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April 16, 2012 4:43 PM   Subscribe

I wrote an OKC profile. Problem: I have no pictures of myself to share. In fact, no recent photographs of me exist. I am a vampire.

Since adolescence, I've been very camera-shy. (I'm 27 now, gay white male.) I dislike the few family photos in which I incidentally appear. I don't put a lot of thought into clothes, my hairstyle is "generic short cut," and my smile doesn't sparkle. I am not especially athletic. My posture could stand to improve. I have strong facial features and don't look "cute" — in real life, but especially in photographs. In combination, these factors make me avoid cameras.

On the other hand, I don't think of myself as ugly, and I'm sure I can be made to look good. So, how do I go about looking good?

I would like to have casual-looking, natural, not-unflattering photos that I can use on social websites (and such). This means a good camera and a charitable photographer.

Caveats: I'm not sure I want a set of studio pictures. I don't want to spend hundreds of dollars, and I don't want posed photos. No props, no backdrops, etc. I can't think of any amateur photographer friends with SLRs. I gave away my last camera six years ago. I would feel awkward and vain hiring a freelancer to shoot pictures of me smiling, poking out of foliage, swinging on swings, and walking knee-deep in surf.

Solutions? Ideas? Many thanks.
posted by Nomyte to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (21 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe ask one of the mefites who have volunteered to take other mefites OKCupid profile photos for them?

You'd only be out the cost of getting to where they are (or getting one of them to you), which in the case of a bus to/from NYC shouldn't be much at all.
posted by ocherdraco at 4:46 PM on April 16, 2012 [4 favorites]

I would gladly take your photo if you're ever in NYC.
posted by the jam at 4:47 PM on April 16, 2012

I know you think that you don't want this: just post a request on Craigslist. There are loads of semi pro photographers frantically searching for willing subjects. Ask to see a portfolio and choose the person that stands out to you. If the photos they send you are of people "smiling, poking out of foliage, swinging on swings, and walking knee-deep in surf", then you can just go on to the next.
posted by 200burritos at 4:48 PM on April 16, 2012

Grab a friend and a camera - even a camera on a phone (they're quite sophisticated these days and are probably nicer than your camera that you gave away six years ago if it was digital).

This might sound weird, but my idea is to go on an adventure day and have your friend take a bunch of shots throughout the day. You'll end up with a few good shots to use online. Do what you like: go on a hike, to a baseball game or bowling, go out to dinner - you should be able to get 3 or 4 good, unposed, fun-looking shots out of the 50 or so that your friend snaps during the day - and you'll have a fun day out of it.

Offer to pay for everything so that your friend isn't acting as photographer and footing his own cost for the adventures.

Look at the OKCupid blog posts that I seem to be linking to with alarming regularity on the myths of profile photos. This one is good too, and talks about what kinds of cameras are best, what time to take a picture, etc. A big takeaway from both these posts is that photos where you are doing something that you enjoy, even if they're not close up face shots, get you more messages.

So do some fun stuff with a camera in tow and see what happens. If nothing else, you'll have an awesome day with a buddy or buddies.
posted by k8lin at 4:52 PM on April 16, 2012

When I have needed a picture, I have just taken about a hundred on my phone until I found one I liked. Different rooms (frosted bathroom window glass can make you look good), different angles, different positions. I would figure that, odds are, I could get at least one accidentally good shot out of a hundred. And I never really had to go past 20 or 30 or so.

Also, you can take pictures on your computer video camera. That way you can see exactly what you are shooting. Move the computer around to different rooms for different light, turn on some lights, turn off some lights. Use iGlasses to get something with a flattering effect.

The reason I suggest this option, is that I have found I am much less self conscious and more willing to take risks when I am completely alone as I am relatively camera phobic.
posted by Vaike at 4:57 PM on April 16, 2012 [8 favorites]

Solutions? Ideas? Many thanks.

