Thursday, November 28, 2013


A new word for our vocabulary is “selfie”. On social network, it has become a popular thing to take a photo of yourself and then post it.

Taking a “selfie” involves holding the phone at arm’s length and snapping away. Because the images are recorded digitally, it is easy to review the results and reject any that you don’t like.

This process is only made possible because camera phones, with their minute sensors and tiny lenses, have very good depth of field. Everything from a few centimetres to infinity is rendered more or less sharp. I say more or less because in fact lenses can only truly focus on one distance at a time. In front of and behind that distance, the image is, to some extent, out of focus.

Having mastered the simple technique of taking a selfie, the next step is to perfect the pose and the lighting. The last thing you want is a photo that resembles mug shots the police take.

The photographer, Peter Hurley, suggests the “squinch” as illustrated below:



A normal look with the eyes open The squinch

Notice that Peter has used cross lighting with the main light to the left balanced by a lesser light to the right (look at the two catch lights in his eyes). Most “selfies” are taken with less than perfect light, so you cannot expect anywhere near the same results. You will also notice that the photo does not make his nose look huge. Most portrait photographers would use a long focal length lens and take the photos from about 2m away to achieve a flattering result. You are never going to get that look with a camera held at arm’s length. Lastly, watch out for the background. You can see that Peter has chosen a neutral grey for his picture. I presume that is a backdrop in his studio where the picture was taken. 

Peter says that the squinch gives you a more confident look. Although you don’t want to look like a rabbit caught in a car’s headlights, I reckon squinching makes you look perhaps a shade too moody and serious. It is all a matter of personal taste but at least Peter’s pictures look a darn sight better than 99% of the selfies that I have seen posted on Facebook. To be brutally honest, many of profile pictures on the site are just awful.

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