It's true.

This generation is the most photographed generation of all time—and yet your teenager has a very skewed perception of what he or she looks like. Why? For starters, most of the photos teenagers capture are done using a phone.

This has several disadvantages:

  • Strange light—most of the time, photos aren’t taken with lighting in mind. Poor lighting can cause weird color casts, sharp shadows, dark circles under the eyes, and more.

  • Terrible composition—when’s the last time someone snapping a candid stopped to think about the composition? For most people, that’s pretty rare. Composition matters; it also flatters.

  • Weird posing—it’s very easy to hold a camera phone slightly skewed. In fact, it’s incredibly hard to photograph something level and straight using your phone. (Trying taking a picture of your front door and you’ll see what I mean. The lines of the door, siding/brick will be angled.) Holding your phone slightly above nose level helps, but that doesn’t take in to consideration using the most flattering angles, good posture, or poses that play to your physical strengths.

  • Inferior camera—A phone’s camera, especially the “selfie” camera, is terrible for portraits. If you’ve ever used a DSLR, you’ll remember the lenses come in different focal lengths. Camera phones “mimic” these focal lengths. For example, the regular, 1x setting is somewhat equivalent to a 26 mm lens. A 3x zoom on an iPhone is somewhere around a 77mm camera lens. But what’s the best lens to use?

Just for reference, I use a 16-35mm lens for real estate photography. My “all purpose” lens is the 24-70mm, but it’s definitely not my favorite for portraits. I find the sweet-spot for this lens is closer to 70 mm, but I’m also usually stepping in close to my subject. My best, most favorite portrait lens is my 85mm lens; with the 50mm lens coming in a strong second. It’s just hard for a phone camera to recreate the look and feel of a real glass lens. But, as newer and better phones hit the market, I’m encouraged. Phone cameras have come a long, long way the past 10 years! Maybe soon they’ll give more a accurate portrayal for portraits.

So what’s the solution?

The biggest way to overturn your teenager’s mis-perceptions is with professional photography. Working with a professional will boost self-esteem and deliver images that use flattering light, beautiful composition, and eye-catching posing—all while using high-quality equipment. This will give your teenager more confidence and help him (or her) see himself as the rest of the world does. With professional photos, she’ll notice her bright eyes, familiar smirk or graceful mannerisms.

This reorientation can happen during yearly family sessions, but the most effective way to combat a skewed perception is with an individual portrait session. This is one reason why I love photographing high school seniors—they walk away with a better sense of self. And hopefully that is something they will carry with them into the next chapter of their life after high school…