Ever since I started this blog, I’ve been learning a ton about content creation and photography — particularly how to do it on my own. In the world of social media, there is so much content produced each day— it was naive of me to think that this would be something I’d wouldn’t need to learn more about for the blog! Anyway, given the few opportunities to travel and increasing social distancing measures, I’ve found myself trying creative ways to take photos of myself… by myself. This has been quite a challenge for me because it’s not something I’ve had to do before. I’ve been SO fortunate (and extremely spoiled) to have a strong relationship with a professional photographer— we always take photos together wherever we go— but photo opportunities have been limited this year. Besides, with this blog as my new baby, I want to have more creative control over the photography, and I often find it hard to explain to someone else exactly what I am looking for. While I can’t do everything by myself, trying new ways to capture content on my own has allowed me to explore what I think works for me and the blog.
It definitely takes trial and error, and by no means am I an expert, but I’ve discovered a handful of hacks that have worked very well recently and I wanted to share them with you! No hack is perfect, and some come with their limitations, but I hope these tips help you get that Instagram-worthy shot you are looking for, without having to rely on someone else! This is perfect for social distancing, staying at home, solo adventures, or if simply no one in your network is available to be your photographer for the day!
(I also want to point out that by no means do you have to splurge on equipment to get the perfect shot. For some people, it may be worth the investment, but I’ve found that using my iPhone (I have the 11), works very well in most conditions, and is the most portable option. I do, however, take many photos with my Canon T5i, but I am hoping to switch to a point and shoot just for the extra convenience of a smaller camera. The only equipment I suggest purchasing is a tripod, which I’ll go more into detail below!).
5 Tips For Solo Photography
1. Use Bedsheets as Backdrops
I love using blank walls as a backdrop – it doesn’t have to be fancy for it to look good! I already had a white bedsheet that came with my bedding set, but you can easily find one online or thrift it. I like this method because it’s very easy to set up. If you don’t have a lot of blank wall space, you can easily tape up a bedsheet to your wall and let it hang down to your floor (or even have it sit on the floor too). This allows for both standing and sitting poses! I personally like using a white bedsheet for the minimal and monochromatic look, but any color works (see this blog post for some of the photos I took using this method). The bedsheet gives almost a “studio-like” feel — I love incorporating these kinds of shoots when I want to focus on a particular look or photograph with props.
I took the photos in this post with my camera on my tripod and self timer — check out #2 below.
2. Tripods and Self-Timer (optional: bluetooth remote)
If there is one thing I suggest purchasing, it’s a tripod. It’s extremely versatile and it’ll come in handy more than you think. Again, this doesn’t have to be super fancy, inexpensive tripods are easily accessible. If you use one for both your camera and phone, I recommend purchasing an iPhone mount for your tripod. You can easily attach and de-attach the mount to switch between your phone and camera. I personally like to shoot with both, to get the most out of my photos (while my camera takes great photos, sometimes I really like how the iPhone ones turn out, and it saves me the import and editing time).
Self-timers can be tricky — I’ve had the most success with my phone self-timer than with my camera. This is mainly because when I start the self-timer on my camera, it’s focused on the background and not me, so when I get in front of the camera, the photo lost its focus (if anyone has any tips to fix this let me know!!). My solution to this is a Bluetooth remote for my camera, but again, that’s totally optional based on your need. Regardless, if a self-timer works well for you and your device, I suggest taking advantage of it!
Both phones and cameras have a continuous shooting function (“burst” for iPhones, which takes 10 continuous photos). This has been the most helpful in helping me capture the candid shots! The continuous shooting function helps to capture the micromovements that you otherwise wouldn’t get when taking 1 photo. I tend to move a little bit when I pose, so in each burst series, there might be slight changes in my smile, my hand positioning, my angles, the wind blowing in my hair, etc. These micro-movements are so important in helping you capture all the details and get the perfect shot!
3. Video Screenshots
I’ve seen the phone video to screenshot method on social media a lot, so I had to give it a try! You first set your phone onto a tripod and set the video to 4K / 60 frames per second (at the top right corner of the iPhone camera). Take a video of yourself playing around with multiple poses and movements. Then, take screenshots of the video to capture your photos.
I like this method as it truly captures all of the candid movements. When I tried, the screenshots turned out as if they were actually photographed, so this definitely works. I tried this method both indoors and outdoors— outdoors worked way better because of the optimal lighting! What’s great about this method that it’s a good way to play around with more movements and poses. Personally, my caveat to this method is that I’m visibly more awkward in videos than I am for photos. I know I am personally more comfortable being photographed than videographed, but it all takes practice! I recommend giving it a shot to see if this works for you, but for now, I’ll stick with the continuous shooting method.
4. Posing Tips: Height, Rule of Thirds and Triangles
I’m tall (5’10 to be exact), but that doesn’t always mean I look tall in photos, especially when taken at eye level. Regardless of your height, I learned this simple tip to help elongate your legs in photos. Simply, position the camera at a lower angle, rather than eye level. This will help elongate your legs and make you look taller. Besides the height, I found that this is a flattering angle for a full body shot (great to show off outfits).
The rule of thirds is a guideline for breaking down photos into thirds and positioning the subject in between the thirds. You can achieve that by positioning yourself off center of the frame. Something about not being directly in the center is more appealing to the eye, and looks far more natural.
** An additional tip is to crop your photos so you can easily realign your photo to meet the rule of thirds. It’s so much easier to crop photos than to take the photo too zoomed in — allows for greater flexibility.
Lastly, a great way to make your photos more eye-catching is by creating geometric angles. An easy way to do that is by creating triangles (think, running your hands through your hair, hand on the waist, leg poses, etc). I am definitely learning to be mindful of this and this helps to create new poses.
5. Make Lightroom Your Friend
This tip isn’t really related to actually taking photos, but editing is just as importation!
I used to be intimidated by Lightroom because there are so many features I didn’t know how to use and thought it is meant to be used by professionals. It’s a slight learning curve but nothing that anyone can’t handle and it has a pretty straightforward interface. I don’t like to make drastic edits (no presets or anything), but I like using Lightroom to enhance my photos and I think it’s so much better than the regular photo editing app. It’s no surprise that beginners, hobbyists, and professionals love this app– it has really strong editing capabilities beyond any other app I’ve used. Lightroom for your computer does come at a price, but the phone app is completely free and most of the necessary features are available!
My favorite part is that I can copy and paste the same edits on multiple photos — this makes editing a collection of photos extremely easy and quick!
*Bonus* Apple watch camera hack!
This is probably my favorite photography hack – so this one’s for you, Apple watch owners!
When I take photos with my camera, the screen flips out, so I’m able to easily see how I look. I don’t rely on it for how I look or poses, but it helps me visualize where I am at in the frame. For iPhone photos, I basically just have to wing it (trial and error is my friend). It’s not a necessity, but this feature on my camera is extremely helpful and I personally feel more secure when I can see what I’m doing.
If you have an apple watch, you can essentially do something similar. Simply, press on the camera app on your watch and you’ll instantly see what your camera is looking it. Since I’m looking down at my watch, I’ll see from the camera that I’m looking down (which is why it won’t really help me with poses), but it does help me see what is in the shot, how I am standing, angles and lighting. The best part? You don’t need a clicker. You can press the camera button on your watch screen, it’ll initiate a 3 second self timer and take burst photos. LOVE this feature! In fact, the photos in this post were taken with the help of my watch. The only caveat to this is that I have to be wearing the watch — could be a limitation if it doesn’t work well with the look.
I hope you all find these tips useful! Feel free to comment below for your photography tips!