Have you ever wondered how other ‘Instagrammers’ all seem to have amazing, coordinated feeds, while yours turn out plain, messy, and boring? If you aspire to start taking better photos of yourself without having to burn a hole in your pocket on expensive clothes and professional camera equipment, this is the guide you’ve been waiting for.
To create an eye-catching photo, there are a few things to look out for: the background, the outfit, the angles, the poses, and the general colour scheme. All of this may sound daunting, but once you get the hang of it, taking good pictures will become second nature to you.
The first part of this two-part series will give you all the essential information you need to present your best self on social media – from pre-photos to post-processing – all you need is yourself, your phone, and your surroundings.
1. The Poses
Before you force your reluctant and frustrated friends to help you take OOTDs, it is important to get used to being in front of the camera and understand your best angles. This way, you will get the best photos you want in a short amount of time.
To take a good photo, you have to know what you want the viewers to focus on, and you have to be confident in front of the camera. Poses help to achieve these by naturally guiding the eyes towards what you want viewers to focus on. Want to show off your earrings or hair? Show your side profile or swipe your hair behind your ear to draw attention to it.
One of the most common problems people usually face is the infamous ‘Awkward Hands’ – where you find yourself feeling uncomfortable in front of the camera because you don’t know where – and how – to put your arms to look natural.
The secret in looking natural with your hands is to let them do things they already naturally do: put your hands in your pockets, play with your hair, or even hold your bag. When you give your hands a purpose within the photo, it helps complete the look. Plus, it also makes you appear more confident and natural, rather than looking like a stiff robot.
You can also use different poses to bring out the special features of your clothes, like a slit dress or a flowy dress – movements can highlight slits while showing off a little of your legs, or emphasise the waves of flowy dresses to bring out a cute, dainty demeanour. Doing so gives more life to your photos, and it ensures that your outfit does not look too flat on camera.
Bonus Tip: Try burst shots
Get your photographer to take burst shots of you as you move and change between poses to capture candid movement!
2. The Angles
Playing with different angles with the same background can help you look better and create a more interesting visual. Conversely, a bad angle can make you look distorted and short.
Such pictures are always posted on Instagram, which makes the subject look unglamorous and short – like a dwarf – and this is probably not what you want.
This can be easily resolved by asking the photographer to take a few steps back. A common reason why photographers tend to tilt the phone downwards is to keep your full body in the frame. When the subject stands further away from the camera, there is no need for the photographer to tilt the phone downwards any more. Try taking the photo at the subject’s eye level by holding the camera straight up, or from an upwards angle by squatting and tilting the camera upwards.
So, should we avoid downward-facing angles when taking photographs entirely? Not necessarily. Downward angles are ideal when the subject’s height is not the main focus – for instance, when the model is sitting on the floor and is looking up at the camera.
Bonus Tip: Try a 45-degree angle
When posing against a wall or pathway, play with different angles. Certain angles like a 45-degree one can make your photo appear even more impressive, and can give you the illusion of looking taller!
3. The Background
The background plays an essential role in accentuating and highlighting your outfit. A good backdrop usually either complements or contrasts with the colours you’re wearing.
Take a look at these two images to see the difference:
The beige-and-white background – combined with poor lighting – not only gives the outfit a bland look, but also causes the model’s complexion to look flat with a skin tone that resembles an odd shade of orange and brown.
While the photo could theoretically be saved to a certain extent with post-editing, there is only so much you can do without compromising the overall quality of your photo and overexposing the subject. Besides, why not save the hassle by getting the fundamentals right on camera first?
To make yourself stand out in your pictures, take note of the colour scheme of yourself and the surrounding background. Developing a keen eye for unique photo spots and a strong understanding of colour-matching will be instrumental in taking your phototaking skills to the next level. Don’t worry, all of that can be improved with time and experience. You do not have to go out of the way to obscure, inaccessible places to find a good OOTD spot. These great photo spots could be as unassuming as textured walls in the neighbourhood, flowers en route to your destination, or even just at your void deck!
While black and white are the easiest colours to pair for a good outfit, the problem therein lies in making these colours pop. In the case where you have a white dress and you only have white walls to work with, consider going wider than just a singular wall or pillar – look out for sunlight and/or shadows to add texture to your background, or pillars that can make you appear physically taller.
A more colourful background also helps to inject splashes of life into your pictures, making them more eye-catching (for your viewers to scroll through your Instagram profile, of course). Likewise, when wearing black, look out for other dark colours – such as navy or olive green – to better distinguish your outfit from the backdrop.
When you are wearing colourful outfits, find a background that either accentuates or contrasts the colour scheme you are wearing:
Bonus Tip: Try backgrounds that contrast with your outfit
When you can’t find a background that matches the colours of your outfit completely, plain white walls or the scenery can also be good to work with. Frame your outfit as the only pop of colour in the entire photo, and the spotlight will inadvertently fall onto you.
Beyond plain walls, keep an eye out for patterns, shapes and symmetry that can help to make your photos even more eye-catching. You will be surprised at the number of symmetrical buildings and oddly satisfying patterns you can find around Singapore!
With the knowledge of varying camera angles, photogenic poses and a keen eye for backgrounds, you are almost guaranteed to take Insta-worthy pictures wherever you go.
Naturally, the next step would be what happens after your photos are taken – how do you edit your photos to stand out? Look out for the second part of this guide to learn how to edit your photos on your mobile phone!
Model: Celina Eu
Photos by Goh Jing Wen of the DANAMIC team