Wednesday, November 27, 2013

How To Take Pictures Of Yourself (Self Portraits)

An Unknown Dream - Oxnard, California
Last year I posted How To Photograph Your Family With Yourself In The Pictures. It has some useful tips if you are trying to do family portraits yourself. I realized, however, that many readers of this Blog are single and do not have a spouse and kids. They may want to create holiday cards or send portraits to family, but they don't want to hire a photographer if they can do it themselves.

I have a project (which is currently on hold) called A photographer's Journey and for this project I've created many self portraits. I have some experience with this that might be useful to you.
Captured Determination - Tehachapi, California
First, with any photograph, you need vision. You need to know exactly what you want to create before you set out to create it. You must pre-visualize the end results before opening the camera's shutter.

Second, you need a tripod. It doesn't have to be expensive, I've paid less than $30 for a sufficient one. If you don't own one, you can get away with using a flat sturdy surface.
The Forgotten - Tehachapi, California
For a studio look, such as Captured Determination above, I set up an easy bathroom "studio" by placing a solid color shirt (in this case, black) behind me and using the lights above the mirror for the lighting. Black or white shirts seem to work best (not colored and certainly not multicolored shirts), and you'll need to adjust the exposure because it will throw off the meter a little.

The camera's self-timer is a useful tool. You'll have to compose the image imagining where you'll be, set the self-timer and run. Some cameras allow you to adjust the length of the timer, which can be helpful.
Pathway To The Soul - Tehachapi, California
If you have a remote for your camera, you may find using that tool is more efficient than using the self-timer. Some cameras (such as the Samsung NX210) will allow you to control the camera through an app on your phone.

My favorite way to make self portraits is using an interval timer. Not all cameras have this mode, but if yours does I recommend using this method. The way it works is that you set the total number of exposures and the time in between exposures. You'll get a bunch of duds, but you are also more likely to capture a natural-looking photograph. 
Brownie Target Six-20 - Stallion Springs, California
Whatever you think the aperture should be, increase it by one stop so that you have a good depth-of-field. It is easy to end up with the just the wrong part of the image slightly out of focus. Don't be afraid to manually focus.

If it's a low-light situation, ensure that the aperture and ISO will allow for a shutter speed that is fast enough that you won't be blurred. That is, unless you want to be blurred.
Staying Focused - Tehachapi, California
There is no one that says a self portrait must be a certain way. You can make a self portrait look any way you want. Be creative! Do something completely different. Don't be afraid to try something unusual. Don't be afraid to experiment.

One thing you might find fun to try is multiple exposures. Some cameras (such as the Pentax K-30) will allow you to do this in-camera, no additional software required. If your camera doesn't have this feature, it is not too difficult to do in post-processing using layers.
Me Two - Stallion Springs, California
One thing is for sure with self portraits and that is you'll have a lot of exposures that just aren't good. It takes time and practice. It takes trial and error. Keep at it and try not to get frustrated. You'll eventually get that photograph you're hoping for.

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