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Wednesday 8 June 2022

Taking Selfie and Outfit Shots

Woman taking a selfie with a spectacular view. Photo by Pavel Danily for Pexels

Dear friends. I've had a few requests for some tips on how to take selfies and outfit shots from beginners who don't know where to start.  I'm not an expert by any means, but I've learnt a few "best known methods" over the last 5 years of taking pictures for this blog. 

I won't be giving detailed instructions about camera settings: I'm assuming you're using the camera on your phone. There are plenty of posts and courses for those of you who have a strong camera game and want advanced guidance. This post is for beginners. I'll be using some of my own pictures to illustrate points.

The Basics 

  • Lighting
  • Composition
  • Using a tripod or having a willing assistant 


Photos always look more natural taken outside. But summer can pose problems for the photographer. 
My #1 rule is never taking pictures between 12 noon and 3pm.  If you take pictures in bright sunshine, everything is bleached out. Faces are stripped bare and look older. It applies to any photographs:  taking pictures in my garden in bright sunshine means the flowers and plants lose any contrast or texture. 

The best times of day to utilize sunshine is the "golden hour" after sunrise and before sunset.  Neither time is convenient for me, except perhaps on holiday, so I literally patrol the garden and neighbourhood looking for spots which do not have bright sunshine, shadows or sun flare spots. 

Cloudy weather is actually fine for taking pictures.  You won't get the blue sky but the lighting will be less challenging. Sometimes a little fill flash is helpful to make sure you stand out. 

If you'd prefer to take pictures indoors, look for the best lighting situation. You really don't want to be using full flash, and you don't want to have to lighten photos that are very dark. 

Near windows is good:  see below for my tips about where to stand apropos of the window.

Halo lights are good for Zoom calls, less so for selfies, in my view.  If you take a selfie too close to the light, there will be tell tale spots in your eyes. But it's worth experimenting. My halo light was pretty cheap on Amazon.  You can get them on full length tripods, as this photo shows, and for the very best photos, this is a good option and not too pricey. 

Woman taking an outfit shot with her phone mounted on a tripod with light. Photo by Liza Summer for Pexels


Outdoors, check that the background is free of anything that might protrude from your head or distract: bird feeders, clothes lines, power cables, buckets, piles of washing  - the list goes on. Make sure you are centred in the picture, unless you're taking an arty shot of a garden for example and you're a secondary element.

If you're taking an outfit shot, decide if your feet should be included.  Below: one of my early pictures for the blog in 2013, when I had no idea how to pose, and my feet are not fully in shot  (garden looks nice though!).

An example from Is This Mutton of a bad fashion shot:  the feet are partly missing and the pose is terrible

In the first few shoots I did, Mr Mutton took the pictures with a new-to-him DSLR.  The photos are terrible in terms of lighting and my nervous and self conscious poses. 

He soon got fed up being my photographer so I invested in a tripod. It's for a camera rather than a phone and is not small: it can be assembled so it's nearly as tall as me. But it's very stable in use and can be slung over the shoulder in its carrying case. 

Using a Tripod v A Volunteer Photographer

If another person is photographing you, you'll need them to be patient and take lots of shots using both orientations. From 100 shots I may find 10 that are usable. 

Having an assistant is useful if you want to take pictures in public settings to get good backgrounds. I personally find it a bit too embarrassing to do this on my own with the tripod. I'll only do it very early in the morning when I know there's hardly anyone around. 

The drawback with an assistant is their availability.  You may soon find doing your own thing with a tripod is better. 

You can find many different types of tripod for a mobile, some with a light attached.  It's better to use a tripod than to try to stand your phone against another object. 

If you're using an assistant, the worst thing they can do, and it's a rookie error, is to hold the phone too low down. You won't look in proportion. Your legs will be shorter than your body. Below, my example is from 2013 when I first started the blog - I'm wearing Kettlewell, but don't have those pieces now. 

Make sure you hold your phone camera high to avoid the short legged look shown here in a photo from 2013 by Is This Mutton
Compare this shot with the one taken with a tripod, below. I look taller with legs that look longer than they actually are. (Result).  The other thing I am doing is adjusting my posture. I lift my shoulders up, then backwards and finally down, which puts them in the right position. I push my pelvis slightly forward. Extending a leg helps narrow the thighs.

Howto look taller with longer legs thanks to a pose and better posture. Read more in Is This Mutton's guide to taking selfie and outfit shots

What I Use

I use a phone for selfies and close-ups of accessories, and a compact camera for outfit shots. 

My camera is a Sony which cost around £400 and can be used manually or in auto mode. The camera is a WiFi hot spot which means I can connect it to my phone via WiFi, and using an app called Imaging Edge, my phone becomes a remote control with timer. This allows me to preview how a photo is set up before I take it. 

I upload the pictures from the camera to my PC, and can also access and edit them on the phone which is handy for posting to IG and FB.  

Drawbacks with Outfit Pictures Taken on a Phone

The major drawback is that for Instagram feed posts,  you need a square shaped image, and to get all of you into the image means you're going to have to stand quite a way back from the phone camera, resulting in a less than high quality image. Story posts use the Full setting for rectangular portrait shots. This is why I use my Sony camera because it can be positioned to either orientation on the tripod and takes better quality pictures full-length.

If you're using a phone for outfit shoots, you have 3 options.  Using a tripod is the best way but plenty of people take photos in a full-length mirror. Another option is seated and holding the phone up high, looking down at you.  

Make sure the phone is always looking down at you rather than up.  If you have it on the ground or a low table, and point it upwards, it's going to make your neck look saggy, possibly with a double chin, and will probably make you look bigger.

If you use a mirror, position the phone so that it isn't obscuring you or your outfit in the shot. I set the timer so that I have 5 - 10 seconds to get into a good position before the photo is taken. 

