Tips for a model to get a few simple shots with a compact camera

Some advice given to a model who was a little too far away to come to me for a portfolio shoot.

Key to starting your portfolio is to get some good basic shots showing you in a few simple poses.I am going to assume that you have access to a basic compact camera, something a bit better than most phone camera (although some of those are pretty good and give you a lot of control).

You will get more bookings from photographers on modelling sites IF you have a few simple photos of yourself to show them in the first place. You want to make these first photos as good as possible and show your features and figure clearly.

Say goodbye to those grainy photos of new models taken at a strange angle in the wardrobe mirror with a blinding flash in the middle of the picture.

This post provides some tips on how to get some good basic photos for your initial portfolio. As soon as you have done some shoots with an experienced photographer, you will be able to update your portfolio.

Key to starting your portfolio is to get some good basic shots showing you in a few simple poses. I am going to assume that you have access to a basic compact camera, something a bit better than most phone cameras (although some of those are pretty good and give you a lot of control these days, so feel free to adapt these instructions to a camera phone).

Ideally, you need a camera with a count-down timer on it (so often used at parties for the “photographer” to be included in the photo by running to join everyone else before the camera takes the picture).

If your camera has no timer, you will need someone to assist you (to control the camera while you pose).

The camera should be placed on a steady surface around half way between your waist and chin for full length shots (perhaps you will have to have a stack of books). If you are really lucky, you might be able to borrow a tripod for a camcorder or larger camera.

Turn the flash OFF.

You will need to use the count-down timer if your camera has one. This applies even if someone else is operating the camera (I explain why later, if you interested). If your camera does not have a count-down timer, then the camera will need to be made very very secure on the surface it is resting on so the person operating it does not cause it to move at all when the photograph is being taken.

Your camera probably has a portrait mode but it might try to insist on using a flash – you can try the other modes such as landscape, general purpose, and so on. Remember, you do not want to use the flash!

Once focused (focus/shutter button pressed and timer counting down, you want to make sure the camera does not move at all – blue tac can help (a lot if your camera has no timer and someone is holding it on the flat surface). For some cameras, if you are taking the photography yourself, you might need to put something in the position you will occupy for the camera to focus on initially (after pressing the button, you have to throw them “dummy” away and take the correct position).

Natural light is your friend – much better than the flash on a small camera, but direct sunlight is BAD.

Standing near a window that has some net curtaining over it (or a white shower curtain pegged up) will filter the light and give you the kind of light you need. It is best when it comes from one side of your body, with your face turned a little towards it, but look at the camera (in the picture, it is best if we can see a bit of white on both sides of the dark bits of your eyes).

Nearly there. The problem is though that one side of your body will be in good light, and the other side will be a bit too dark. The trick is to find something white that you get someone to hold close to the other side of your body (the side away from the window) to bounce some of that filtered sunlight back onto that side of your body away from the window (they will need to angle the reflector to get this right). You can even use some white sheets wrapped over large bits of cardboard – anything to make a big reflector. I once used a white chopping board as a reflector when taking some head shots. If you do not have anyway to hold the reflector, you are going to have to find a way to hold a reflector in the right position – pillows perhaps, or maybe some dining room chairs.

You may have to try a few settings on the camera until you get it right.

Keep your poses simple and try to include some photos of you will light or no make-up (the blank canvas for a make-up artist). There are plenty of posing guides lurking around the web. Don’t forget close-up, front, side, and back views. Try to separate your arms from the side of your body rather than having them tightly into your sides.

You will be astonished by the quality of the results you can get if you do the above.

By the way, the reason for having the camera on a fixed surface rather than holding it is because you are using the natural light, the camera might have to take a picture slowly, that is in large fraction of a second, say 1/20th of a second , maybe even slower – it is very hard for a person, even when trying hard, to hold a camera completely still at anything slower than around 1/50th of a second. If the camera is not still, the picture will be blurred even if it was focused properly.

You can shoot outside, but the camera still needs to be on a solid platform, and you need to be out of direct sunlight. In the shade of a tree is good, but you might want two reflectors.

If there is very good light to shoot by, you might get away with someone holding the camera rather than it being on a flat surface. They need to brace themselves very well and hold the camera close to their body rather than held out at arms length.

If you feel like experimenting, this technique can work in poor light such as from a fire or a simple lamp. The camera just has to take the picture even more slowly (and this really does need a timer – no one can hold a camera steady enough in poor light). You will also have to keep very still (like in the very early days of photography). The camera might take a whole second or even two or three seconds to take the picture so it gets in enough light. The results can be amazing though.

Be aware though that a picture that looks great on the back of a camera, may not look so good when you see it a bit larger on your computer. You might have to give this a few goes to get the results you want.

If you took a picture with your camera on its side, there are plenty of free tools on the web to rotate (and crop, and tweak) an image before you save and load it to your portfolio. Google offer a free tool called Picasa, for example (and also gives you a web album connected to your google mail account).

The above was first posted on my blog in May 2010 copied (and edited) from an email I provided to a new model who was a little too far away to come to me for a portfolio shoot.

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