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Here’s why you look like a thumb in selfies (and three ways to fix it today)

Remember the meme of that kid that looked like a thumb that caused viral hilarity on the interwebs several years ago?

This was a person whose plight I FULLY empathised with. I’ve always looked like a thumb when I’ve switched that selfie mode on my phone. No amount of angling down or up or tilting my head seems to do anything for my face, and I boiled it down to the conclusion that I just thought I was better looking in my head that I actually was IRL, and that I was horrendously unphotogenic.

I was destined to be the person who looked awful in photos – hey, you saw the photos I sent you last week, right? Not even my husband could make me look nice.

Honestly, for YEARS I hated photos of myself, and it is actually much more stressful than you realise, because over the last couple of decades, having your photo taken has been more and more common.

Everyone has a powerful camera at their fingertips, ready to document the fuck out of shit, from their meals to their bowel movements (true story: I once had an ex who used to swap photos of his morning shits with his housemate, and on nights out, they would bluetooth it to random people in the pub – before the days that you had to accept a bluetooth connection request. How we lasted 11 months is frightening. I would also like to state that I was not his housemate.)

Facebook became a “thing” when I was in my mid-20s, so I escaped lightly, but there were still some photos of me that just looked… awful. But, when I’d checked myself out in the mirror before I’d left? I mean, I felt pretty good, the mirror-version of me was looking decent, what gives?

So, I started doing several things

a) avoiding the camera where possible, b) using other people as my shield, c) only allowing my photo to be taken when HIDEOUSLY DRUNK and thus not caring until the next day, and d) immediately gurning, because if the picture was going to look shit anyway, I might as well go all-in on that vibe.

The next day, I’d wake to a few tags in photos, none of them wildly appealing if I’m honest, like this one taken on my hen do (yes, I’m even gurning in the photo of me ON THE TOP I’M WEARING. META AF).

Sure, I couldn’t totally escape the odd marauding friends’ phone, or when my dad bought a proper camera about 10 years ago. But there’s one type of photo you will RARELY see me in, and that’s a selfie.

I refused to believe I was the only one that felt like that selfie mode was some kind of personal attack on my self-esteem, and I set to figure out WHY.

It’s science that makes you look cack in selfies

Damn and blast that pesky science *shakes fist*, BUT I’ve broken it all down here, with three quick fixes to go from gurn to grin, so you don’t need to be scared of your phone camera anymore.

1. Your phone camera is a wide-angle lens.

That might not mean a lot to you, but essentially, your phone lens is designed to grab as MUCH of the environment as possible.

However, in order to see the entire frame captured on your phone screen, the image creates a kind of fish-eye effect, even if ever so slightly.

So, let’s say you’re in the middle of the photo, your nose will look bigger and more pronounced, but the extremities of your face curve back into the background.

As soon as you start using a camera with a specific portrait lens, a lens with a narrow focal length, this starts to change significantly.

The best way to explain this effect is to see it, and this gif by Dan Vojtech (via Peta Pixel) shows just how drastic that change is. Dan photographed his subject using a selection different lens focal lengths. The photos taken on a lens with a focal length of 20 – 24mm? That’s about where your phone is. The sweet spot? Somewhere around 100mm.

via GIPHY

There’s a couple of ways to solve this in a selfie: first, hold your phone *just* above your eyeline, frame your face in the top two-thirds of the screen, and tilt the phone angle down ever so slightly. Next, once you’ve taken your photo, you can check out my IGTV all about how to correct lens distortion. Works on everything from flatlays to portraits, and I use it on all of my professional work.

2. You’re too used to what you see in the mirror.

You know when you leave post in one place all the time to sort through later, and that later becomes weeks or months later, and it’s gets to the point you know it’s there, but you can just easily ignore it?

That’s what happens with us when we look in the mirror.

You and I both know that our faces aren’t symmetrical, but it’s easy to get used to seeing our faces when the only way we see them is in the mirror.

