13 Tips to Turn Frightful Photos into Sexy Selfies

In episode 14 of the Sew Mindful podcast my fabulous guest and style guru Imogen Lamport of Inside Out Style shared her expert tips on taking the fear out of having your photo taken to help us all pose with confidence.


As dressmakers we spend a lot of time and effort creating beautiful garments and so it is really important that we can show them off in the best way possible. I wanted to find some tips and tricks to help me look my best on camera so that I could share those with you.


Imogen always looks great in her Facebook lives and in the images she shares on her website and she is so generous in sharing her tips and tricks so I asked if she could offer any advice. She went above and beyond with no less than 13 great tips for you to try for yourself.


Why bother?

One of the benefits that a lot of people don't realize is that taking outfit photos can help not just to show the outfit off, but also to learn about fit on yourself. You can see how things actually are fitting, the proportions, the kind of figure flattery elements or body harmony. So photos can be really helpful as an instructional tool to actually see how clothes are working on you.


From an outfit photo you can see if making tweaks or changes could create a more flattering silhouette for example by shortening the sleeves or changing the length of the jacket or skirt.

"I avoided the camera for years so I barely got a photo of me until I learnt how to pose" Imogen told me.


There are two aspects to address. One is what technology to use and the other is how to make yourself look good in the photo.


Tip #1: Take Lots of Photos

Now that we are in the age of digital photographs it is much easier to take lots and get rid of the rubbish ones unlike in the 'olden days' when you had to pay to get the film developed.


Just a few of the photos from my home photo shoot

From a discussion with a professional photographer who shared that he was happy to get 1 good photo from a set of 24, Imogen realised that the key to getting good images was to expect to take a lot of not-good ones too.


So be prepared to take quite a few photos just tweaking your position, pose, background or lighting and see what works.


Tip #2: Set up a Stand

To get a good photo particularly of a whole outfit you need some way to set up your phone/camera that's probably going to be more than arm's length away. But you don't need an expensive tripod or holder - a couple of bulldog clips and a table can be a great way to get started. See this blog post for more info.


Set up a stand

You can also pick up stands online for relatively little money and they can be great to give you a steady platform from which to take your photo.

Tip #3: Check the Camera Position

Once you have a way of standing up your phone the next thing to check is the height and position of the camera. You don't want it too low or too high as that can make us look out of proportion so getting a position that is around chest height is usually the most flattering.


And if you are lucky enough to have someone to help you take photos try to coach them to take the photo at your height not theirs.


Tip #4: What's Closest to the Camera Looks Biggest

In relation to positioning it is also important to think about how close you are the camera. If you are too close then you can distort yourself as whatever is closes to the lens looks bigger.


So it is better to be a bit further away and then zoom in or crop the photo to keep it in proportion. Changing your stance can also help to maximise or minimise any bits that you want to show off or hide, for example standing at an angle with your weight on your back leg can move your chest back and make a fuller bust look less prominent.


Tip #5: Use Timers and Remote Controls

Many smartphones have timers that you can set for taking photos that give you around 10 seconds before the photo is taken. This gives you time to pose or adjust before the shot is taken.


Some phones also have apps or features that you can use to trigger the photo by using a hand movement or saying a phrase. See this blog post for more information.


You can also get remote controls from places like Amazon that you can use with your phone via Bluetooth. Depending on how often you will be taking photos and how you want to use them will determine how professional you want to get with your equipment.


Tip #6: Check the Lighting

Even with the best phones/cameras, if there is not enough light it can be difficult to create a great photo. However, too much light can also be a problem in that it can create unwanted shadows.


If you have natural light that is often the best so if you can place your camera on a windowsill and be facing the light that can work really well but beware of harsh, direct sunlight.


Avoid having the light source too bright behind you as that will put you in the shadow and you will end up as a black outline/silhouette.


Some phones/cameras have settings for taking photos indoors with artificial light to help compensate for any yellowness.


Tip #7: Take Advantage of the Golden Hours

Taking photos outdoors can be a great option. Things to be aware of are the effects of dappled shade or shadows that can create odd effects in the photo.


Catch the hour after sunrise or hour before sunset for best light

The best time of day to take photos outdoors are the Golden Hours. The Golden Hours are the hour after the sun comes up and the hour before it sets. The light during this time is often soft and warm. It doesn't last long but is definitely worth planning for particularly if you live in a location with good weather.


