It’s been awhile. This is usually how all my blogs start off. It’s my routine, I’m consistent and then fall off the face of the world. I’ve been working on this blogpost for awhile and I can’t seem to say exactly what I want. I originally wanted to talk about my personal growth in self portraits. I didn’t feel a connection or shred of excitement, maybe at first. After braving my wilderness and going live on Instagram awhile back, I thought, “TIPS FOR SELF PORTRAITS!”. I had so many viewers ask questions on the topic. So here we are! Im here to give some background on my personal experience with self portraits.
Self portraits have always been part of my creative work. In the beginning I was so focused on becoming a portrait photographer. It was something I imagined that I could turn into a career and everything. During this time I was working as an assistant photographer for fellow portrait photographer. That experience opened my eyes to the reality of portrait work. Looking in, it seemed like such a hassle, I knew it wasn’t going to work for me. You’re probably thinking, “Well how do you know? You didn’t even try?”. You’re right, I didn’t try. It was something I just knew in my gut. My interest in photography didn’t fade, I adjusted my focus. Landscape photography. Five years later and here we are.
During those five years I never ditched the idea of portrait work. I remolded the idea to best align with me. Self portraits. I can’t tell you how many terrible photos I have of myself from all the past portraits I’ve taken. Each one of those terrible portraits were stepping stones to a greater understanding and growth to my portrait work. I want to share the things I’ve learned along the way with you. Let’s get started.
Probably the biggest one. I’ve been photographing myself for about five years and most of my early work isn’t pretty. You have to start somewhere in order to grow. This takes so much patience, growth takes time. When you find yourself frustrated for not achieving your vision, stop. Come back to it later or change the idea. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been so frustrated because I thought I’d just get the shot. It took many tries to understand my vision, my body, and my equipment. So try not to be hard on yourself.
2.) PLAN AHEAD
This took me awhile to get a hold of. I thought if I just turned on my camera and “dressed up”, I could do anything. Yeah maybe it would work but not all the time. Plan ahead. Sit with yourself and plan your shoot. Research and study different portrait poses. Think about the lighting, the tones, the mood, the wardrobe. What will your background be? Is the shoot indoors or outdoors? If it’s outdoors, what will the weather be like? Outdoor shoots are tricky sometimes, because the lighting is constantly changing. The lighting is more likely to be controlled indoors. Treat the shoot like you’re working with a client. If you’re shooting indoors put together your background before hand and then get ready. If you start constructing a background at the last minute moments before you start shooting you’re gunna be looking hot and sweaty. You don’t want that. Plus you’re wasting energy that could improve your photos. So plan ahead, once you’re in front of the camera it can feel like your brain is scattered. Take a deep breath and just have fun.
3.) KNOW YOURSELF
Once you start to photograph yourself more, you’ll begin to recognize what works best for you. You will begin to see how your body moves and which facial expressions are best for you. Self portrait work has completely transformed how I view myself. In the beginning I used to be so hard on myself. As I continued my grip loosened and I began to see a different side of myself that was full of confidence. As I mentioned before, study different poses. Look through a magazine and see how others pose. Try it, you may surprise yourself. Stepping out of comfort zones is the key to growth.
I dislike talking about equipment because it’s really not that important, especially in this case. If you’re reading this blogpost on your phone, you have a camera. Self portraits do not require a professional camera. There are also tools that can make your self portraits easier to capture. A tripod. Tripods come in all sizes, you don’t need a fancy one. If you’re using your phone and don’t have a tripod, use a stool and stack together some books. Get creative. The greatest tool to have when taking a self portrait is probably a shutter release remote. This will save you some energy from running back and forth to your camera. They do have shutter release remotes for iPhones as well.
Another thing. If your camera has WiFi or Bluetooth you can connect your iPhone or iPad to your camera and use that as your remote. The great thing about this is that you see a live view from your camera. This makes things so much easier, but it can also distract. Play around with it and decide what works best for you.
When I first began shooting self portraits I started with a blank white wall as my background. It was clean and easy to work with, it gave me more room to focus on my facial expressions and body poses. I kept my wardrobe as minimal as possible. This helped to keep me focus on my ideas and was easier to capture. I started doing this so often I noticed all my images started blending together. I got comfortable. The moment I started to step out of my comfort zone was when the magic happened. I started adding props, changing my wardrobe. Experimenting with the mood. Taking the shoot outdoors. Experimenting allowed the creativity to flow. You don’t always have to post your experimental work, keep it for yourself as a reminder of growth.
The idea behind this blogpost is to inspire. A reminder to play. To get to know yourself better and feel the power of your creativity. Have fun and expand beyond these 5 tips I’ve given you.