As soon as we see ourselves in a photo, as everyone else sees us, it’s a bit of a shock; “My nose tilts to one side! my face is about a foot wider on the left! How hasn’t anyone pointed this out to me?!” You forget that everyone is used to seeing your face this way round, and unless it’s a deeply unflattering grimace, you probably look totally fine.

To counteract the unbalanced face, you need to figure out your best side – and it’s normally your left.

Once you’ve figured that out, you can always remember to move your face to take photos from that side, instead of front-on, which is flattering for only the lucky few, especially when you’re working with a wide-angle selfie lens. 

4. You’re not smiling properly

There’s a special kind of name for a genuine smile; It’s called a “Duchenne Smile” (Yeah, I didn’t realise it either until I found it on Wikipedia ).

Whenever I work with clients, my main focus is on making them feel relaxed, so that they stop doing this 😬 and start doing this 😄 (or this 😁. Or even this 😂).

Basically, if you rock up to your selfie camera (or professional photoshoot) with The Fear, you’re going to grimace. To smile naturally, you need to imagine that feeling when you see a really good chum, and all you talk about is That Holiday, and knob gags.

A natural smile is one that also uses the muscles around your eyes as well as around your mouth, but it’s much easier to feel a natural smile before you try to force it. So imagine something or someone that makes you feel happy, and imagine you’re smiling at that (or at them).

I promise you, these little tips will up your selfie game.

And if all else fails, there’s always a Snapchat filter?

 

PS. My Uncorporate Portrait Session Day is BACK on Friday 15th November.

I’ve booked some amazing space in the centre of Bristol with gorgeous big-ass windows (check out the pictures below, because I MEAN, LOOK). You get a style questionnaire, a personalised image mood board, 45 minutes of top banter with me as I shoot you in the face with my camera, and your choice of 10 full-resolution edited images for £225 (going up £50 to £275 next Tuesday 15th Oct) OR with ALL the images for £275 (rising £100 to £375 on Tues 15th Oct). Email me NOW if you want to book or find out more – I always encourage a coffee meeting if you want to get to know me first because, well, hot beverages are life, and it’s very important that you figure out if I’m the right photographer for you.


Katy Henson Social Media and Facebook Ads Expert

 

An Ode to the Unfinishers

An Ode to the Unfinishers

Sometimes you start something, only to, halfway through, lose all the original motivation and desire to finish it.

HASHTAG ME HASHTAG OMG SO ME IT COULD LITERALLY BE ME DRESSED UP AS ME WITH MY NAME

I run with things only until they fly away.

For too long I felt like this was some kind of Bad And Wrong part of me; we all have that, right? The part that mustn’t be uttered about or shown in public because LO! THY SHALL BE STRUCK DOWN BY THE LORD (or that bitch from school who you don’t even speak to and once said you were a show-off, or your mum, or your best mate, some randomer on social media) WITH A DAGGER OF LIGHTNING (or, y’know, an off-the-cuff sentence about how that’ll never work, that you need to pass X exams or have Y experience or nosh off Z-list celebs) AND SMITE YOU TO DEEEAAAAATH (read: send the inner shitty committee absolutely rampant in your own mind).

I forced past-me into doing things because that was visually how I “should” be presenting myself to the world. Stay the course, nose to the grindstone, push through the boredom and the pain and the awkward middle stage.

There is a place for people who stick to their guns in this world. Laser focus breeds success, slow and steady wins the race. The rest of us? Watch the laser-focused race-winners smash goal after goal, wondering what fucking coffee they drink and what shade of pink their yoga leggings are. Then we buy their courses that we don’t finish, and we start their workouts that we quit after a couple of weeks, and we wear the same t-shirts and bathe in the same bath salts and follow their morning routine and and and…

And when you’ve seen the discarded dreams, the unfinished art, the ideas that only ever made it to paper, the 50% completed courses, the guilt we feel as we think of the money we’ve spent on memberships and classes and stuff that scream their incompleteness when we log into our email or rifle through the understairs cupboard, it can feel overwhelmingly like a bag of failure.

We forget that we too are consistent, we too have succeeded, we too have gifts. We just do it in our way.

