Wednesday, May 4, 2011

How-To: Taking a Self-Portrait

Very much like taking an outfit snap, you have a lot of options in shooting a self-portrait. I'm going to focus on one particular style, as shown above.

For this particular How-to, you will need the following:
  1. Your camera
  2. A tripod or stable surface on which to rest your camera
  3. A stand in (to focus on) or a remote release
Let's begin!

One: Get ready, get set!
Much like in the outfit snap, your first step is to prepare your space, your camera and yourself. Do your makeup, primp your hair, put on your outfit, and (perhaps most importantly) clean your area. Once you're picture perfect, you're ready to move on to the actual photography portion of this How-to.

Make sure that you have your lighting ready to go, and your camera set with the proper ISO, white balance, and resolution (check your camera manual for specifics pertaining to your model). Now, you just need to choose your angle and set up the camera. These are all up to your personal preference, but portraits work really nicely if the camera is about eye level, or slightly higher. It makes the photo a bit more personal.

For all portraits, try to avoid lighting directly from above, as it can really make for unflattering shadows on the face. It can make noses and eyebrow bones more prominent and give a false double chin to even slender models.

Position your light from the front and slightly to the side for this particular portrait.You can position it slightly above if you would like, but don't place the light source too high. Personally, I like to set up near a window, and have the curtains and blinds open wide to let in the sun!

You can also use a drop cloth as a background or choose a cute setting to really show off your personality. The main idea of a self-portrait is to show people how you view at yourself, so go crazy! Use props and try to have fun with the photos.

Tip: If you're only shooting from about the bust on up, place a reflector or white handkerchief in your lap or slightly to one side of your thigh to fill in shadows cast by your chin and nose.

Remotes are handy for self-shot images.
Two: Get a dummy to fill in or use a remote control.
While you don't literally need a mannequin to fill in for you, having an object that is similar in height to you to have as a stand-in really is a good idea. It lets you set the focus and do a test shot to see how your scene is going to work in terms of lighting and depth of field. It also can give you a general idea of metering, if you're working in manual mode.

If you have a remote, you can skip having a dummy fill in and let the camera auto-focus on you, then hide it in the image in a pocket or by tossing it out of view. 

Without the use of a remote, if you can set your camera's focus manually, do so, and leave it as is to take out your dummy and put yourself in the shot. You'll be a little more relaxed if you're able to use this method, since you won't have to check the focus every time once you have it properly set.

If you can't change your camera's focus manually, leave the dummy in place, set your timer, click and then jump in. It takes some practice and trial and error, but you can get a pretty good photo of yourself using a stand-in to establish the focus.

Three: Check your work.
I distinguish a self-portrait as different from an outfit snap specifically because it's less rushed.

This means: take your time and get things perfect!

Generally, an outfit snap is something you take right before you leave the house, so you're usually in a bit of a rush. With a self-portrait, the final, overall product being as polished as you can get it is your goal, so take your time. Check over your settings and the photos produced. An outfit snap is technically a type of self-portrait, but because the emphasis is on the outfit and is usually just a "quick shot" of what you wore, it's a bit different in execution.

When you're both the photographer and model, it can be difficult to tell where you are in the frame, and how the photos are coming out. Because this is the case, you should check the photos you take of yourself on the camera's play/view mode, to make sure that the lighting interacts well with your features, and that your exposure is properly set for the image. Adjust either as necessary, and take as many photos as you have to. Be sure to zoom in on the view screen to be sure your focus looks good, too.

If you're able to do so without disrupting your setting too severely, take a few test shots and transfer them to your computer for closer viewing. Look over the details, and make sure that everything is as you want it to be. Should they prove to be no good (I frequently end up with photos that look great on the camera, but will have wonky focus when viewed full size), go ahead and change whatever settings you need to, and try again. This process really is about persistence, and trying over and over until you get it right.

The beautiful thing about digital cameras is that you can always delete the bad pictures and take more.

Four: Post-processing really does matter.
Now, I'm a fan of making sure you get the shot you want straight out of the cameras but sometimes you have to do a bit of extra work to make sure the photo is perfect. Increasing contrast, smoothing blemishes and fixing up the lighting occasionally are adjustments you'll have to make.

How you handle these changes is really up to you. Just like how portraits are very personal, so are editing techniques. I'm personally a big fan of masking layers for subtle dodging and burning to correct lighting, remove wrinkles or add in extra lashes, and have also been known to use the healing tools to correct minor blemishes. What you decide to add or subtract from your photos is up to you!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...