Given that I am the unsung queen of the arm-length photo, it is owed to the general public that I should post some tips on how to take one. Firstly, it is good to define this phenomenon and discuss the benefits of taking arm length photos.
By definition, an armlength photo is a self-portrait taken using a digital or film camera, which implies that one of the subjects of the photographs is also shooting the picture. Excluded from this definition is the use of digital self-timers. Given the nature of the photograph, the photo is taken using an outstretched hand and a wrist turning the camera to point to the centre of the preferred composition. Like any other normal picture, it may or may not include up to three other human beings, general scenery, animals or important landmarks.
"Tracy, where did you get that nice camera?"
"Ooh it's a great story - I was walking by the seaside when this nice Asian couple handed me this camera and said "Take it! Take it! So I did."
(Tracy - Malibu CA, NBC)
Personally, I'm not so fond of handing my camera over to strangers. Besides the security issue, strangers have the awful habit of drowning the image with scenery, when all you really want is a suitable MSN Display pic. Finally, in the absence of other human beings, noders or monkeys you will actually be able to be in the pic. However, the obvious drawback is that the proximity of the shot is limited to your arm's length. Hence, if your arms are one metre long, the distance between your camera lens and your face will be approximately one metre.
How to take a good armlength photo.
The inclusion of the word "good" is far from accidental. We're not going for cropped faces or unusual head extrusions and abutments. For example, if you are taking a photo beneath a Madonna statue, it is not a good idea to stand aligned directly in front of it. You should first practice taking self-portaits where it does not really matter which part of the scenery is included. After setting "distance" to 1-3 m for better focus this can prove to be a fairly easy shot since all you have to do is stretch your arm out with a slightly bent elbow and make sure that the camera lens is pointing directly to your face. Most cameras have a limit as to how close you can get to your subject and still have a focused photo so it might serve useful to experiment with your camera's macro settings. You can always crop the photos later to feature just the piece you want. From this point you can then choose to pan or rotate the camera ever so slightly so that your face is not so central. Remember, photos from slightly above tend to be far more flattering.
When taking pictures with one or more of your friends, make sure you are standing at one end or the other. In most cameras, the shutter release button is found on the right hand side. It is therefore more comfortable to stand on the leftmost side of the group and outstretch your left arm. Inevitably, you will almost always end up on the right side of the photograph. The left side is not impossible. Just flip you camera upside down, outstretch your right arm and press the shutter release button using your thumb. Remember to bend your arm slightly using your elbow or your photo will include an unattractive shot of your arm... your downy hair will look like a gorilla mane. Also, watch out if you are wearing a sleeveless top and you have not shaved your pit, ladies.
You can then move on to circular photos from beneath where you and five other friends stand in a circular head lice position and hold the camera pointing upwards in your midst. You can also try the 'from above' variation. Thus, equipped with common sense, willing friends and some practice, you too can master the armlength photo - but beware, even armlength photo masters of the kissing photo get asked whether they would like their photo taken by a third. Trust me - out of the two, your armlength photo will always be your favourite.