“How to Be Your Own Instagram Husband” presentation by Delaney Gibson as part of the “Skill Taco” speaker series at Createscape Coworking on May 15, 2019.
So I'm here to talk about something extremely necessary and very vain. It's about being your own Instagram husband or wife. Or whatever you want to be. But basically I'll give you a little bit of backstory.
So I do visual branding, which is really ironic because I'm legally blind and I don't know how I got into instituting all these visuals. But I'm a designer and photographer, a musician. Basically with my company I work with primarily other artists to art direct them, style them, shoot them, do all their design print and digital. And then we have strategy sessions to go over marketing social media. If they have a crowdfunding campaign, we work on that too. So I kind of take them through the whole process. But today, I wanted to talk about how to take your own photos. And it's not for a vain reason. It's for building a personal brand, which is so important.
I didn't really understand how important it was until two things happen in my life. One, my band got signed to a record deal solely based on our Instagram. I had built out the visuals, done all these cool videos, and brought the copy. And we got approached. It was like the music was very secondary. They liked that too. That's just one way to show you how powerful it is and the other is-- I just landed a new role. I'm starting Monday. I'm going into content marketing, not just freelance, which I'm actually happy about because I want to get out of freelancing full-time. I'm a mom and it's not great to be stressed all the time. So I'm still doing it but just, you know, not full-time.
So I'm going to be working as a content marketer and being a consultant and designer for coding, which is great. But one of the things that they liked about me and one of the things that I heard from all the people that looked at my resume -- and the reason that recruiters contacted me -- was, “Oh my gosh, your social media presence is great. Your images are wonderful.” So that's why I want to talk about this. Not just because we want to take good selfies. (On that note, I do like to say that it's not a selfie. If you call it a selfie, it's vain. If you call it a self-portrait it’s art. So this is my selfie-portrait.) Anyway, so I shot this one outside of my house. OK, so the first one -- I'm going to talk about this photo.
OK, so number-one, you take a great self-portrait and do not care what anyone thinks of you. So this was shot in between Costco and Whole Foods in the middle of the day and there was like, oh I don't know, 500 people staring at me. And like a sequin-top with my tripod and holding my own reflector and just looking like it's the asshole, so don't care what anyone thinks. If you really just want to get a great shot, that's the one thing that you need to make sure to do.
Two, always be location-scouting. And always be thinking about bringing your tools with you. So these are the three things that I carry with me at all times. So I have my trusty camera -- fun fact: you can totally use your iPhone. Portrait mode is awesome. It's not so much about the camera as it is about the lens. If you do want to invest in something, I would highly recommend investing in a good professional lens more than worrying about the actual camera body. So I have a little pro lens and a little tripod, which is great. I actually carry in my car my like big tripod and giant reflector, but that's not always practical. And so this works awesome because you can kind of bend it and just put it anywhere you want.
So about locations, this is actually by my house and Circle C. And I definitely thought I was going to get murdered. It’s a really safe area and I don't know why this is here but there's just this random graffiti part. Anyway, so I'm thinking about getting self-portraits. This isn't Mexico City on top up here. And I had, like 10 tourists ask if they could take my picture [for me] and I was very offended. Like, no, I know I don't want you to take my photo. You're not going to get the shot that I want. That's the other thing too is like you can really if you do it yourself and you learn how to do it yourself you don't have to worry about asking your boyfriend or girlfriend to sit through like you know 500 photos of you and they're sick of it and they don't want to do it.
So a couple of tips and tricks to get stuff I have. As I said, my tripod and my camera -- there's a few different ways that you can do it to make it super easy there's always self timer. That's my preferred kind of way to do it self timer.
There's also a remote on most wireless cameras. I have found the remote is kind of a pain in the butt because it doesn't [always] work and if it does it's really slow and it's just the connection. It's kind of a pain. And then the other thing that I've noticed a lot of people doing lately is they just run video. So they'll set up their camera and run video and then you can import that into Adobe. Then just cut it and pick which one you want to use for your photo. I don't personally like that because I want the raw photos to edit later. But yeah, so you can go on vacations by yourself and just take lovely photos it's totally possible.
So another thing about building a personal brand and taking photos of yourself is also knowing your lighting. Something that's really important -- I have a studio set up at my house. There’s a super easy ring light and a softbox, but also being outside knowing, should I be facing the light? Is it going to be backlit? You know what kind of lighting situation I'm going to be in and while you can read up on that, I think the most important thing is just to go out and do it. Learn by trial-by-fire sort of thing. So knowing that is one thing, but actually putting it into practice -- it's like you have to basically learn how to let the highway lead you. You have to learn how to harness the sun, basically, which is not an easy feat.
