Selfies. We all do it. We all equally love them and hate them. And usually the question is why? Just in case you are unfamiliar with the term ‘selfie,’ the Urban Dictionary describes this term best:
“A picture taken of yourself that is planned to be uploaded to Facebook, Myspace or any other sort of social networking website. You can usually see the person’s arm holding out the camera in which case you can clearly tell that this person does not have any friends to take pictures of them so they resort to Myspace to find internet friends and post pictures of themselves, taken by themselves. A selfie is usually accompanied by a kissy face or the individual looking in a direction that is not towards the camera.”
“A strange phenomenon in which the photographer is also the subject of the photograph, in a subversive twist on the traditional understanding of the photograph. Usually conducted because the subject cannot locate a suitable photographer to take the photo, like a friend.”
A great majority of bloggers do their best to keep up with current pictures, About Me pages, and buttons. This is where the dreaded self pictures come in. Some bloggers are lucky enough to have great photographer friends and loved ones who would be more than happy to snap a few pics to keep profiles current. Some of us are not. I do love my husband so, but he’s not really into photography. At all. He fully supports me in my endeavors, and loves to pick a few of his favorite photographs, but when I ask him to take a picture of me by myself, with friends, or of the two of us, his eyes glaze over. He also HATES having his picture taken. It takes quite some time to get a normal picture of him. He’s resorted to using funny faces as his way of rebellion against me taking his photograph. Sigh. This brings me to my point. I have absolutely no one that will try to take semi-serious photos of me to throw up on my blog. I also have no one to take pictures of to cure my photography bug.
So…I have resorted to selfies. The first time I did a planned shoot with my 5D just to experiment with the lighting and my new 50mm, I was blown by how some of the pictures actually worked (pictures here)! I learned a long time ago that an arm-extended selfie just doesn’t work as any sort of social media profile pic, or (heavens) blog material. I am however guilty with taking one or two on a weekly basis just for my own personal delight (and my husbands as I reach across his face to try to get a good date ‘couple’ picture with him). There are nothing wrong with selfies. I am writing you today to let you know that there is a way to take self portraits and make them look like professional pictures, because really, that’s what we want anyway.
Unfortunately the process is a little bit more difficult than just point and shoot. You’ll need a tripod, an external remote (if you don’t have money in your budget to buy one for 10-20 dollars or so, the self-timer feature on your camera works just fine), and a manual focus setting on your camera. It’s also important to find a place with natural lighting. I know some photographers do wonders with flash-photography, but I tend to steer away from that. Could be because I have yet to get a flash kit for my 5D (I’ve gone six months without one), I don’t know. ;)
My first ever self shoots were with my husband for Christmas. We headed out with my old Canon Rebel Xsi, my new tripod, and smiles on our faces to do our session in the cold weather. We also did some indoor shots. One of the biggest-must do’s is to make sure lighting is good. If you’re taking photos outside, I wouldn’t recommend doing it mid-day on a sunny afternoon. Take your pictures in the morning before the sun is too bright, or late afternoon (ehem…golden hour!). Cloudy days strangely have given me some of my FAVORITE photos.
Having a partner-in-crime is also nice, because you now have a specific focal point for your camera’s lens instead of just judging the distance with thin air. One of the things I loved about my Rebel was that I could set a self timer to take a progression of 10 photos in a row. I could also change the timing between the photos, so that we would have time to switch poses and expressions. Unfortunately the 5D doesn’t have that, so I was forced to buy the external remote.
Self vs. the camera selfies are quite different than when you have a partner. I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know my camera on the opposite side of the lens, and I’m excited to share with you today how you can get to know yours in the same way. Please be prepared to have a ton of patience during your shoot. I would suggest doing it on a lazy saturday afternoon, or sometime when you feel fully relaxed. Just remember your photos will directly reflect the way you feel. If you’re stressed, strained, tired, and frustrated, you better believe your photos will come out looking that way too. Unless you’re some sort of photogenic superhuman, but let’s face it, 99.9% of people are not.
Minimal is key when it comes to wardrobe. Wait…no I’m not telling you to strip down, I’m telling you to keep it simple. Stay away from loud prints, excess jewelry, and twenty different accessory options. You don’t want what you wear to be a distraction from the overall photo, unless you’re running a fashion blog, then maybe you do. I would also say go easy on the makeup, but coming from a theatric background (yes, I have one of my degrees in musical theatre) I’d have to say it depends on what result you want from your photographs. Do you want a more dramatic, sultry, sexy feel? Then yes…bring out the lipstick and eyeliner. Do you want to have a natural, clean, fresh feel? Put that lipstick and eyeliner away and bring out the lipgloss and mascara.
I have already mentioned this, but try to use natural lighting. Some photos just come out looking over-exposed, and strangely colored when florescent lights are in the picture. Open the windows, go outside, watch the time of day. I like to do my self shoots in the late morning. I have great soft light filtering in the only two windows I have in my ever-so-lovely apartment.
Take lots of test photos. To get your focus just right, it’s going to take a while. Set up your tripod facing a non-distracting, neutral color wall or scene, and set it far enough away that you have plenty of moving room. I set place markers on the floor to figure out areas I’ve already stood in that were blurry (when trying to find the correct focus), or the spots that had perfect focus. I’m sure it’s a hilarious sight to see…a girl adjusting her camera, taking a photo, checking the photo, adjusting some more, and then taking another photo. Yay. It takes me about 10 minutes to figure out where I need to stand to get sharp, well-focused photos. I then start snapping away using my external remote. I’ll change my location and focus at least 4-5 times.
Don’t be afraid of the camera. Some of the best shots I’ve taken have been mere inches/feet away from the lens. Just remember, you are beautiful, so don’t hid your face! Don’t hide your eyes. I shoot my portraits in a 50mm f1.4, and sometimes it’s not very forgiving. Don’t get discouraged…keep clicking away! It can take 5-15 shots before you take one you really like! That reminds me…don’t delete your pictures on the camera until AFTER you’ve checked them out on a big screen. I’ve deleted too many great photos this way. Save yourself the regret!
Once your pictures are loaded, please. please. please. Don’t go overboard on the editing. I have made the mistake of doing this in the past, and I often cringe at old photographs. A little shadow bump here, a color adjustment there, and an small exposure adjustment will do wonders. You don’t need to photoshop extremely white teeth, a completely wrinkle free complexion, or over-saturated eyes. It’s completely apparent when you do this, and it can ruin the photo 100%.
Last tip of the day: If you fail, try again. Any photographer will tell you, the key to taking good pictures is to get out there and keep taking them. Same with selfies! If your last shoot didn’t go the way you wanted, evaluate it and figure out why. Try again with what you learned from your last shoot. I promise you’ll have professional looking self portrait photos in no time.
And now for my newest shoot:
First of all, check out my bad focus fails vs good focus wins.
And now you know I’m a real human that makes photography mistakes, here are the rest of the photos.