Learn how to take quick and easy profile photo’s with your phone… Ok, so you need some profile picks of yourself for your everything; Facebook, LinkedIn, twitter, WhatsApp and WhatElse (please don’t search that last one). It seems as if some had their photos taken by their spouse, others by a professional laundry service and some seem to have used their passport photo. And then there is that selected bunch of people that looks as if they had theirs taken at a studio, nice. They’re like from the full frame crowd, if you catch my drift…
Many of us have this problem of not having some decent profile photos of ourselves, although we are photographers..! Asking another photographer to take a professional photo of us just doesn’t sound right. Anyhow, to take time off in between a busy schedule and go pay someone for a mini pixel photo just doesn’t make any sense. Most of us don’t necessarily have a studio and it’s not worth all the trouble setting up lighting etc either. All of this creates bit of a frustrating situation, I mean how difficult can it be?!!
Well, today’s blog might help a bit, and is not just for photographers, but just about everyone else that’s facing (ha-ha) this dilemma. Today we will learn how to take studio-like photos with an iPhone. That’s right, an iPhone. Now that sounds great doesn’t it! Ok, so let’s get down to business. To make this tut authentic I used my iPhone, and myself as the subject, so bear with me… after all it’s a write up on profile photos taken with your own phone.
Let’s first make a list of all the things needed for your studio setup:
Great Music: iPhone Library
So there you have it… well half of it, halfway there then! Lighting? As for lighting you’ll need 2 Elinchrom 1000W lights… no sorry that’s too small. We need bigger, we need the very BIG light, biggest we can get… yeah for sunlight, in other words daylight!
As for location you need an average sized room with curtains + lace curtains. The larger the room the better. The denser or darker the curtains, to block out light, the better. The lace curtains should be white and rather transparent.
Great Music: iPhone Library
The set-up is very easy and the different elements work together as follow:
The backdrop of the image will be the room itself and we will try to get it as dark as possible, the curtains will be used as barn doors to control spill light into the room. The curtains should be opened up about 70cm wide. The lace curtains should stay closed; they act as a diffuser (huge soft box). Ok for those who didn’t notice, you’ll need a window for this whole exercise, otherwise you’ll be left in the dark.
Just about any type of sunlight will work as long as it doesn’t hit the window directly, cloudy sunlight works very well. Our aim is to make the inside of the room darker by closing up the curtains.
The room doesn’t need to be totally dark, that’s just about impossible anyhow. We just want to get it a few stops darker than it was. The difference between the shadows and highlights, when we talk about dynamic range, will give us the advantage here. The goal is to make the room a few stops darker than the light entering through the opening between the two curtains. With this kind of lighting we can ‘trick’ the exposure metering a bit, the camera’s metering will see it something a bit like this at the end of the day:
You can now stand in front of the window (facing the window), in the opening between the two curtains. This is only a test run, to shoot, analyse, and adjust the setup accordingly. Put your phone in camera mode and switch to the front camera so you can see yourself on the screen. Hold the camera out in front of you (against the window), and try holding it as far away from you as possible, to lessen the wide angle perspective, which is not ideal for portraits of course. Tap on the screen to let it focus on your face. The camera now meters for exposure on your face, which means the rest of the room will be underexposed. With a darker skin tone you might need to adjust the curtains a bit more to keep window light from entering the room. Fact is, your face will receive much more light than the rest of the room, meaning you will be well exposed but the room way underexposed. You can make the gap between the curtains even less if possible, as long as it stays out of the frame when photographing. If the background is intruding a bit, nothing we can’t fix in Photoshop of course but we’re aiming for straight out of camera results… Take a few shots and fine tune your set up, until you are satisfied with the results.
If you’re happy with the test shots then you can choose a funky song from your phone’s library, and start your studio session! 🙂
The diffusion created by the lace curtains works nicely and the window light gives a nice catch-light in the eyes. Put the iPhone’s camera on Fade mode, from the filters options for a more pleasing look, and also try Auto enhance afterwards. I shoot with the Fade filter right from the start. Some straight of the phone shots, and as you will notice; different clothes, different days, different weather conditions, even a different background. This technique can be used just about anywhere, as a matter of fact, I tried it out in 3 different countries, hehe. Two of the below images are from a hotel room in Singapore.
The resolution of the front camera on the phone, is not very high, but should be good enough for a small profile photo for apps. You can also try the backside camera but it might take a bit more effort to get the focus, composition and exposure right. Something you might try is to hold your hand where you face is going to be, and tap and hold for two seconds where the focus should be, this will lock the focus and exposure.
If you need higher resolution shots you can use your DSLR of course, it might pick up a bit more background shadow information with its dynamic range, but it’s easy to correct in post processing. Of course you can Photoshop as you please; skin tone colour correction, more hair 😉 etc but this tut is not about Photoshop of course, it’s all about the light!
You can try out the following tips when planning a shoot:
- Try to photograph in the morning while you feel and look fresh
- Use eye drops 10-20 minutes before the shoot to whiten the eyes a bit
- Have the camera shooting down on yourself, it’s usually more flattering. Try different focusing points on your face to alter exposure
- Make the lace curtains double using pegs, just pull them up behind each other, this will soften the light even more
- Do some trigger happy shooting while changing moods, the natural poses usually pops up in between
- Most important, relax and have fun!
Photographing a few quick portfolio photos can be fun and easy! I’m sure some of you will create some eye catching images with your creativity, enjoy!