We’ve all stuck it out in jobs, we’ve all dedicated our time to relationships, friendships, we’ve all felt the joy of completing something, however small – a jigsaw, an awkward call, a wheel of brie (don’t deny it, I know it isn’t just me) – that meant something to us. We’ve all finished something, but you don’t see us celebrating that because it’s not what we feel is worthy enough.

What if – WHAT FUCKING IF – you decided to love the shit out of your “unfinishedness”?

What then?

“I didn’t finish that gym program… and I LOVE THAT.”

“I didn’t complete the Spanish course… and I LOVE THE BONES OFFA ME”

Loving it feels a bit weird, right? I can hear you all now, “I ain’t getting on no love plane, fool” All right, Mr T. Calm your tits. You don’t need to love that part of yourself, but the aim is for acceptance.

“I haven’t finished that book that I started reading… or writing… and THAT’S OK”.

Being the person who started to totally drop in to loving my Unfinisher opened up my eyes

Yep, initially it felt like I was just lying to myself. “No you fucking don’t love it, you twat. You hate that you spent thousands on that online course years ago and then logged in twice”

But then I started to be ok with it. I didn’t immediately start jumping to the “you’re a total shitbag for not finishing” rhetoric I had historically run to in my mind. I had a few micro-seconds of grace. And then a few milliseconds. And then a few seconds.

But there was another, better, stranger part; I stopped being the person trying to do all the courses and buying all the gym gear and following all the success-drenched, laser-focused bellends because I didn’t actually like most of it.

I got to hear myself – and listen.

I became way more discerning with what I was spending time and money on, with who I was following, and with what I wanted to learn.

My ideas got louder. I started actually fucking FINISHING stuff. And finishing stuff that MEANT SOMETHING TO ME. Small things, like washing my face every night. And then bigger things, like starting a new business (I actually started two in 2018. but that’s a story for another time)

Now?

I let go of half-read books. (Most books? Unless they have some wild end twist, I get the joke in the first half. Then they can go back from whence they came #oxfambookshop #overloadedkindlelibrary)

I cancel the subscription when I notice the program or membership isn’t really “me”.

I cherry pick the people I follow on social media. I consciously choose the people I want to engage with in real life.

I support causes I believe in.

I start things before I’m ready, and if I realise it’s working, THEN I buy things that help save me time or money (or invariably I realise that I didn’t need half the things that you’re told to get anyway).

I have SO MUCH LOVELY, LOVELY SPACE for ideas now. My super-power isn’t about being the tortoise that wins some success race, but being the space for the ideas to spring up in that isn’t clouded by the opinions and ideas of people who simply don’t work like I do. I’ll win the damn race all the same, but the only people in it are me, and me-but-from-yesterday.

Sometimes the finishing isn’t the specific finishing goal you were expecting it to be, but rather the decision to stop, and to be agile enough to move to the next thing. And look, I’m not here trying to enable people to just quit all the time, but you know – you know – deep down if you’ll regret not completing something to the best of your ability, or if you’ll regret something for staying the course too long. 

The world needs finishers, but there isn’t only one type. Whether a tortoise or a hare, or a demented chinchilla with a speed habit, you are needed in the world.

 

 

 

Photoshoot prep (AKA OH FARK I’VE BOOKED A PHOTOSHOOT. NOW WHAT SHOULD I WEAR AND HOW SHOULD I DO MY HAIR?!)

I mean, first off, CONGRATS! Dedicating a bit of time to getting some nice pics of you and/or the family is something to be excited about, but I know a lot of you then panic about any preparation. What should I wear?! What should I do with my make up?!?!?! HOW DO I POSE?!?!

First off, if you’re having a family shoot, the most important element is that you’re all comfortable. Wear what you would normally – you want these pictures to represent your family, not a Marks and Sparks catalogue family. You don’t need to be overly fussy, but just keep in mind a couple of things:

a) the weather: Coats, scarves and boots, or t-shirts and shorts? Check out what the weather has in store for your day before the final selection. Standing barefoot in a wood wearing chiffon might look lovely, but it certainly won’t feel it if it’s November and there’s frost on the ground. And…
b) colours: By all means wear green, but remember that I want you to stand out from your background, and if your background is a green field, the shade is an important choice between “floating head” and “magnificent portrait”. Block colours work best in pictures over patterns.

