You know how after you’ve shopped for something, it shows up everywhere you go online? Well, the same thing happens when you write about a body positive subject like the Embrace documentary (that is opening in the United States today and inspired this heartfelt post from Shari Deutsch at The Strap Saver). That’s how I discovered a workshop called “Body Positive Selfies” given by Embodied State of Mind on September 3.
Last week I wrote about Campbell & Kate’s recent photo shoot. We worked hard to show my shirts to their best advantage with actual models, hair and makeup artist, stylist, professional photographer and great lighting. As a blogger who wants to portray all bust-friendly clothing that I wear to its best advantage, however, it’s just me and my cell phone or camera. When I’m at home with my tripod and a lot of time, I’m happy with the outcome, but when I’m on the road and just want to give a shoutout that I’m wearing a certain brand, I’m rarely satisfied.
Most recently this happened with my amazing Riley dress from Bitter Lollipop (which is planning to have new styles available in 2017, by the way). I rediscovered it in my closet and have been wearing it weekly ever since. I didn’t want to write a complete new post about it; I just wanted to remind readers how much I love it with a tweet like, “I’m in the muggy train station feeling sharp in my Riley dress from @bitterlolli.” But every selfie was a dud that did NOT show the dress to its best advantage.
So of course I signed up for the selfie workshop.
Like you, I wondered, “What makes a selfie ‘body positive’ instead of just a selfie?” Workshop leader Natasha Overton didn’t give me a cut-and-dried answer, but she gave a ton of tips for taking good selfies that I won’t want to delete . . . and that’s an answer right there. Here are some of her tips:
1. Do your hair.
As Natasha told us, “Do not go out there with a bush” because it distracts from your face. If your hair looks polished, you can get away with almost anything. Of course I didn’t want to hear this. I hadn’t washed my hair that morning because it would take too long to dry and had simply rubbed a little serum into it, hoping to control the frizz.
Her advice made sense, though. I may feel sharp in the Riley dress, but if my hair looks frazzled, no one is going to believe me. It was also consistent with something I’d heard from comedian Phoebe Robinson at a recent panel discussion. She told us that there is nothing frivolous about black women spending money on their hair. They do it because they know that their hair is the very first thing by which they are judged.
2. Outside shots require scouting.
Look for an interesting background that isn’t distracting. Our workshop took place in Washington Square Park. While most people would take a photo with the fountain in the background, the solid wall of the arch was a much better choice. Also, pretend that your screen is the actual photo and scan for any distractions before you click the button. A little shift of the camera can make a big difference.
3. The closer the camera, the more exaggerated the features.
My nose seems even bigger when the camera is close to it. While a centered shot may give an accurate representation, taking the photo from only slightly above will result in a more flattering picture.
4. Lighting matters.
Don’t look directly at the sun unless you want to squint and have shadowy raccoon eyes. If you can’t get away from it, wear sunglasses (but be careful of what is reflected in them!). Even better, turn around with the sun behind you and make sure your head blocks it. You will still be illuminated because there is a light source in front of you. Avoid 2:00 pm and never use a flash on your face. If you’re inside, scout for good light sources–ideally, face a window.
Looking straight on works best if you have facial symmetry, but there’s no shame in tilting your head a bit if you don’t. Everyone has a best side, so figure out what that is for you. Just as all sizes won’t fit you, neither will all poses. Natasha told us that “there is no such thing as trying too hard,” and a subtle change can make a dramatic difference.
For full body pics, don’t stand head on flat footed. Instead, turn to your side to give yourself shape. Put your hand on your hip to create even more shape (it has the same effect as a clip on the back of a mannequin’s clothing), and place one foot forwards.
5. The Rule of Thirds applies.
Take up 2/3’s of the photo. Cropping is your friend.
Now that I know these basics, I’m having a lot of fun practicing selfies. Soon I’ll be ready to tweet images of big bust brands as I wear them in daily life. You can already see a giant difference between the selfies that I took on my way to the workshop and the selfies I took during it!
Besides selfie basics that apply to everyone, I know there are selfie tips that apply only to busty women. For instance, sometimes we have to be careful where the bottom of the frame cuts so that we don’t look like a mountain of boob continues beyond where the eye can see. Other times we have to be careful to keep our boobs from being the closest thing to the camera since that means they’ll be exaggerated. And as you see in my photo on the subway above, sometimes we’ll need to be aware of the cleavage factor. Have you run into any other big bust selfie issues?