In the Age of Content, having great photos of yourself is an essential human right. Okay, that’s dramatic, but so is the feeling of despair after coming home from a great summer vacation, festival, barbecue, etc. without any nice photos of yourself. This doesn’t have to mean you’re a narcissist desperate for evidence of your aspirational life either. Some of us just like to capture beauty, okay?
The only hiccup are the straight boyfriends who can’t seem to do their girlfriends a goddamn favor and take a decent photo of them during their summer fun. See below:
If you feel like one of these guys — helpless at or just entirely disinterested in taking a woman’s photo — listen up: Your ability to capture great photos of women will enhance your relationships with them and the quality of your life. To start with, women will find you instantly more useful. Even the staunchest of feminists can’t do everything by ourselves. We still need dudes to take excellent portraits of us when we’re backed up on selfies (particularly on an iPhone 8 Plus or X in portrait mode, one of the sexiest status symbols of the millennial generation, which shoots amazing photos on its dual 12-megapixel cameras and turns amateur shots pro).
Of course, the intentionality of your effort will improve your game no matter what phone you have. With just a little thoughtfulness and practice, you’ll be able to offer the women in your life something that everyone, regardless of their gender identity or alleged rejection of our camera-crazed culture, wants: Flattering photos. In fact, my colleague Tracy Moore said it best, “If someone just followed you around and took amazing pictures of you, you’d marry them.”
Here then are a few tips to get you on the path to the most expertly documented relationship of your life …
Step Up to the Plate
The first thing you have to do is consent to photographing her in the first place. “It’s not a good sign if your partner doesn’t want to take any photos of you — unless you’re really annoying and asking a hundred times a day. Photos are celebrations of people and moments and shouldn’t be dreaded. If your partner doesn’t want to do it, who the fuck will?” says Niko Karamyan, a photographer and model whose work has been exhibited around the world (he’s also, as it just so happens, my best friend).
Have a Good Attitude
Don’t be like Drake, who shits on women who enjoy posting old travel photos in “Emotionless.” Whether it’s in the athleticism of their pose, the gravity of their emotion or the ingenuity of their fashion and makeup, a lot of people find generating nice images to share on social media to be a very creative act (no matter when they decide to post them).
Or more simply put: Taking pics is fun for a lot of us, so don’t ruin it by being an unwilling, impatient dick.
“The best photography advice is to ‘find your light,’ but when I say that, I’m mostly talking about the mood,” Karamyan says. “The energy between a model and the photographer really does translate into the image. The more you enjoy each other’s company while taking the photos, the better the vibe in the images will be.”
Also: Be vocal about your enjoyment about what you’re seeing. In this way, a good photoshoot is like good sex in that you can only truly please someone by asking what they want and then giving to it to them generously and vocally. Guys who go silent while taking my picture are as weird as the guys who go silent while getting head.
Take a Deep Breath
Good, relaxed posture can make you a better photographer. Take a deep breath and tighten your core before snapping. Your steady hand will ensure you achieve a focused image. Blurry pictures are bullshit.
Optimize Your Location
Sometimes your partner may ask for a photo because of how photogenic she finds a certain location to be. Other times, she just likes her hair or her skin that day. In those instances, demonstrate your creativity by suggesting she stand in front of a boldly colored wall, a picturesque view or whatever corner of the room you think is the nicest. Karamyan insists that increasing your awareness of what you’re actually capturing will do you a lot of good. “Take note of your surroundings and the environment and the details within it,” he says.
Elisabeth Ferrara, an actress with a popular Instagram account agrees, urging dudes to pay attention to unsightly electrical outlets, cords and other miscellaneous items in their field of vision and suggests that you either ditch them completely or exclude them from your frame. Basically, clear the set of water bottles, pens and debris from your last meal. No matter how baroque your tastes may be, including a ton of elements in a single photo intended for Instagram is rarely a good idea.
Also, while your subject may love asking you to get a pic of her while she’s feeling extra graceful and frisky post-cocktail, encourage her to pose without her drink in her hand. This isn’t an absolute rule, especially if the image is a joyous shot full of friends or featuring an extra-fancy cocktail, but more often that not, your boo is going to love that picture more the next morning if it’s free of red cups, beer cans and/or shot glasses.
Find the Right Light
“Don’t bother taking a million and one photos if the lighting is dreadful in the first place!” Ferrara advises. “I went to Mexico recently and realized that if the day is brilliantly lit by the sun, your face usually isn’t.” Adds Karamyan, “Look closely to see if there are any shadows, especially on a person’s face. If you can’t tell through the lens, look at the person and be sure.”
As for “the golden hour” — i.e., the exact right time to snap a photo — video director Will Azcona says, “There are actually two of these periods everyday — typically at the rise and fall of each day’s duration, like bookends. This means the best time to shoot is right before sunset and right after sunrise. Most of the images we’re exposed to in pop culture are shot during golden hour or are set up to mimic this kind of light.”
Because the sky is full of softer, redder tones at these times, the contrast between a subject and the background doesn’t look so harsh. “Photos shot during golden hour are more balanced in terms of the relationship between the model and the rest of the scene,” Azcona continues. “Golden light also flatters everyone’s skin tone and reveals twinkling aspects to their eyes. This draws viewers in and allows them to connect multidimensionally with a two-dimensional subject.”
Discuss Your Angles
One careful look at your feed will reveal how Instagram hotties love being shot from above. “It’s as if someone between 6-foot-6 and 7-foot-6 was looking down at them,” Azcona says. People love being photographed from above because it usually makes us look thinner, even though it’s completely opposite of historical precedent. “Throughout the history of portraiture, most subjects have been shot from the perspective of looking up at them,” Azcona explains. “This is a simple visual cheat code to add a natural sense of strength, power and reverence to any imagine. This perspective elongates the legs, a feature that’s been the most revered portion of the female body at times. It also exposes the neck and adds height to the subject by giving them a towering presence within the frame.”
Bank on Your Intimacy
According to Azcona, photographers have to get models to trust them in order to elicit their best work: “Trust allows for comfort, which offers flexibility in the body language possibilities my subject can share with me, which translates into unique and interesting expression.”
If your girlfriend/wife/partner/lover is asking for her photo to be taken, chances are your level of intimacy (and hopefully trust) is already very high. Use this relationship to make her feel as comfortable as possible. No matter how untrained of a photographer you might be, you should know her, so anticipate what moods or shots she may like. Similarly, emphasize the features you know she’s most proud of. Use that closeness to bridge the gap a camera can sometimes create.
Hop In Next to Her When She Asks
Mostly because refusing to do so is an easy sign that you’re a big old cheater who’s afraid to be seen with another woman online. Or that you don’t think you’re hot enough to be photographed next to her, which could plant the very seed that leads to her leaving you for someone who appreciates modeling and photography more than you do.