I don't think you need a nice camera or a great photographer to get decent photos, you just need to let your friends know that you need dating profile photos. Whenever you're out doing something, remember to take a shit ton of photos, with the goal of getting at least 1 good photo from it. All those things that make you avoid cameras? Stop doing them. Dress slightly better for a while, stand up straighter, etc. You don't have to smile if you don't like your smile. If you don't photograph well, then maybe a bunch of the pictures are going to come out unflattering. But all you need is like 6 photos for OkC. If you can find 1 photo out of 50 that you like, then that's one good photo that you can put on your profile. It doesn't matter that it took 49 bad photos for you to get the one good one.
posted by 23skidoo at 5:02 PM on April 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

For a profile picture, you don't need a friend with an SLR. A compact camera or even camera phone can deliver plenty good image quality for OKC. The SLR would mostly only give more flexibility about conditions and scenes.

The two most important technical things about photography are 1) light, and 2) throw out 95% of your pictures.

So if you know anyone, probably one of those people has a compact camera or iphone or something. Get them to commit an hour to this project (make them cookies or buy them dinner or whatever, if needed) and go somewhere outside, during the day. An hour or two before sunset or after sunrise will look the absolute best, but it really doesn't matter that much. Relax and smile and have fun, because that matters a lot more than whether you're blurry or grainy or whatever. Your mission is to get 50 pictures that are not all the same. Don't really even bother looking at them until your done (well, maybe spot-check a few, to make sure they're not holding it with their hand in front of the lens every time).

Now take those home, get them on a computer, look through all of them, and pick the one or two you like best.
posted by aubilenon at 5:03 PM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Re picking pictures

I suggest asking a friend/family member (or even more) what they think the best pictures are. Yes, you should like your own pictures as well, but sometimes it is hard for camera shy people to identify with the "person in the picture". Looking natural and just the way one does is best for online dating imo. (No one likes to hear on the first date: Oh, you look different than your pics. Sadface.).
Good luck!
posted by travelwithcats at 5:25 PM on April 16, 2012

You have to plan for it. You don't need an SLR - any digital camera better than a phone will work fine for most profile photos. SLRs are for when you're going to go in and really edit your images, which, if you're trying to be honest, you shouldn't do much of besides adjust for color balance and things. Get a friend with a camera who is willing to go do something with you that makes you really happy while wearing nice-but-still-comfortable clothes, do that happy-making activity, and make a game of mugging for the camera every chance you get. You'll end up with dozens and dozens of silly, awful, fun photos and a few great ones where you look like yourself, in a good mood.

Try to be in natural light as much as possible. The best light for portraits is generally slightly overcast, and when the light is at a soft angle, so no high noon or dramatic sunrise/sunset shots. Make sure your friend is willing to get into funny positions to get the best angle for your features. The most universally flattering angle is slightly above you with your face at 3/4s. But you might find your smile looks better or something some other way.

Since you say you're camera shy, try your best to just forget for that one day. Get really enthusiastic about posing in a variety of ways with lots of different backdrops and expressions for just this one occasion. Then once it's done you don't have to think about it for a while.

As a bonus, once you have these pictures, the sillier, more artistic, or actiony shots make great things to send to your family members like "look! a photo of me! stick it on your fridge!" Grandmas love that stuff.
posted by Mizu at 5:41 PM on April 16, 2012

If you don't want an awkward posed photo of you sticking out of a bush then I recommend that you go on one of those roller coasters that snaps reaction shots of people while they're riding it and let your natural reactions do the rest.
posted by cairdeas at 5:48 PM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

I really appreciate the offer of a portrait from the jam! If I'm ever on a day trip to NYC, I'll make sure to look you up.

Hmm, maybe this is getting at the deeper reasons why I don't have many pictures of myself. I can think of coworkers, former coworkers, professional colleagues, classmates, housemates, and former housemates, but not really anyone I would feel comfortable asking to tag along with me and take dozens of shots.

I, uh, also don't have much in the way of family: it's just me, my mother, and my younger brother, neither of whom takes/cares for photos. My grandparents and father have been gone for years. No fridge photos, alas.

Interesting tip about "discount" photography on Cragslist. I'm seeing some wedding/boudoir photography at first glance, but digging deeper could very well yield something.
posted by Nomyte at 6:05 PM on April 16, 2012

JCPenney Portrait Studios has a continuing special for one portrait 8x10 (or sometimes 10x13) for 4 dollars. $4.00.

That would be a print only, and you'd have to have someone scan it or even just photograph it to get a digital file. You could get a very inexpensive sample of a (more or less) professional studio photo shoot, and a sample of good studio lighting and pose, etc., for a friend to refer to while taking other pics.

