I know this is a bit long winded here, but there's a lot I cover in this Bog. My only aim is to help the wannabe models here on DA put their best foot forward. I am all about empowering women's self expression, so here are some helpful tips to getting decent shots to post in your DA profile without breaking your bank.
Getting to the Truth of the Matter w/o Sugar Coating it:
These days we see here on DA thousands of wanna-be models display hundreds of head-shots posted on their free profile with just a crappy web cam or a camera phone taken in the mirror or hand held at arms length; all in hopes to become famous within that narrow window they have before maturity sets in. I know that sounds crass, but let's call a spade a spade here. There's no value in pretending this is something other than what it is, but it can be magical to capture some amazing images of your beauty in your prime to cherish for decades to come.
For the young it may seem like our beauty will be around forever, but if you really take a careful look around the web and within your personal acquaintances you will realize how many 20-something women just how fleeting it is for them to retain their youthful beauty. Life can suddenly change faster than you could imagine. Meet that special guy, get knocked up and house bound for the next 2 decades. Sorry to be a dream buster, but the fact is less than 1 in a 1,000 attractive women can make a living successfully modeling, and fewer who can keep their cloths on. Let alone any other career in the lime light this could lead to. Clearly it is more about one's ego to capture images of their youth, before it's too late. We all realize time is not our friend where it comes to youthful beauty, so I understand how you will want to get some good shots within your prime, when waiting even 6 months could become too late; where before long you will likely get knocked up with stretch marks, scar, and gain weight. This has it's own beauty, but hard to capture in a still photo.
Your window for capturing sexy photos may have to wait until you're at least 18, yet within just a few years (even if you don't get knocked up) there's a high likelihood you'll loose that youthful cuteness, loosing your opportunity to capture your likeness in the prime of your life. Don't waste so much time getting crappy pics with your camera phone. You need to get serious!
Being More Positive:
In the effort to be more positive about this I have some written advice to share with those who would take the time to read it. I do not claim to the a professional photographer, but I have used digital photography to promote my custom copper work over the last 15 years, and had been taking pictures with film SLRs for over 2 decades prior to that. Since the mid 90s I've edited well over a million digital photos. If you follow these tips you will get a lot better images you can be proud to show off.
Mirror Shots are a Waste of Time:As you may have discovered most shots taken of yourself in the mirror do not turn out well. One reason is how the auto focus sonar thinks it is suppose to focus on the glass mirror surface, yet the correct focus would be twice as far away. Another problem is to avoid the flash showing in your image you will have tried to take it at an angle, which is near impossible to do. It also gives you a double image. One from the reflective surface behind the glass, and another ghost image reflected off the outer surface of the glass, which makes your image seem blurry. Beside this it's hard to get the mirror perfectly clean. It also makes your image show in reverse of how other see you in person, so that facial mole is now shown on the other side of your face and so on. So don't even bother trying to figure out how to make this work out.
Getting a Better Perspective:You know you are a cute girl, but if you do not want your nose to seem unusually large in those photos you need to get the camera further away from your face than arms length. Hand held shots are not going to be flattering, because of the distorted perspective it creates and the built-in flash being too bright, while making the background way too dark. If you do not have a friend to help out you can mount your camera on a tripod, or just sitting on shelf to be able to zoom in more from a distance and set the shutter release timer, or a remote trigger if your camera has that option. Getting further way will also increase your depth of focus quite abit, as long as you can get enough light on your subject.
Good Lighting:You will need more light to get a decent shot. Every setting on your camera to help improve the quality of the image requires more light. Room lighting will not be enough candle power for a good clear photo. Realize your goal is to increase the light by 10X. Even the built in flash is not enough to get a good clear image and creates harsh shadows. Even cheap cameras can take decent photos if you have enough light on your subject. Good lighting is even more important that what kind of camera or lens you are using. The amount of light you have makes a huge difference for natural color with proper skin tones. By now you've found the built in flash washes you out and gives you red-eye. Although, not using the flash only makes for terrible unusable images when taken indoors, yet it's hard to find a good private spot outside to get sexy shots.
The main issue is you simply need much more candle power (I'm not talking about using candles). We do not realize the difference between outdoor direct Sunlight and indoor lighting with the way our eyes dilate to correct for this, but there is over 10X difference of how much light you get from the Sun. Even in the shade or on a cloudy days is much less light than you would imagine. If you have to take these pics inside be near a window on a bright sunny day, or grab all the lamps you can find to brighten up your room. I'm talking about around 10 bright light bulbs in front of you. So many it hurts to look forward at the camera surrounded by all those lights. Take the lamp shades off if you can. LED bulbs are rather expensive, but they tend to have a better true white light balance than incandescent or florescent bulbs, and are a good investment for your everyday lighting, so no money wasted. It would be cheaper than buying a decent camera strobe with a large defuser like you see in photography studios. The down side to using light bulbs is how this will dilate the pupils of your eyes very small, which is less attractive. Same with being outside on a bright day.
Using a Decent Camera:If you are spending less than $500 you are not likely to get a camera any better than what is built into your cell phone, so don't bother. An IPhone takes impressive images with pretty nifty software to use, but they are limited to the light on hand and prone to more distortion from their limited lens structure. Nikon has a decent DSLR cameras for just $500: D3200 in black or lipstick red. They seem to take photos as good as much more expensive cameras costing 3 times as much, but it is more fragile than a more expensive camera, so you'll need to be careful with it. It comes with an 18mm - 55mm lens, but I recommend their 18mm - 140mm lens if you can find that option, which seems to only be available in their D5200 model for $900, which would be a very good investment.