Tip #8: Consider the Background - clear the clutter

If you are taking a photo of your lovely outfit you want that to be the centre of attention. So to ensure nothing detracts from that check what's in the background of your photo. If you are not lucky enough to have one of the latest phones with cameras that blur the background for you then having a quick check to make sure it is clear and uncluttered will make a big difference.

Oops! Not even a crop could save this photo!

Whilst you can crop out some elements it's much easier to avoid getting them in the shot in the first place. Again if you are going to be taking photos regularly create a space that you can re-use like Imogen's 'Instagram corner' where she goes to take her instagram pics.


I know I have been guilty of being so excited about finishing my project that I just want to share it and ended up with all kinds of clutter in the shot. But on the occasions where I have taken a bit of extra time to make sure that I have a clear space behind me, I have felt much more confident about sharing the image and got great compliments and feedback.


Tip #9: The Power of Cropping

So we mentioned in tip #4 that what is closest to the camera appears largest. If you have ever had that situation where you took a photo and said "Oh no, my nose looks massive!" then it's likely that the camera may have been a bit too close which causes the image to look distorted.


These days cameras take photos with such high quality that you can take photos from further away and crop them down without losing the quality and looking grainy (assuming you aren't trying to take it from the other end of the street that is!)


Using cropping you can also get creative about where you position the point you want people to focus on, which is usually off centre. If you google 'rule of thirds photography' there are loads of great articles explaining how to frame and position yourself within the frame of the photo.


Tip #10: 'Over the Fence' - banish that double chin forever!

Often the worst pose for most of us is directly straight on to the camera with our arms by our sides. This is especially true if you don't often have your photo taken so when the camera appears you instantly pull your head back to create that double-chin, slightly panicked look. Don't pretend you don't know what I mean - we've all done it!


Imogen's pro tip is to take a breath and imagine that you are talking to a neighbour over a fence that is just a bit higher than your chin level so that you have to lift your chin over the fence.


This encourages you to push your head forward slightly and upward especially if you can relax your shoulders too. It definitely feels a bit odd when you first do it but give it a try and see if you can spot the difference.


Tip #11: Angles and Gaps - mastering the art of posing

When posing for a photo do you ever think 'I have no idea what to do with my hands'? Well one trick is to think about creating gaps and angles. Have you ever noticed that in professional photos the model is often holding something out like a drink or a bag, or has her hand on her hip?


All of these poses create gaps and angles that lead the eye around the photo as opposed to standing as one block in the middle of the picture.


Our eyes are often looking for symmetry when we look at a picture but for many of us our bodies and faces are not symmetrical. This means that if we have our photo taken face-on it is more obvious that we are not symmetrical but as a way around that by turning to stand at an angle maybe with one shoulder back or your head tilted slightly, the eye of the observer is no longer expecting symmetry.


In the same way if you bend your knee and angle it inwards (as you will see in many of the fashion croquis poses) it draws the eye in and down making wider hips and thighs look narrower.


Tip #12: Laughter is defintely the best medicine

Now I know for the youngesters out there that it is not trendy to look like you are enjoying life so mean and moody is their pose of choice. But if you want to show off your make then I think it is much more appealing if you look like you are enjoying wearing it - otherwise what was the point in making it?


Laughing is contagious so when we see photos of people laughing it can often raise a smile of our own. How fabulous to be able to bring a smile to someone's face with your photo!


The joy of laughter

When I started having to take photos at home I realised that I wanted to have fun doing it so I always put on my favourite tunes and dance around for a bit before to really get into a great mood. And yes some of the photos look ridiculous but the ones that are good, are great because I am genuinely having a good time.


That's not to say that looking off whistfully into the distance isn't a good option too but if you can find a way to be laughing when the photo is taken then it becomes more about having fun than worrying about the camera.


Tip #13: Practice

The last but not least tip is to practice. With digital photos it is super easy to get rid of the ones you don't like or that don't work but you'll learn so much by trying different settings, poses and positions to understand what you like best and what works for you.


Whenever you are taking photos remember to take lots even if you don't need them - you can pick out your favourites and get rid of the rest.


Experiment in the mirror with different poses and positions. If you have asymmetrical facial features or body parts try out different stances and head positions to find your favourite.


Also pay attention to celebrities and fashion photos to get tips on how they pose. Look at the angles and positions of their arms and legs. Look at the angle from which the photos are taken. Get creative and have fun.


What next?

Give it a go and share your progress. I'd love to know which of these tips you like the most and if you want to share your photos then head over to the Sew Much More Fun Facebook group as I'd love to see them.


Happy snapping my lovelies!

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