Selfie Tips

We all have a good or bad side to our face, and I recommend putting in some practice so that you can work out your best angles.  

The cameras on mobile phones are very good these days but nonetheless they have limitations. They automatically "squish" our face because of the smaller aperture.  Noses become longer or bigger;  chins more pointy. To see a good example of this, visit @NotLamb on Instagram.  Catherine has a couple of images in her grid, side by side, that show the difference between a selfie taken with an SLR camera and with a phone.

Many people recommend being near a window to take a selfie.  Below, the difference between standing in front of the window, and standing with your back to the window.  I took these consecutively.

If you ever wondered about the difference between standing with your back to a window or looking at the window, Is This Mutton gives you examples

Above, I am looking out of the window.  The background is nicely blurred. The photo has not been edited. I am wearing the bare minimum of makeup. But the image is sharper and with a little editing will be acceptable.  I never use filters - people need to see women as they really are -  but I usually improve the lighting and saturation.

In this picture I have my back to the window.  See how the light flares around my head. The image has less clarity and focus. My features look washed out. 

My preferred spot for selfie shots is a window at the top of the stairs, which has stained glass. I prop the phone on a large paperweight and lean on the windowsill.  Using a hand to cover my neck is one of my "signature moves" because it hides my neck, something I'm very self conscious about. 

Below:  you may be surprised to know that this image hasn't been edited very much, and no lighting or flash was used. The lighting from the adjacent window was good enough to conceal flaws by bathing my face in just the right amount of light. 

How good natural lighting helped to conceal flaws in this selfie of over-50s blogger Gail Hanlon

When taking a selfie, remember to look upwards because the front camera is at the top of your phone. I usually take a selfie from the side of my face rather than full-on. Sometimes I gaze to one side rather than at the camera for a more whimsical look.

Tips for Posing

My top tip for outfit shots is to tilt your body slightly to the side. This is far more flattering than a full-on central shot. It works very well in group situations. If you're a shorter person placed at the front, you'll look huge unless you face the camera slightly sideways.

As I mentioned higher up in the post, posture is extremely important. You can literally lose pounds if you pull your diaphragm up and hold your shoulders below the ears and back. In these two examples from 2017, I look slumped and fatter in the Before,  and slimmer in the After, purely because I improved my posture, and flexed my exposed arm so that it wasn't square to the camera and looking flabby. My feet and legs also look better. 

Facial Expressions

Moody faces work very well for Grazia and high fashion, but when midlife women do it, we just look bad tempered. The exception is when wearing sunglasses.  I find that a benign smile, like the Mona Lisa's, works quite well.  Looking upwards and and laughing is good to use occasionally.

Regarding sunglasses: don't take all of your photos wearing sunglasses.  People like to see your eyes, and too many photos with sunglasses is a turn-off. 

If you want to show off a handbag, position it so that it isn't partially hidden. To showcase this Teddy Blake bag, I took some seated photos so it could be seen, plus a photo where I held it in front of me so that the camera focused on the bag and I was slightly blurred. 

Walking slowly towards the camera with exaggerated steps gives a nice "action" shot - but make sure your camera is on a timer and the shutter isn't taking the picture when you're too far away. 

"Jumping" shots are fun to try sometimes. Set the timer and jump, making sure you're looking at the camera and your limbs are controlled and not flailing.  Sometimes you can get a nice shot. A jumping shot is easier if you have an assistant who can set the camera / phone to the sport setting and take lots of burst shots.

Getting Yourself Organized

If you're going to share several outfit shots a week, on FB or IG, it's useful to have a mega session where you photograph several outfits at once.  My schedule is:

  • The day before, make sure the camera is ready and set up on the tripod;
  • The outfits are assembled with accessories and I know which lipstick(s) I will use;
  • If hand shots or sandals are involved, I give myself a mani or pedi;  if bare legs are required, I'll apply Dove Summer Revived gradual tanner, after exfoliating the day before; 
  • On the day, wash hair and apply make-up - and be very careful when getting dressed so you don't stain your clothes or smudge your make-up
  • If I'm photographing outfits that need more than 1 lipstick color, I'll start with the palest color so it doesn't stain my lips too much.
  • And always check the lipstick hasn't transferrred to your teeth.  I can't tell you how many photos I've ruined because I find when editing there are marks on my teeth! 

I hope these tips are helpful and would love to hear any of yours.  The key thing is practice.  When I look at the first pictures I took for Is This Mutton, back in 2013, I cringe. But you soon become more confident.

Disclosure: Nothing was was gifted, and no affiliate links have been used. I prefer to make Is This Mutton the optimum reading experience without ads or pop-ups (except for the necessary pop-up urging you to join the email list!). 

Now it's time for the #WowOnWednesday link-up. Bloggers/Instagrammers can find new readers, plus readers can find new blogs to read. I promote my favorite five posts on Facebook and Twitter every week, and feature the most clicked posts in Instagram Stories. 

Last Week's Favourites - Most Clicked

Suzy from The Grey Haired Brunette created an outfit to symbolise The Beatles' song Hello Goodbye.  It was a hit for the Songful Style Challenge. 

I knew that Pamela's post on how to hide tummy fat would be a winner! Pamela, from Style Yourself Confident, gives some great tips. 

Welcome to New Participants

Last week we welcomed UK blog Smelly Socks and Garden Peas, which writes about parenting, books, running and travel. And a big hello to Tess Pennanen from blog Pennanen Pens Tess, below, is a former teacher, now a stay-at-home mom, who has recently started blogging with outfits and reviews.

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

1 comment

  1. Wow, some great tips here together with examples good and not so good photos. So much to think about. Thank you for spending the time to put this post together.
    Hugs Mary xxx.


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