How to plan and shoot the perfect self portrait for social media profiles

Oct 5, 2017

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

How to plan and shoot the perfect self portrait for social media profiles

Oct 5, 2017

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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These days, social media is a huge part of one’s branding. It needs to represent who you are as a person and a company. There needs to be consistency between Facebook, Instagram, YouTube. It needs to convey who you are, either as an individual or as a company, and your personality.

Photographer and YouTuber, Joe Edelman recently had to update his social media profile photos after acquiring a new pair of glasses. Joe treats this task as he would any headshot shoot for a commercial client. Because that’s essentially what he is. His own commercial portrait client. In this video, Joe walks us through his process, with some great tips, whether you’re shooting for yourself or somebody else.

YouTube video

Joe begins by defining the brief.

  • Who is the subject?
    Joe!
  • What are the photos for?
    Social media & marketing materials that reflect Joe’s current look.
  • Why are the shots being taken?
    Because Joe has new glasses, so a new look.
  • When does he need it?
    Right now. With Joe’s YouTube channel about to hit 100K subscribers and speaking engagements coming up soon, now is the perfect time for a refresh to create consistency throughout.
  • Where will the shots take place?
    In the studio

The big difference when shooting yourself, as opposed to a client, is that you’re not looking through the viewfinder to line up your shot. So, you may end up shooting more than you need to, in order to really get what you like. To make life easier, Joe shoots his Nikon D810 with 50mm f/1.8G lens tethered to Capture One running on a laptop.

This way, after each shot is taken, Joe can take a quick look at the photo, readjust, and fire off another shot.

Joe wants a white seamless for his backdrop. But as it’s only a headshot, and not full length, he doesn’t have to go to the hassle of lighting a whole backdrop. Joe simply places a strobe in a large octabox behind his head. This also serves to help produce a rim light on the sides of his face as well as a hair light. The key light is a second strobe firing through a 33″ shoot through umbrella. Joe also added a reflector in front of him, below, to bounce a little light back up to fill in the shadows.

As Joe takes each shot he checks for focus and composition. To adjust, he places a light stand at the point he was sitting to give him something on which to focus, and get a relative viewpoint for framing. If all there was in the viewfinder was the white surface of the octabox in the background, you’d have no context for reframing at all.

Shooting at f/9, that slight difference in distance between the light stand and Joe’s face is all still sharp and in focus. If you want to shoot with a shallower depth of field, another option is to shoot tethered with liveview to a tablet. We’ve shown this method before in another post from an entirely different Joe. For Joe Edelman, though, the shallow depth of field look wasn’t going to work. So, f/9 it is.

Even Joe’s expression is specifically tailored for the shot. The energy he displays on his YouTube videos and his in-person speaking engagements needs to come across in his profile & marketing images. Joe hates big cheesy grins, and they’re not what he wants to represent his brand. So, he goes with an excited and energetic open mouth smile. Here’s Joe’s old photo, that he’s been using for several years, alongside the new.

Joe’s not suggesting that his setup is the perfect or even correct way for everybody to shoot their image. But explaining his thought process provides us with tips for thinking about our own needs and process. That’s something you have to think about when shooting your own self portraits. Both how you want the images to represent you or your business, as well as the technical considerations.

There’s a few other portrait clothing tips in Joe’s video, that can be very helpful depending on what you shoot. I know I’ve used some of these tricks myself when I’ve had to appear in front of the camera, and I’ve had subjects do the same, too.

So, if you use your social media for business promotion, have a think about your next self portrait. How do you want it to represent you?

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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5 responses to “How to plan and shoot the perfect self portrait for social media profiles”

  1. Tj Ó Seamállaigh Avatar
    Tj Ó Seamállaigh

    away from all the info in this video, please remove the background music. It’s kind of annoying and makes it hard to follow the flow of info

  2. Curt Brandt Avatar
    Curt Brandt

    Really enjoy Joe’s presentation at the Tidewater Camera Club – his photography and YouTube videos are Awesome !!

  3. GeekRedux Avatar
    GeekRedux

    This post makes me irrationally angry.

  4. Justin Prim Avatar
    Justin Prim

    its the one in my profile picture but here it is anyway lol

  5. Ralph Hightower Avatar
    Ralph Hightower

    Couldn’t Joe just PhotoShop the new glasses in? He also didn’t address glare from the glasses.