How to get pictures of myself to use online
December 22, 2015 2:06 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to hire a photographer to take some casual pictures of me to use online, and I have some questions about that.

I'm not an actor or anything, and I don't think I'm non-photogenic, but it struck me recently that between social media, online dating, and various work-related stuff, I need a lot of recent, decent-looking pictures of myself. At any given time there are 3-4 in my Facebook feed that I like from the last year or two, but using them in multiple places is a privacy risk if I don't want my different identities to be too easily connected.

So, can I hire a photographer for a few hours to take pictures of me in different outfits/settings and send me all the raw files? How much should I expect to pay for this? (I realize it's probably a wide range.) How do I find someone?

To clarify, I can google headshots or other obvious keywords as well as the next person, but I'm not sure the "standard" services are what I want. I do not want anything that looks professional or posed -- just a skilled photographer who can take a variety of "casual" snapshots that look like they were taken by friends or acquaintances who happened to catch me at a good angle.

I realize this is sort of vain and mildly deceitful : ) but I can't be the first person who thought of it, so just curious if there are already photographers offering this kind of thing explicitly or other terms I should be searching. Specific recommendations in NYC also welcome. Throwaway email:
posted by anonymous to Grab Bag (19 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Oddly enough, all the criteria you're listing are things that a professional photographer would work with. Casual to Formal is a slider that can be adjusted to your liking. What you're paying for in a good photographer is the ability to ensure that the casual poses (and yes, they will still be poses) are well-lit and framed. This is the difference between, say, a formal wedding photo and a "candid" wedding photo, but I can tell you that some of the most candid-looking photos from our wedding were, in fact, carefully posed.

I would expect a decent pro to have a consultation and be able to show you portfolio items that are like what you want. If you don't see what you're looking for, say so so s/he can show you something else, otherwise move on to the next.
posted by plinth at 2:15 AM on December 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

The OK Cupid blog did some very interesting articles on what makes an effective photo (backed up by a lot of supporting data). For example "The 4 big myths of profile pictures" and "Don't be ugly by accident".

Personally I, rather than looking for a professional photographer who can take pictures that look like they were taken by a friend - I would look for a friend to do the job: cheaper and more honest. Look for somebody who has a good camera - preferably one that can use an aperture setting to blur out the background and leave just you in focus.
posted by rongorongo at 2:20 AM on December 22, 2015 [5 favorites]

A few years ago there was actually an IRL in Brooklyn to do something similar to what you want. It looks like people had fun ... maybe this is something that people might like to do again.
posted by sciencegeek at 2:55 AM on December 22, 2015

I realize this is sort of vain and mildly deceitful : ) but I can't be the first person who thought of it, so just curious if there are already photographers offering this kind of thing explicitly or other terms I should be searching
I don't think it's vain or deceitful. But then I'm a photographer, so there's a conflict of interest there.

This is definitely a Thing for which you can pay, as plinth says. I'd look for photographers who specialise in lifestyle portraiture and contact them. If they shoot engagement pictures, you'll often find that those look pretty candid and un-posed.

The reason I'd think about going for a photographer over a non-photographer friend* is that there is actually a science to this. Little things -- forehead out, chin down when looking into the camera, for example -- make a big difference, and good photographers have learned to see that kind of thing and will instruct you appropriately. Just having a good camera doesn't mean you'll get good pictures.

*OTOH, if you have a photographer friend then go for it, ask them to do it. But please pay them :).
posted by gmb at 3:29 AM on December 22, 2015 [4 favorites]

Try looking at and see if there is a photography club nearby. Contact the organiser and explain you are looking to get some casual shots of yourself - then volunteer to be "casual model" for a few hours. It gets them practising shooting a human being rather than yet another cityscape and you'll get photos of an okay quality. But check with the organiser first.
posted by kariebookish at 3:32 AM on December 22, 2015

If you want to hire a professional then you could try a wedding fair - that should get you a chance to talk with and see the portfolios of a few photographers.
posted by rongorongo at 3:38 AM on December 22, 2015

I did this for my Linked In profile. I paid about $100 for a professional headshot. Oddly enough the photographer was at the mall. He was the real deal though, I ran into a news anchor in there. The $100 included a bit of photoshopping. You want to avoid Glamour Shots or Olan Mills though.

Since then I've been taking some decent selfies, so I'm using those. You've got to keep them up to date.

Ask around among your friends to see if you can get some good shots. If that doesn't work, then head over to a pro.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:15 AM on December 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

I would echo finding a photography meetup or club. I've been to some before and they tend to end up with people taking pictures of whatever and whoever is around. If you show up to one you might find a half dozen people to take photos on the spot, and/or agree to do them at some point in the future.

