How to feel more comfortable in front of the camera

December 11, 2016

I like to study human's faces, their features and feel their emotions through facial expressions. I like portraits because they can tell you many things about the subject. Sometimes I like my own portraits too, they remind me of the different stages I was in, both physically and mentally.

When I was younger I used to take so many portraits of myself to experiment different styles, you can see some silly things I did in 2013 here and here. But the last two years I took lesser and lesser of my own portraits... because I've been suffering from skin allergy. The nightmare seems infinite, a slight irritation on my face, such as using the wrong skin product or touching my own face, I'll have redness, rashes or acne that last for weeks. This craziness has not only stopped me from facing the camera, I also feel less confident about my look.

This lack of confidence has unexpectedly connected me with so many people who also face insecurities about how they look. I used to be the girl who could shamelessly share her own selfie with the world, but now I know these notions so well - "I'm not photogenic enough," "I'll look fat," "I don't look good in photos," "I look so dumb in photos," "I look awkward..."

Feeling insecure about our look and shying away from the camera aren't the best things to do. There're so many occasions to face a camera and have our photos taken, it might be a wedding, gathering or family photo. Let's see if there's something we can do.

1. Find your best angle.

If you see my portraits, it's pretty obvious that my best angle is 45 degree, and my side view (also known as "side profile"). How do I know? I have a strong jawline that look cooler on side view, my face looks slightly square on front view. I know that my nose is my best feature. I also have a crooked tooth, so I seldom laugh in photos. (Note: This is something I want to change. I'd really like to look happy in photos!)

Most of the people I know, including my sister, look the best at 45 degree angle. Some people have a round face, so at 45 degree angle most probably you'll look slimmer. Some people have a really nice smile, you might want to smile more in photos. Some people have small eyes, if you want to have bigger eyes in photos, breathing in while taking photos might help. The key is to study your own face in front of the mirror and find your best feature. Look at yourself at different angle and see which one makes you feel good. Before your start doubting, trust me, you do have beautiful features.

2. Take as much photos as you can.

Once you know your best feature (it could be your smile, your nose, or your eyes), try to snap a few photos of yourself at different angle. Yes you can take as much selfie as you wish. You might have read some selfie tips about taking photos from a slightly higher angle, but seriously this doesn't work for my face. Instead of making my face look leaner, the proportion of my features look weird. The "look up to the camera, open your eyes widely, look innocent and chin down", a common selfie technique, also doesn't work for me. It doesn't flatter my face at all. The point is to practice and try to find your best angle. Each of us has distinct and unique facial features and expression. What works for the other person might not work for you. 

3. Adjust to the camera and relax.

Group photos - Adjust to the camera
When you have your photos taken, adjust your angle for the camera. This is especially useful for group photos - don't just stare blankly at the camera, or try to hide behind someone else to look slimmer. If you want to look good, adjust your face and show your best angle to the camera. You'll love the outcome.

Individual portraits - Trust your photographer.
I realized this when I was taking photos for other people. Not only we're not confident with our look, we're not confident with the photographer as well. I had a subject worrying all the time if she'll look fat and awkward in my photos. Relax, relax, you look fine I promise. If we are talking about professional photographers here, don't worry they will find the best angle for you. They will move around and adjust a bit to get the best shot. In any case, check if you like the photos, delete if necessary.

With all being said, it doesn't mean that you have to be really serious and look stiff because you're trying so hard to look and portray the best of you. Just pose and adjust for the camera naturally. Most of us look best when we feel comfortable and relaxed. 

4. Find a style that you like and suits you.

I think this is an obvious but often overlooked aspect. Finding a style that you like is important because it represents you, your taste and your personality. 

How to know what style you like? You can browse through Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest to see other people's photos, usually a few good ones will draw your attention. That's a good sign that you've met something that you might like. I personally like portraits with shadows, lighter contrast and sometimes monochrome ones, so I gravitate towards that direction in my portraits. 

How to know what style suits you? You can only know this by experimenting. Try different style - cool, warm, monotone, colourful, bright, dark... try different editing and filters. See which one flatters your features and personality the most. 

For example, there's a phase in my life when I really love bright, bubbly and cute style (wanted to imitate the young Korean girl bands...). I tried it on myself but the photos looked hilarious. This direction doesn't represent me at all because my facial features aren't so girlish and my personality isn't like that too. Taking my sister as another example, as you can see here, she really shines in a more mature and cooler tone. We tried to make her look adorable and bubbly but the outcome was funny. 

The key is to play with it. Here's an example of how using different editing and filters result in different mood for the exact same photo. The monochrome one was cool, and the bottom one has a warmer tone. I like them both. There're absolutely no rules, just try and play with it.

My portraits here were taken by my sister Shan and hers by me. Here's the confession: these are the best shots out of nearly a hundred. And I deliberately chose the angle that didn't show my skin problems. So the next time you see my portraits on social media, please don't think that they're done effortlessly and we look so flawless or surreal in real life. These photos look nice because... guess what? We know our best angle and choose the best shots to show you. 

Hope this post helps. Of course there're many other aspects like lighting, shadows and editing but let's leave it for next round when I have time... or maybe a video is better in explaining these aspects... Hope we'll get over the insecurities about our look. Have fun experimenting! 

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