(Or nobody else ever has to see it.)
posted by caclwmr4 at 6:30 PM on April 16, 2012

Having been a photographer for a friend's foray into OKC, I can say that I used an iPhone (Camera + app) and good point and shoot (Canon) inside my tiny apartment at night and the photos still came out just fine. Perhaps this was easier as a) we are ladies and b) there was booze, but she brought over a couple of different tops and whatnot to change into and we tried to disguise the fact that they're all from one single night. I think she looked great! The truth is that the professional ones will look just like that, professional. Which maybe is what you want, but you also probably want at least a photo or two with other people, and some that are clearly candid and just you, since the other person will be seeing you without the lens. Maybe a good way to go about preparing for this, whichever route you take, is to look at the sets of profiles photos that attract you. What are they doing? What are you looking for: hobbies, going to concerts, fashion sense...what's there? If you sort of map out the number of photos you need and the kinds you want to represent you, maybe it will be easier to find a friend to pop by and take a couple of snaps.
posted by jetlagaddict at 6:32 PM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

The last time I joined a dating site, I was in a similar situation. I hooked up with a friend who also wanted some good photos of herself, went to a park with my digital camera (you must know someone with at least a decent phone camera), and took dozens of photos of each of us, including my profile photo here. It was fun and wasn't awkward because, while we're both camera-shy, we got to take turns on each side of the camera.
posted by notashroom at 7:17 PM on April 16, 2012

Why don't you go hang out with some friends at the zoo or something; ask them all to bring cameras, and give them free reign to snap as many photos of you as they can, candid or otherwise, and then collectively have them select their favorites for you to choose from?
posted by davejay at 7:28 PM on April 16, 2012

Take dozens and dozens of photos of yourself with an iPhone or a digital camera. You'll probably stumble across a few decent ones in the mix.
posted by xingcat at 7:46 PM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

When you smile at a camera, don't Assume The (facial) Position of a smile, instead imagine that someone you really care about is right there instead of a lens, and send them your love and warmth.
posted by -harlequin- at 7:57 PM on April 16, 2012

I've tried the cell phone self-pic route: I found a hillock with some beautiful wildflowers and took several dozen photos of myself in even evening light. They all turned out very similar. Shooting from an arm's distance exaggerated my tall forehead and prominent chin and made my eyes look dazed. My position in the frame was obviously very erratic.

My friends may be uncomfortable with the idea of a photo shoot adventure, because repeated explicit hints have so far produced no results.

The next step is to try Craigslist, as suggested above.
posted by Nomyte at 5:44 PM on May 19, 2012

I went camping and climbed a mountain, and had a relative snap pictures of me the entire way up. Unfortunately, he used a crappy video camera to take the photos. They all ended up grainy, blurry, and had lots of purple fringing and compression artifacts. There were lots of pictures, but there wasn't a single one we liked. I looked bedraggled and worn out in all of them, which is largely how I felt.
posted by Nomyte at 11:00 PM on July 27, 2012

I keep re-reading these suggestions every couple of months, and they still look like suggestions from another planet. I'm not close enough to anyone to go on a photoshoot adventure with them. I mention my lack of photos to friends from time to time, but that hasn't led to anything. I've dug through my local Craigslist looking for amateur photographers in search of subjects. I've tried the phone and webcam route a few times, but I'm not really looking for self-pics (the ones I do have are pretty crappy, given that I have a cheap phone).
posted by Nomyte at 7:43 PM on December 20, 2012

I think that your friends aren't getting your hints, either because you're being too subtle, or they know that you are camera-shy and wouldn't want to push. So either find a friend who has exhibited that they know how to take a good picture (maybe they have good shots of their family displayed somewhere you've seen) and ask them directly for the favor of acting as your portrait photographer - offer to buy them dinner or something in exchange - or find a pro and pay them. Tons of people need portraits for different reasons, and "having a nicely representative selection for online personals" is a totally normal thing that real photographers handle every day. Don't go for an amateur, since you seem to have little patience with someone who might not succeed on their first try. If it's worth the amount of work you seem to have already put into this to you, it's worth the money to pay a professional.
posted by Mizu at 6:12 PM on December 21, 2012

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