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I’ve been many things over the years. For 7 of them I was an environmental, corporate, event, and food photographer. Like most of my endeavors, it was a fun-filled period full of work, deadlines, excursions, education and of course, a lot of pictures were taken.

While it is not my main income source anymore I still get out and take environmental and portraiture shots for those who are cunning enough to request it of me. One thing I hear over and over and over is “I don’t take good pictures.” This isn’t to say the individual can’t TAKE a good picture, but that a good picture of them can’t be taken. Which is rubbish.

Boiling it all down there are 4 components to any shot, candid or not:

  • The Environment

An environmental shot has nuance and layers. It can mean nothing except for the geometry and light. It can mean everything and highlight your relationship with it. Thinking about where your shot needs to be taken is helpful to the process. While every process is different if I like subjects in simple clothing then the environments can be a bit more complicated, lit, etc allowing for the ‘pop’ of an image to be in the face and the setting.

  • The Clothing

Generally, I like to have less shadow play. Shadows create sizing. Whether big or small if you take some shadows out of the equation you simplify the shot. Thus highlighting what you want highlighted. Stay away from stripes and baggy items. Wear colors but let them be layered with other dark, black, dark gray, white items. Or use them sparingly. All of this to be taken very very tongue-in-cheek as it’s situational.

  • The Neck

Never shrink away from a picture. Extend your neck towards the camera ever so slightly and you’ll create a more taut look under your chin. If you shrink your chin to your throat you’ll enlarge the effects of your neck which for most if not all of us is unflattering. Easy solution, chin out–slightly.

  • The Smile

Practice makes perfect. I tell anyone I work with ahead of time to practice in the mirror smiling. Pick 2 smiles and begin looking at yourself in the mirror with them. Feel how the muscles feel. Relax. Do it again. Relax. Do it again. As you begin to understand the feeling of the smile you want to evoke it can be summoned and replicated at will. You might think this is a difficult task but trust me, you’ll get the feeling down very quickly and replicate the smile you want captured any time you want.

We all can have a good picture taken of us. Take a breath. Relax the critical nature we impose on ourselves. Think. Setup. Practice, and you'll have some great shots of yourself in no time.