s the kind of lens that photography instructors advise not to use in taking someone’s portrait. With that kind of lens, it’s hard not distort someone’s face—especially when it’s your own.
Still, sometimes you want a photo that shows you in some special environment. And sometimes there’s no one nearby to ask to take your picture, from more than arm’s length, using your phone.
If you absolutely need to take a selfie—this article, “In Defense of Selfies: A Model’s Guide to Self-Portraits,” offers ten practical tips to avoid some of the worst pitfalls. Then you can give the people who see your posts a reason to smile.