Editing Your Images:I am surprised to find how few people still do not know how to just crop, rotate, or resizing an image for faster uploading of digital photos. An image should fill up a screen, but it does not need to be larger than screen size to get a decent look. Others will reduce the photo so small there's very little detail. I find that reducing them to 1600 to 1920 pixels wide is a good measure for web presentation, but images should be at least 1280 pixels wide. There's dozens of software to edit images ranging from free-ware to $1,000 for Photoshop Extended. I have found a user-friendly software at a reasonable price: ACDSee 17 for just $40 or ACDSee Pro 7 will let you watermark your images and other helpful tools for the serious artist.
Examining your images at full resolution may make them seem less than sharp and speckled from low light with a high ISO setting. I recently discovered the benefit working off my RAW files. A year ago I tried comparing them to the jpg files, but they looked the same. I could not tell the difference until I discovered how ACDSee Pro was showing me the RAW files in a converted jpg image file. It was not until I turn that off I could clearly see the difference, but after editing them I have to save them off in a different file format for some reason. A 'png' file is huge, but will retain the fine detail of your RAW file, where compressing it to a jpg file will loose some detail.
Don't Post Bad Shots:If you have some shots that seem cool, but they did not turn out so clear, or have an odd color from bad lighting you may be able to fix it post production, but if not don't post them for the world to see. Please set your standards higher. If you have shots already posted that fall under this low standard take the time to delete them. You should not post all the shots from a photo session. We do not need to see every slightly different pose. Choose just a few of the best shots. You should not have more than 2 or 3 images of one outfit or hair style and make-up. Not all 50 head-shots, or you will not be respected as a serious model. Be patient and show some class.
Attention Seeking:Don't post hoards of images just to seek attention. Positive attention may feel grand, but if you find yourself driven to post lots of new pics each week to inspire new comments you really need to find a healthier source of fulfillment and self-esteem. This attention seeking will also get you a few 'Flamers' or 'Trolls' who are also seeking attention by getting your goat, so ignore them no matter what they have to say, and delete their nonconstructive comments swiftly. If you respond you will only be feeding into their power struggle with you. Fight the temptation to respond in any manner at all. Even if you are being sweet.
Free Shots from People w/Better Equipment:You can contact any one of thousands of local wana-be Photographers for a TFP arrangement (trade for pics), which should not cost you a dime. These better images can boost your portfolio to show off what you have to offer and show how you can work well with photographers. No one likes a Diva. Your reputation will suffer if you have a bad attitude, flake, or are hard to work with. You need to be very careful as well. Watch out for the sleeze-bags. It may not be all their fault either. Lots of Escorts use this as a way to covertly promote their illegal service, so many of these guys may expect more than just you posing nude.
There are also group shoots that should be safer to work, where you could be one of the models posing for half a dozen photographers. You can get paid and may get dozens of good shots to post. They are usually nice respectful men who are not in a position to proposition you for more in this group environment with other shooters they hardly know, so it should be safe, but do your research to see what the history is of the person organizing the shoot. Meetup.com is a good source to find local glamor photo group shoots. You will need to have a few decent shots to show the organizer for selection as one of their models to be promoted. Although, if you are a flake your rep will be quickly destroyed, so be prepared to show up on time ready to pose come Hell or high water. You may never get a second chance.
A nude photo shoot w/o any physical contact should net you $100 to $150 an hour, so if you're getting less they should not expect you to do anything you're not comfortable with. Even if you're not under age it would be wise to always have a protective chaperone with you. Before meeting a photographer for even for a pre-shoot discussion let him know up front you will not be alone. If he has a problem with it that may be a sign he is not doing it just for the sake of good art.
Racy Images & Anonymity:
Being paid to model you need to realize all those images belong to the Photographers and he may not share them with you, so make sure it is clear what you expect out of this arrangement up front. He may give you copies, but you have no control over where those images are seen and for what purpose; no matter what he may promise you, so think about this before giving him provocative poses. I am not saying you need to be a prude about it, but you may not want your Father, Brothers, or Uncles to see them. Or perhaps even your children decades later. Nudes can be cropped to not show your identity, but again you will not have control over the images he captures.
A wig and or hair over your face in 'every shot' may help, or just not face the camera in those sort of shots. Don't ever threaten to not sign a model release, but make it clear to him if you do not want your name listed publicly. There's a good chance he will respect your wishes. You would have more difficulty trying to get him to list your name with each photo, if that's what you want, but ask for him to let you know where he is going to use them, and do periodic On-line searches for your name to see if they are used elsewhere.
I doubt there is any profession that has more flaky people than 'models', so it will be imperative you show up on time and are ready to do what expected with a smile with no flack, unless he's asking you do do more than agreed before hand. Developing a good reputation is critical if you want to succeed in this field. Many photographers would feel your attitude and reliability is even more important that how pretty you may be. With the Internet there is a lot of cross sharing of information and word will get out if you're a flake or hard to work with. He will be putting a lot of effort into getting things ready for a shoot, so you need to do what you can to be just as responsible. Bring make-up and even a friend to help apply it if you can. Be prepared to do your hair in different styles or wigs you can wear for a variety of looks to maximize the shoot outcome. Several changes of your favorite clothing is also important. He may not have outfits in your size, and you don't know who was wearing them last (ick).
Try to have fun with this. You may be fortunate enough to make some decent $ off this to pay the bills for a while, but this will be a short lived career, so you want to have good memories from this experience.