Life is not always about politics and hating Donald J. Trump though it seems that way today.
There are some other important issues that may even be of greater consequence to the average American.
Today Carl Denham is at our Lifestyles Desk where he is opining about one of the more compelling issues of our time, the ubiquitous and ever-present “Selfie” and how this universal symbol of our age and aging can be transformed from all too often bottom drawer into a thing of at least acceptable quality.
I’ve noticed over the years that the problem with most “Selfies” is that they make even the most attractive people look much less so and some can be downright ugly.
That’s the big reason various “beauty filter” apps have been added to smart phones and the like, the smart phone in various configurations being the tool of choice for the “Selfie” generation
The problem with that technology is that increasingly while pleasing the end result can have very little in common with the original subject as far as an accurate representation of same.
Now we are seeing serious psychological distortion among otherwise sane and well-balanced folk, and frustrated “Selfie” addicts are breaking down the doors of plastic surgeons around the world demanding major facial reconstruction and dropping wads of hard-earned cash in the process in a vain attempt to force the reality of their mug to more closely match the ersatz physiognomy they are showing to the world via social media and dating apps.
Now that may be fine for the well-heeled who don’t mind pain but what about honest people of limited means who cannot afford the many thousands of dollars required for that nose job and chipmunk cheek reductions and enhancements to the eyes.
Not to mention those who would rather avoid becoming one of the many horror stories making the rounds of surgery breaking bad, with noses falling off and even the occasional fatal consequences.
Fortunately there are cheap and easy ways to improve the quality of any self-portrait, and without the need of technical tricks or gimmicks or a substantial outlay of Benjamins.
And best of all, the picture will look like YOU, so that Mr. or Ms. Right you scored on your on-line dating platform won’t necessarily bolt when they see you for the first time and in the flesh… you can put your days of hiding out in dark bars and candle lit eateries behind you forever.
There is no such thing as a free lunch of course so you will need to assemble a bit of inexpensive kit.
First out of the chute is a camera support of some sort.
As this illustration shows, this can be anything from a full size tripod to a gorilla pod that can be folded and carried in a pocket, even that “Selfie stick” you already have can be pressed into service if you spring for some rubber bands.
Next thing you need is a target. A Plastic Head like Dorothy here is the gold standard of course and can be found in great variety on Amazon for very little coin.
If you don’t want to spring for the Plastic Head ask your mother or grandmother if she will give you hers.
Women 50 and older were very big into wigs in their youth and they generally have a head or two stowed away somewhere … an attic, maybe a garage.
The advantage of the Plastic Head is that it allows a precision in both focus and framing that you cannot obtain by any other means.
The disadvantage of course is that you are apt not to have a plastic head with you when you need one, unless you are car tripping where an extra head can work magic avoiding fines when illegally using the HOV Lanes on your local Interstate.
And that case a little creativity will serve you well.
A plain paper bag for example can serve as an acceptable target as can an empty water bottle.
This time of year you might find a pumpkin or other fruit or vegetable that can be pressed into service, though not easily. I would not recommend using this pumpkin.
The last piece of kit is the picture taking machine.
While a dedicated camera guarantees Superior Results, more than likely all you’re going to have with you is your smart phone and that’s good enough for the average “Selfie”, at least dumbed down for posting on social media.
You will of course need a bracket so that you can mount it on your camera support. If you have a “Selfie Stick” you already have a bracket and if not they’re easily obtainable for a couple of coin.
You will also need a Self Timer app for your smart phone. This could be either free or at most a couple of coins depending on how much capability you want.
Technique is what is going to make or break your picture.
In terms of general principles exhaustive studies have demonstrated conclusively that no matter the camera, no matter the lens, no matter the settings people look their best when the camera is placed a little over 3 meters (10 feet) away from the tip of their noses.
Except with extreme wide-angle lenses 10 ft (a little over 3 meters) will give you an image without noticable distortion, especially the kind of distortion that makes many “Selfies” butt ugly by adding 5 to 10 pounds to the subject in addition to big noses and slack Jaws.
Cameras placed 10 ft (3 meters) from the subject completely negates any distortion and you are instantly ahead of the game.
Second principal. The camera should always be placed at least at eye level for skinny people and above eye level for those carrying a couple extra pounds.
Some Stellar Photographs can be taken from chin level and below but they are best left to the professionals because they rarely make people look their best in the hands of the average “Selfie” addict.
Finally there’s the question of light.
Light can make or break your portrait.
In fact it is the most critical part of the equation.
Of course we are talking about both the quality and quantity of light.
It goes without saying that you must have enough so your picture-taking device is not forced into High Gain mode. And the quality of such must emphasize the positive aspects of you and not the negatives.
Some basic rules, unless you want your “Selfie” to look like a mug shot, don’t expect the built-in flash to do much for you. They invariably suck.
And avoid light from directly above unless the raccoon or kangaroos looks appeal to you
Also avoid strong backlight … and full sun too.
A personal experience of mine illustrates the latter.
There used to be this famous actress named Cheryl Ladd ( no relation to Alan of “Shane” fame ).
Beautiful woman, her most famous role was when she played one of Charlie’s Angels probably. Her “white bikini” in “Angels in Paradise” was the stuff of legends
A number of years ago I handled photo duties during an interview with her at some farm up-country..
I don’t remember why we were there ( probably some environmental issue ) but I do remember Cheryl had several years on her since “Charlie’s Angels” and while she was still an exceptionally beautiful woman I could easily see some tiny age lines and crow’s-feet sneaking in.
Cheryl wouldn’t do the interview unless we did it in open shade. Reason being as a professional Cheryl knew that FEW men look good in full sun and women NEVER do (unless it’s a character study where you want to show the ravages of time for documentary work or whatever).
So take a tip from Cheryl. Unless it is the so-called Magic Hour right around sunrise or sunset, full sun should be avoided at all cost.
The other principle, strong backlight or a background that is much brighter than the subject will always result in substandard product.
The key is brightness balance between the subject and the background.
It’s actually better if the background is darker than the subject if you can manage that.
Disregarding the strobes these principles are encapsulated in this photograph
Use a target to frame and focus the shot.
Camera placement just over three meters ( 10 feet) from the subject, and above eye level.
Light on the subject sufficient in quantity to balance with the background.
You can see from these comparison shots of me ( Carl Denham )
that these principles apply equally be you inside or out.
Adherence to these basic principles are almost guaranteed to produce a result far superior to what your friends are able to accomplish and without the need for goofy filters and post processing tricks and gimmicks.
And most importantly without the need to spend thousands of dollars on potentially dangerous surgery that may or may not be successful in order to bring your physical appearance in line with that face you’re showing the world.
Is it worth the effort?
That of course is a personal decision but the thing to remember is that images live on the internet forever ( in theory anyway but not actually. But that’s a tale for another day).
Do you really want to be defined 5 10 20 years from now by your grand and great-grandchildren by some less than adequate pictures taken today in your prime after the ravages of age may have rendered you less attractive than you were in your youth?
That is something only the individual can answer but if you take care with your “Selfies” today they will certainly take care of you and your tomorrows.