So another thing that my boyfriend kind of thought of was that I’m insane, which, I might be crazy but I bought this and I’ve been carrying it with me. And I did go to eat the other day and whipped it out like an idiot, but it's like your own little personal reflector. And so you just kind of pretend like no one's watching you and make the sun your friend.
These are great...this is from Amazon...and it's like three dollars or something. And so I always carry this with me just in case, because you never know when you just need a little bit of pop of shadows off of your eyes. You want to reflect it off of the sun or any light source. I think I just googled “mini reflector.” It's really, really easy to get. And super cheap. And a lot better than a giant reflector. I have this vision though one day-- cause you know we always see people with selfie sticks-- where everybody's going to have their reflector and looking for the sun, which is going to be a strange world to live in.
So my third point is, know your lighting. [That] brings me to my next point. This is definitely at an abandoned JC Penny's parking lot that I did get kicked out of. So like there is, off camera -- you can't see -- but there was like a security guard coming and telling me that I have to stop taking photos. Um, okay.
So number four is to know your body. So one thing about, you know, making sure that you have a good personal brand, too, is knowing how you're coming across and how you're looking into other people. And we all have something that we love about ourselves. That is just totally our thing. When we rock, and then other things, we just don't really like and we just don't really want to put onto the world. Or we feel a little self-conscious about. So, like, if your left shoulder is like fire, that's okay. That's your money. Whatever it is, make sure that you're that you're showing that. And then also, the more you are comfortable in front of the camera, whether it's speaking or taking photos, I find that that translates really well to real life. So I think the more that you kind of are an asshole with yourself and your camera and you look like an idiot, you just don't get as nervous. Like I have terrible social anxiety. Mainly talking one-on-one I'm great. I think it's like growing up in a show business lifestyle, I'm great with like 10,000 people. If there's one, I'm like, I don't want to talk to you. I'm really scared. So I think it really helps with that.
Also knowing your body and knowing what angles look good for you because there will be angles that look good for you and angles that don't. And everybody knows that. Like, hey, you know, and it's really hard to tell when you're taking a selfie because whatever you're seeing here is not a true reflection of what you look like. So practice, which is good. Oh, this is my son. This is the other thing, too. When you get really good, you can drag your children into it. He sat for about three shots and that was it. He was like, that's all you're getting out of me. I asked him for Mother's Day. I was like, I just want photos of us. Can we please take photos? So I got three pictures.
This actually brings me to my next point. My number five. This point is take time before you post something. So one of the most important things I think, obviously, you want to try to get the best shot you can in the camera, but if you know the lighting situation isn't exactly perfect, make sure you take time in post to edit your photo.
Lightroom! I love Lightroom so very much. But even if you're not using something like Lightroom, there are beautiful apps that you can do on your phone. Like, VSCO cam is great. Snapseed is awesome. There's this random one from Korea called B612 and it's fire. Their cameras weird, though. It makes you look like you have no facial features, you're just like this plastered… something. You can use presets too, which are great if you're starting out, kind of. You can download them on things like Creative Market. And they're kind of just like a once-and-done. Or they can kind of get you started and then you can go in and tweak a little bit later. So that's kind of what -- in the beginning, before I got really knowledgeable about how to actually edit a photo, I just put a preset on it and then I kind of tweak from there. So it's really good. And also Photoshop actions are really great too. I still use those for some retouching things just because it speeds up my workflow. Especially when I'm working with client photography, client work and stuff. When I'm editing in a lot of photos. So this was my like Russian Doll phase that I was having when that show was going on.
Here is another thing about locations. So this up here is the big sign that says Mattress Firm. So this is on the side of the wall at Mattress Firm. And this is what I mean by like just go anywhere to take a photo. Though the shadows were great at this time and I was I was honestly driving till dinner for my mom's birthday and I just look happened to look and I was like, oh that's awesome. And I just pulled the car over and because I had all my stuff with me because I always carry it, I just like squatted down, took a photo, and then left. So it's not [like] we make these photo shoots that we like. If we hire somebody to take a photo, and I am a photographer so I understand there's a lot of prep that’s involved with it, but you can also get great shots in like two seconds on your own if you just have a little bit of tools and a little knowledge and just take the time to do it. Because the thing is, we get up in the morning and we get dressed and we put our clothes on and we look very presentable to go out into the world, so we're very presentable to take a photo, you know? We're always kind of there. And I think it also helps you too, at least for me, going out in life it's like, well I'm going to be going in there. There was like a cool wall there so I'm going to wear this outfit and then I'm going to take a couple photos and be able to add that into my brand story that I'm kind of building on my social. So you just kind of start planning these things randomly in your head. But this wall was a happy little accident. The other thing is, because of taking all these photos I have been getting a lot of brand endorsements and influencer stuff. So people contact you and they're like, “Hey, I really like your photos I'm gonna send you stuff.” So these wonderful people at Own Your Stigma sent me this beanie and I loved it and I wrote this article on therapy and,you know, everything that goes into that.