If you're willing to be patient it can come out great for both of you. They probably won't charge much, might even be willing to do it just for experience, provided that you're willing to be patient with them not being as fast and efficient as a pro. (I find that myself, I can take good pictures, but it takes me *way* longer to get things dialed in than someone more experienced, I just spend more time farting around)

The meetups I've been to are usually framed as casual get togethers - at a bar or something like that. The ones here in austin are called "Drink and Click"
posted by RustyBrooks at 5:53 AM on December 22, 2015

I have several photographer friends that do this. At least one of them would do it for $100; she advertised the service at that price.

Look for photographers that do weddings and family portraits. Go through your Facebook friends and find a local one that recently had good professional photos done and get a name. Look at holiday cards too - lots of family pictures of varying quality there!
posted by littlewater at 5:58 AM on December 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

Make sure you understand rights and reuse rights.

I had to have a surgery nearly a decade back and thought it was going to be disfiguring, so I wanted to get photos of myself before I got all droopy. I paid a photographer and she gave me a DVD full of images for about $75 (I would expect to pay around $200 now). I think I got the sympathy discount because she knew why I wanted them.

Generally you don't get a disc of the RAW photos.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:11 AM on December 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

As a headshot photographer, I would do this for you, but I would not give you the RAW files. You may find that releasing the RAWs will not be something that most photographers will do.
posted by kellygrape at 6:26 AM on December 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

A great headshot photographer is worth her weight in gold. They can do just about anything to make you look posed, relaxed, in action, or whatever. Look at the portfolios of headshot photographers in your area and book a time to discuss your needs.
posted by xingcat at 6:43 AM on December 22, 2015

Props for asking the question and approaching this seriously. It's something I've meant to do but I keep feeling self conscious and just need to get over it.

Honestly, I looked on Yelp for people who do head shots - maybe not the best way to find someone but it gave me a feel for how much people charge and what you get in return. That said, if you see someone on Facebook or LinkedIn who appears to have consistently great pictures, it's a nice thing to tell them that and you can definitely ask who took them. Sure, sometimes you'll hear that your friend is just gorgeous and has a husband who is a professional photographer but other times, you'll get a good recommendation.

It's also helpful, I think, if you can go into the relationship with some expectations and examples of things you like and don't like. And discuss who owns the rights to the photos. I don't know if it's typical with head shots but with my wedding photos, my husband and I paid extra so we would own the rights to the photos. Our photographer was a family friend but I still just thought it would be weird to see our pictures used in his promo materials.
posted by kat518 at 7:01 AM on December 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've seen good deals for photography sessions on Groupon and LivingSocial.
posted by three_red_balloons at 8:17 AM on December 22, 2015

There is at least one company doing this in my town (Seattle) that I found through quick googling. You can probably find something in your city too, if it's a large enough metro area.
posted by jeffamaphone at 11:05 AM on December 22, 2015

Google the name of your city and the phrase "mini session."
posted by Ostara at 11:47 AM on December 22, 2015

There are three volunteer MeFite portrait photographers in NYC, as per the wiki!
posted by capricorn at 1:51 PM on December 22, 2015

I'm a photographer and this is totally a thing. When I shoot assignments the number one request I get afterward from subjects is "can we use these for social media". Everyone from high profile CEOs to regular people needs a new LinkedIn or Facebook picture. And like you said, all these things have different contexts, so you need several good photos from more serious/professional to more casual/hey-this-is-real-me. You need a range of photos, I don't think it's vain to hire a photographer to get it all in an hour or two :).

In a large market like NYC how I would personally go about finding someone is: google "headshot" or "engagement" photographers but then look at what other kind of work they do. I wouldn't hire anyone based solely on a headshot/engagement portfolio. For photographers something like "headshot" is just an easy thing you can market, a known quantity you can fit in between whatever it is they shoot the rest of the week. So I would find people who do nice headshots (lots of people can do nice headshots) but then narrow it down based on what other kind of work they do. I think what you will find in NYC is a lot of very talented people who have side hustles marketing "headshots" and they'd be happy to do something more interesting for a similar to headshot rate. That's who I would pick.

I just did this for my location and I see a couple of well known photographers I know with secondary websites doing exactly this and the rates, while I'm sure not the cheapest out there, seem completely reasonable to me (as someone who also needs a new portrait or two...).
posted by bradbane at 2:07 PM on December 22, 2015

There are three volunteer MeFite portrait photographers in NYC, as per the wiki!

Neat! I added myself to the list.
posted by RustyBrooks at 6:48 PM on December 22, 2015

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