When it comes to an individual head shot or portrait shoot, you want to dress for how you want to be seen. Ask yourself a few questions (I’ll ask them to you, too):

  • Where are these photos going to be displayed? Something on Tinder or a personal Facebook profile page might not be the vibe you want on your business website or as a LinkedIn profile picture.
  • If these pictures are going on a website, do you need to think about the overall brand? You need to make sure that your photographer understands the overall vision, and that you get the right kind of shots for things like wide landscape images to fit on a desktop screen title, specific images of you doing certain actions that can be utilised in your marketing, the colours of your brand, and the vibe of the brand itself.  Shots where you’re laughing like a drain might work well for some brands, but perhaps might be best avoided in a corporate environment.

From the information that you glean from that, you should be able to pick out some suitable outfits, and have a list of images that you need from the shoot itself.

And what about hair and make-up?

Family shoots? Again, wear what makes you feel good and comfortable. Your family want to remember how you look when you feel relaxed, whatever that means for you. Be mindful of hair vs wind. It’s one thing having a cheeky fringe covering one eye; it’s another having jokes about Cousin Itt thrown at you forever more.

Portraits and head shots? Tie this in to your requirements; If you’re a fashion blogger, go all out. Corporate consultant? Keep it as profesh as you need.

Remember to book in any hair and make-up appointments well in advance of the shoot. Give yourself the time to get to the meeting place. Flustered clients don’t make the best subjects, and at the end of the day, you want to be captured at your best.

Never walk into a shoot unprepared – you’re paying money to get the pictures you need here, and photographers might be great with a camera, but are generally pretty cack at anything on a extra-sensory perceptive level.

Remember the ultimate advice:

You being as comfortable and relaxed as possible will create the best shots, Brownie Guide Promise.

I’ve been away

I’ve been away

Well, HELLO.

So, if you’re scrolling through your newsfeed wondering who the hell I am, I wouldn’t be surprised. I’ve been away for, ooh, two years?

Ooops ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ But let me reintroduce myself: Hi, I’m Gemma. I shoot people.

In the face.

With a camera.

And a couple of weeks ago, I actually stopped arsing around.

For years (no, really, YEARS), I’ve been the person taking my trusty camera around with me, and capturing little moments of friends and families. I’d often WhatsApp the final pictures over to the friends and families in question. It was something I loved doing (and still do).

I thought nothing of it. Until I realised that these pictures were being displayed on mantelpieces, put in photo albums, sent to grandparents and even printed out as thank you cards.

My pictures? On calendars? And cards?

I’ve told myself for yonks that I’d never be able to be a photographer because I didn’t have the kit, I didn’t have the skills, there were too many photographers, no-one would really like my pictures anyway.

But a couple of weeks ago, something changed; I decided maybe I shouldn’t be the one to down play my kit and my skills and my pictures.

Maybe I should just be the person to do it, and see what other people thought. So I told the peeps over at my instagram page (you should totally join me over there, btw)

I booked my first three clients in 48 hours.

I had my first shoot last week with these gorgeous beauts.

And now? I’m offering all #Bristol based families the same opportunity.

Unposed, natural light photography, no wanky scrabble letters spelling out names, or studio bean bags covered in voile (sorry if that’s your jam, but it really isn’t mine!).

You get images of your family with their smiles and gappy teeth and wind-tousled hair which look great in the family calendar and photo album, and in plenty of time for the C-word.

(Err, other C-word, my friend… The santa/mince pies/acceptable alcoholism before midday C-word, before anyone reports me to the Facebook police)

If this idea floats your boat, don’t hang about. I’ve got a special price to build up my portfolio if you book before the end of October. And it is AFFORDABLE AF.

http://gemmashootspeople.com/your-kids-authentic-frameable