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Think you need a professional photographer to take the perfect Insta-shot? Think again.

Think you need a professional photographer to take the perfect Insta-shot? Think again.

Oh snap

Text: Brandon Alexius Chia


They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but let's be honest  – with the Instagram culture we have today, it's more like a thousand likes. Even the most intellectual amongst us has been privy to the desire to snap the odd perfect pouting selfie or outfit-in-the-mirror story. Because hey, we're only human and sometimes we need a little validation! After all, who doesn't love a good fire emoji reaction when they throw up the perfect shot?

But if you're anything like me, you've also noticed the immense shift in the quality of photography up on platforms like Instagram today. Gone are the days of the old amateur snap, and in are the endless filters, contours, make-up techniques, poses and editing tricks to curate you to absolute perfection. It feels like we all woke up one day and became a Kardashian, minus any of the money or divorces. Whilst it might seem pointless, vain and even self-indulgent in the times of a major pandemic (or any other, frankly) to care about what constitutes the perfect Insta-snap, it's one of the few ways in which we can stay connected to ourselves in such weird times and of course, it's a bit of fun.

And, that's where I come in! Motivated to take up the 'Bold' theme we have on this month, I figured there's no better way to showcase the word, than to embody it by sharing some tips and tricks I've mastered over our several lockdowns, for how to shoot the perfect Insta-shot: by yourself and from home.

Sure, I may be no Annie Leibovitz, but I'd like to think I know a thing or two when it comes to fashion, art and photography. Of course, you can be the judge of that for yourselves.

Think you need a professional photographer to take the perfect Insta-shot? Think again. (фото 1)

So how do you shoot the perfect editorial style, sassy, sexy, moody and bold picture, when you're stuck indoors, (a la recent KTV and Jurong Port saga - thank you uncles) and alone, without a camera man or a hype person?

Here's where I got you. You see all the above shots were taken not only by me, myself and I, but that too, in my bedroom, without any professional hair, make-up, lighting and equipment. Just a few good angles, a few good 'fits and a few good hours and you'll have a few of the best photos, you've ever had a double tap on.

Okay, enough talk, let's get down to business.

Brandon's guide on shooting the perfect editorial picture from your bedroom

Part 1: The Equipment

This part is pretty self-explanatory. You don't need fancy equipment, just functional ones.

  • A DSLR/ mirrorless camera or a smartphone
  • A tripod with necessary attachments for your device
  • A ring light with adjustable settings
  • A secondary light source (LED light panel or specialty lights e.g. a sunset lamp)
  • Coloured gel sheets (you can find these on Amazon via Google, very easy to source)
  • A laptop with photo editing software (Adobe Lightroom is my preferred choice)

Part 2: The set up

Here are my preferred settings for shooting in low light conditions:

  • ISO: 1000
  • Aperture: 3.5-4
  • Shutter speed: 1/50

A good picture is all about composition and lighting. Attach your device onto the tripod to find the optimal position with little clutter to take the picture – the focus is on you, your outfit or makeup.I prefer to shoot my photos on the darker side as it is easier to brighten the image when editing. Don't worry about smartphone camera settings, my method relies on physically adjusting the intensity of the lights.

To start, set up your lights – place the ring light one metre away from where you will be posing. This will act as the key light, which ensures that you are sufficiently lit. The LED light panel with coloured gel sheets or the sunset lamp will be placed towards the left or right of the key light to highlight certain areas of yourself to draw in more attention.

Think you need a professional photographer to take the perfect Insta-shot? Think again. (фото 2)

Also, play around with the position and angle of the secondary light source till you see the desired effect. Don't forget to increase or decrease the ring light's intensity till you are satisfied – the picture should be good as long as you can see every detail on your person.

Think you need a professional photographer to take the perfect Insta-shot? Think again. (фото 3)

Last but not least, pose. Set your device to capture the image on a 10-second timer so that you have time to run back and forth. If you have a Bluetooth remote for your phone or if your camera comes with a remote Wi-fi control setting, that works perfectly. My tip for posing either fill up the entire frame or occupy the one-third of the frame. For example, low-angled shots an eliminate excessive double chin and adds height. Here are some of my go-to poses:

Think you need a professional photographer to take the perfect Insta-shot? Think again. (фото 4)

Think you need a professional photographer to take the perfect Insta-shot? Think again. (фото 5)

This is the most tedious part, because you will go through about 20 pictures before being satisfied with your face and body posture. Remember: Have fun, don't treat yourself too seriously. However, if you want to serve face, it is all about attitude, when in doubt, don't smile – just smirk. Add killer music of your choice for extra effect as required.

Part 3: Editing

Pop the final pictures into Lightroom. This is the most important aspect that will push your photos from regular to expert, as far as it can go for non-professionals. Firstly, what is the look you're trying to achieve? A more dramatic photo will lean towards an increase in contrast while an ethereal theme will focus on decreasing contrast and clarity.

Think you need a professional photographer to take the perfect Insta-shot? Think again. (фото 6)

Key things to note for beginners:

  • Adjust the temperature based on preference - blue for cool and yellow for warmth
  • Increase or decrease the exposure to brighten or darken the image
  • Increase the highlights and decrease the shadows to add dimension
  • Increase clarity, vibrance and saturation for a dramatic look
  • Decrease clarity and vibrance for a softer look
  • Increase sharpness and noise reduction
  • Do not push the toggles beyond -20 and 20 points for all settings

Think you need a professional photographer to take the perfect Insta-shot? Think again. (фото 7)

Final step: Add a filter from a third-party app such as VSCO. The filters will perform very differently now that you have retouched the image on Lightroom and makes it seem like you have a custom filter but without the hassle of creating it from scratch. Ta-da, slap on a caption, hit post, and you are done.

Think you need a professional photographer to take the perfect Insta-shot? Think again. (фото 8)

Here are the final pictures from my entire shoot. Happy snapping!

Think you need a professional photographer to take the perfect Insta-shot? Think again. (фото 9)