So I think the more that you put yourself into your work and into the world, to me, you just get so much back. So there's a lot of ways to look at this, like, oh well you're just posting photos of yourself or you're posting photos of you know picture yourself. But at the same time, you're actually connecting and you're welcoming people to connect with you, which I think is really great because if you didn't put that out there then somebody's not gonna contact you and, I don't know, I just think of it much more as a beautiful way to connect to people rather than, you know, I'm sitting in my house taking 100 selfies in my face. There's something...um, yeah, just another random photo in front of my house.
Oh, that brings me to my next point. I just take some notes. So, this actually came because I spent a lot of time on this. It’s another tool of mine that I would love to use as Pinterest. Pinterest is my favorite thing on the internet, maybe Instagram. I use it so much for client lookbooks and mood boards and style scapes that I build out. But I also use it for my own personal photos and style and that sort of thing.
So I think it's the best way to start building your personal style. So there's just certain search keywords I find that if you add the word editorial behind anything, you're going to get better photos. If you like search “office style,” and you put on style editorial, it'll be like fashion but it'll be office fashion. Like, rather than just like somebody taking a selfie with their work attire.
So Pinterest is a fantastic tool. Usually when I work with clients, I ask them to send me a Pinterest board. I can get a good concept or idea of where they're coming from before we start moving forward with the new direction. And then I'll build my own and then build up mood boards for them. So it's just a great tool. And I definitely found this photo hack. So it's basically like I put a piece of cellophane on top of my -- like I wrapped it around here and then I put Vaseline around it. And it gives it that really pretty kind of glowy, blurry thing. That's a word. That's a technical term. But that's just a random trick that I found on Pinterest. So it's great for that too.
So I think it just gives you a lot of knowledge and it gives you a lot of soft knowledge - about yourself. Here's a very risque photo that I didn't really mean to put in there but OK. This is in my backyard. One thing, this is what I'm talking about when I talk about lighting. So this photo -- I took a couple photos and it was great. It was nice, but it was really flat. So right here I have my tripod set up. And then I just have my reflector bouncing the sunlight right here, which gives it a really pretty kind of glow look to it, which I think actually made the photo much more than, you know, not having that so just taking that extra moment and everything you do to take one more shot because I can't tell you how many times I've I've done something and I'm like, oh that's pretty good. And I'm like, I'm gonna push through and just do one more shot. Or, like, if you're in the studio and you just take one more take, it's like for some reason that last one is usually the one to sell it. So I think keep going is my goal.
OK, so here is -- I also have a side project that I'm not supposed to tell anyone about. It's this panda project, and yes, she's a Taiwanese pop singer and she's relaxing in the bathtub and she has her whole Instagram account. This was her on Valentine's Day. And she took Sears portrait photos. So that's it. That was just my little side project.
So, in conclusion, this is really a lot easier than you think to do this on your own. Sometimes it seems really scary and overwhelming because it seems like, well, what if I'm not a photographer? Or what if I just have my phone? Or, you know, I don't have the right tools. But it really isn't that difficult. You can put a timer on and and get some really good shots. And I think for me, the most important part is that in doing this throughout the years I've really been able to find an admiration for myself that I don't think that I had before. So I always nitpick and critique things a lot and if someone took a photo of me, I would just pick it apart. I didn't like it but doing this, there's something about being yourself a lot in different artistic ways. You're like, oh you kind of picked yourself apart less and less. And you start focusing more on the overall art of the photo and the look of what you're presenting to the world. So for me, I think that's been really beneficial and just really helpful in the world.
It's crazy. We live in a really strange time that you put all this stuff in the world online and who knows if it's real or not. But I have found a truer sense than -- a realer sense of myself in doing self-portraits. And I try to do them every day. And if I'm having a bad day, sometimes it can be really cathartic to kind of just take yourself completely out of it and also just get yelled at by strangers on the street because you're just taking a photo in the middle of the street. So it's interesting.
Presentation by Delaney Gibson
Transcript Edited for Clarity
Edited by Riki Markowitz