Blog Advice VII: Taking Selfies And Getting Over It

Q. Hey Jordan,

I was wondering if you could give me some advice regarding taking pictures of yourself. I feel pretty self-conscious about it, but I want to be taken seriously as a beauty blogger…[and] I know that if I’m running a beauty blog, people will want visuals when it comes to tutorials, hairstyles, etc.

So do you have any advice about posting/taking flattering photos of yourself? Is there any particular editing software that you use to adjust the photos (and can it get rid of my undereye circles)? And most importantly…how does one get past the period of feeling super awkward and self-conscious posing for photos that will go up on the internet?

Thanks for your help!


Me and my trusty selfie-cam.

(I usually use a tripod and timer, but mirrors can work, too.)

(Did I mention that I hate the word “selfie”? I also think it’s funny.)

A. When I started RG in 2010, I’d been working in front of the camera in one way or another for well over a decade…and still: I felt totally weird handing a camera to my husband and asking him to take a shot of me to illustrate a post, or posing in front of my mirror with my iPhone, or setting up a tripod and timer and prancing around all by myself. Of course I did. It’s a weird thing to do. But it was something that I wanted to be a part of my site, and so I just kept doing it, and after awhile…I got over it.

The truth: a big part of “getting over it” for me was realizing that when you post the number of pictures that I do, many, many of them fall far short of spectacular. I’ve put up photos of myself making strange faces, photos of my frizzy summer hair, photos of outfits I don’t love, and photos that are just straight-up ridiculous.

And that’s OK. Both because my goal with this site is to be honest…and also because let’s get real: anyone who reads RG definitely knows what I look like at this point. So any one photo, no matter how stunningly atrocious or stunningly glorious, isn’t going to be a mind-blower. It’s scary at first – of course it is, it’s always scary to put yourself into a situation where you have no control over how the product that you create is received – but I promise you: if this aspect of your site is important to you, you will get over it.

And if it isn’t that important to you? If you just hate that aspect of blogging? Don’t do it. Seriously. I’m happy to offer you tips on how to create images that you’re comfortable sharing (coming up), but if self-portraits published on the Internet are something that just don’t sit well with you as an individual, that is fine, and there are many, many alternatives that can be just as effective.

But let’s back it up for a moment.

Want to see the very first photo of me that was ever put up on the Internet (aside from a handful of college newspaper shots and the photos associated with a Fashion Week job)?

This. Julia took it at my old apartment shortly after we met (that’s a position that Lucy enjoys, I promise; it’s one of her many, many little quirks), and put it up on her blog later that week. When she took the snapshot I didn’t know that the photo was going to be published online – I didn’t really understand at the time how blogs in general (or that one in particular) worked, and…well, I sort of freaked out. It just seemed so…permanent, having your image right there on the Internet forever and ever.

Which is to say that I understand why – at least in the beginning – the idea of publishing photos of yourself on your website can be a little nerve-wracking. Like I said, though, I don’t think that you have to put up photos of yourself (or even write using your real name), if it makes you uncomfortable. A beauty blog in which you post videos and photos of yourself explaining the techniques you’re discussing is just one alternative; you can also sign up for photo services that give you access to high-quality imagery, or you can pull images from Google so long as you cite them appropriately (more info on blogging legalities here).

But if you’re committed to incorporating imagery of yourself into your site, I do have some tips that can help you feel more confident.

1. Angles. Most people have a “side” or handful of angles that they look best from, for reasons particular to their own face. I tend to take iPhone photos from one or two specific angles (like this and this), for example, mostly because these angles minimizes things that I want to minimize…and because the idea of standing in front of a mirror taking shot after shot makes me nuts, so I generally default to a photo that I know I’m not going to hate.

How to find your angles: take the camera that you’re planning to use (whether your real camera, your iPhone camera, or both), and practice. Not just your face: if you’re posting about beauty, you might want to experiment with angles that showcase other elements that you’ll be photographing frequently (your hands, say, or your hair). Yes, you’ll feel a little ridiculous; that’s OK. It’s worth it, because later on you’ll know exactly what you have to do to get the shot you want, and you won’t have to take (and sift through) fifty photos in search of the “right” one (I usually take a max of fifteen per style shoot, and publish five or six of those).

That said, don’t get stuck, because that’s no fun for your readers or for you. I try to do at least one or two things that I’m not sure will “work” during every shoot…and those often end up being my very favorite pictures.

2. Lighting. I first discovered the importance of lighting during the rooftop photo shoot days, when I quickly realized just how much my thirty-one-year-old self does not enjoy having my photograph taken standing directly in the high-noon sun. Fact: photos taken out of direct sunlight or in the late afternoon (the shot above is both) are just the most flattering. Why? I think it’s something about diffused light, but honestly, I have no idea. All I know is that that’s what works for me, and so that’s what I do.

3. Editing. I’m not a pro with this stuff – I don’t even own Photoshop – but I have a couple of iPhoto tricks that I use to make my photos a little more post-worthy.

Cropping. Don’t immediately discard a photo because every element isn’t perfect. Say your eyes are closed in one shot but it’s a nice image of your hands; crop the photo and use it as an opportunity to showcase your nail art. As an example, I didn’t love the wide angle of the photo above, but the point was a false eyelash tutorial and I thought that a cropped version was even more helpful for showcasing the tip.

Retouching. I think there’s nothing wrong with using the retouch tool to remove a little spot or to minimize some undereye circles. I do personally feel that you should be honest about your usage of these tools (especially if your blog is about real-world beauty; I wouldn’t, for example, use the retouching tool to erase undereye circles in a post about the undereye concealer tips), but that’s of course your prerogative.

A tip: zoom in on the area that you want to retouch before getting started, so you don’t end up creating enormous blurry spots.

Warming/Cooling/Saturation Effects. I like to play around with these effects to see what combo makes a photo pop. Food shots taken at night, for example, often get cooled down and saturated. See what works for you.

Black & White. I took a photo class once, and the teacher explained that he chooses to publish a photo in black and white when the color adds nothing to the image. I thought it was great advice, and have taken it to heart ever since. In the photo above the background was basically just grey and brown, so I thought black-and-white would be more visually striking and put more focus on the shapes of the pieces.

4. Let It Go. Last, and most importantly: allow your site to be what it is. By that I mean let it be you, because what your readers are going there for is your individual take on things. Look, if they want Vogue-worthy pictorials and glossily produced videos, they’ll go somewhere else.

Perfection isn’t only impossible…it’s boring. A site that honestly and confidently showcases how you – a real person – makes real tips work in real life? That’s interesting.

You have something to say? Go say it, selfies and all.

Fashion Blogging and Fancy-Pants Pictures

Blog Advice I: General Do’s And Don’ts

Blog Advice II: Rules And Disclosure

Blog Advice III: Finding The Time

Blog Advice IV: To Niche Or Not

Blog Advice V: “Evergreen” Content and Making Money

Blog Advice VI: Creating Cool Visuals

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