Shoot Yourself: A Guide to Self-Portraiture

Taking a portrait of yourself can be a challenge because it is hard to be both photographer and subject. You do not really know how you will look through the lens until the camera has captured the image. Running back and forth adjusting your camera timer, the camera settings, the camera angle, and so on can be quite draining. Focusing might also be hit and miss because you, the point of focus, might be moving a lot to check if all is in order with the background, the camera, your clothes and the light.

However, once you get the hang of self-portraiture, you will find it can have many benefits. One would be that you will have a very willing subject who is open to all the ideas the photographer can think of. The subject can do the craziest, silliest poses and feel totally at ease in the shoot knowing that the ugly shots can be deleted without anyone else the wiser. Your subject will pose for free, and will pose for as long as it takes to nail the perfect shot.

Another advantage of taking photos of yourself is you will find it easier to direct other subjects in your shoots. By having undergone the process yourself, you can better explain how you want the models to pose to get the intended effect.

It is very easy for a self-portrait to come out looking like a snapshot if you're not careful. Taking a photo of yourself can be as easy as pointing the camera towards you at arms' length and pressing the shutter release button. Pictures taken like this can be found all over online social networks. Thousands of avatars show the person in this fashion. Although it is convenient and does show what the person looks like, it usually has very little artistic merit or any semblance of uniqueness.

Your objective is to present yourself to the viewer in a creative way, where all the elements of composition interact to show facets of your character. Everything is carefully considered, from the light falling on you to the colors (or lack of) that can portray a certain mood. A self-portrait does not necessarily mean taking a photo of your face. It can be other body parts; your hands, the slope of your shoulder, your back, etc. The advantage of the face is that it is much easier to express emotions with the viewer. The fun challenge is showing your personality or emotion using your other body parts.

The common equipment used in self-portraits:

Tripod – this leaves your hands free as you perfect your setup and position in the scene. It can save you lots of time getting the camera angle and focus just right since you will not be behind the lens to make quick adjustments.

Remote control – this is great if you want to avoid working up a sweat by having to run back and forth from your spot in the frame to the camera in order to press the shutter release button. Some cameras do not have the option for remote control use, while others are capable of wired or wireless remotes.

Lights – your choice of lighting can have great impact on the shot. Studio lights, natural light, flashlights, candles, bonfires, lamplight, and other light sources can help express your personality to the viewer. Harsh lighting can add drama to your features while diffused lighting can bring the impression of softness. Experiment with the location of your light source. Side lighting brings out textures such as the fine hairs and wrinkles of your skin. Backlighting can silhouette your body, emphasizing its shapes and curves. You can even use the light source as a prop in your composition. Make your personality shine through your shot with creative lighting methods.

Mirror – if you want to see what the camera sees while you are in the frame perfecting your composition, then strategically place a mirror in front of the camera's LCD display and in your line of sight. Of course, this will only work if you are close enough to see the reflection.

Most people get bogged down with thinking of ideas for their self-portrait. Here are some ideas that may help inspire you:

• You can start by focusing on a prominent feature. It can be your big nose, your extra long eyelashes, or your slender hands. You can entice the viewer to look at certain features with the use of perspective, or you can play it down with muted lighting.

• Another idea is to exaggerate emotions. By using facial or body expressions, and complementing with composition and setup, you can convey powerful emotions that can reach out and grab the viewer's attention.

• Think of your hobbies and interests or your pet peeves and phobias, and then try to present them in a photograph that includes you as the subject. Props are usually used in cases like these.

• You can tell your story based on the elements you include in the composition. Even something as simple as your choice of clothes can give the viewer an inkling of your personality.

• Use your surroundings, either interact with it or deliberately ignore it to convey a message.

Shooting self-portraits might initially be difficult but you will soon learn how to compose yourself in a shot, how to shave off time in setting up with the use of little equipment, and how to share your artistic vision of yourself.

This entry was posted on Sunday, July 18th, 2010 at 11:00 am and is filed under Articles, Photography Tips, Portrait Photography. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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