For a long time I’ve wanted a somewhat better self portrait photo to use on various accounts and websites. I’ve been using the same old boring picture of me standing in front of a blank wall for ages—three or four years, probably.
Since I had, at around the same moment in time, reluctantly caved to the pressures of modern society and signed back up for Instagram, I figured I could make this into a bit of a challenge for myself. What if I took a selfie every day for a week? I mean, not exactly one, but at least one. Every day. For a week.
So I did. Not only did I end up replacing my boring old photo with an awesome new one on most of my accounts, but I learned a critical photography skill that everyone, new or old to the craft, should live by.
I think anyone who does creative work can benefit from this advice, so I’m writing it down here on the internet.
But I learned a lot more, too.
Another thing I learned is that Instagram is approximately as addictive as everyone has been telling me. It’s confusing that there are two ways to add new posts, either by tapping the “+” button in the bottom navigation panel or by “swiping right” or tapping the camera icon in the upper left, but once you start playing with the fully featured post creator function (that’s the second one, in case you are like me and didn’t know), it’s the social media equivalent of Colombian black tar heroin straight into your veins.
Below you can see eight of the photos I took. Pretty much all of them are post-processed in some way, usually by applying a stock Instagram filter or by making adjustments manually, but sometimes I will edit in Snapseed (my favorite mobile photo editor at the moment).
As time went on, I got a little more adventurous with the photo effects. This isn’t the best progression to be able to visualize it, but the very first photo has nearly no changes made. The second, I did some contrast work. The third uses Google’s “photo blur” (their response to the iPhone “portrait mode”), the fourth uses more filters and color tone adjustments, and so on.
Finally you get to the eighth photo, which has definitely been touched by Snapseed, and I feel like I have reached a pinnacle of location, pose, lighting, and processing.
And this is a photo taken on my cell phone. For the record, I’m still using a Google Pixel. The first one. The camera on this phone is absurdly good, and post-processing software has reached new heights for sure.
Now, something you have to know about me before I talk about the foundational, life-changing skill that I learned through this process: I am my least favorite photographic subject.
I am not that dude running around taking selfies at every location or event, I’ve never owned a “selfie stick,” I don’t vlog or do any YouTube stuff, I don’t even own a camera whose screen turns around so you can see it while you’re looking into the lens.
That alone made this more of a challenge for me. It’s hard for me to see beyond my own insecurities to honestly evaluate an image and critique it and learn from it. But I forced myself to do it.
What I found was that each day, when I remembered that I owed myself a photo for this challenge, I would open up Instagram or the Google Camera and point it at myself and see what happened. And each time, it got a little bit easier.
So this is maybe a little trite and maybe a little obvious, but I decided to repeatedly do a thing that I knew I was not great at, and didn’t even like, and just through that repetition, I got better at it. I even came to enjoy it a bit more, though I’m still my least favorite subject.
If there is something you want to get better at, or something that scares you but you think it’s maybe a little bit silly and you wish it didn’t… Try doing that thing every single day for one week.
Have you already done this? Do you think it’s a decent idea? Or a stupid one? Leave me a comment down below.