Getting Started With Self-Portraits

Getting Started With Self-Portraits

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Self-portraits. I could say SO MUCH about this topic. But for the purposes of this article, I’ll try and keep it short and sweet on how to get started taking them. There are many ways to go about taking self-portraits and mine is not the only way. But this is how I do it, so here goes.

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What you’ll need (aside from your camera and yourself)
1) Tripod
2) Interval timer shutter release (set to trigger the shutter every 3 seconds after I start it, and will stop after 30)
3) One window or light source
4) Music
5) Black sheet for backdrop (optional – a blank wall works too)
6) Optional fan

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There are two spots in my house and my garage that I use. The indoor spots are near a window. For the garage shots, my garage door is open and I place a white sheet across the opening to defuse the light, with a black sheet as the backdrop. The lighting I like best is using only ONE light source, coming from the side. All other light sources I turn off or block closed. 

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After setting up the tripod, connecting the interval timer, and setting the scene, I turn on the music, set my camera to auto focus and start the interval timer. I take a few shots this way and then check the image to see if it’s getting focus where I want it, adjust or change the focus point, and take some more. I have a general idea where I need to be in relation to where I set the focus point, so if my focus is off I’ll just move myself closer to that point. 

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Now here’s the part of self-portraits where I pretty much make a fool of myself in front of the camera. I dance. I sway. I twirl. I toss my head around. I do hair flips. I just move. And it’s so awesome because no one is watching. And I feel free. Yeah, it feels awkward. It feels weird. It feels narcissistic. But in the process I learn. I learn what it feels like in my head when I try certain poses or looks that I’ve tried to get clients to do for me. I learn what happens when I really let go of all the rules of photography and just try what it would look like if I set my shutter to 1/125 in low light. Some of my favorite images have been created through this process. 

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So I’ve shared some of the how. But I’d like to end with a few of the whys. 

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We are photographers. We value people being photographed. Everyone is deserving of being photographed and existing in photographs. All too often though we believe this about everyone except for ourselves. Let’s practice what we preach, while also learning the valuable lesson about what it actually feels like to place ourselves in front of the camera like our clients do for us. 

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Okay, I’ll get off my soap box now. Feel free to comment and ask any questions you may have! I’m an open book. 

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Teresa Vick
WEBSITE - INSTAGRAM
8 comments
  • This is such a great article Teresa! So informative, and these images are GORGEOUS.

  • Andrea Roth Meisgeier October 29, 2016 at 6:39 pm

    Love this. Can’t wait to give it a try. Do you shoot wide open? Or stopped down to better ensure focus? When I’ve attempted self portraits I struggle with focus. Thank you!

    • Hey Andrea! My sweet spot with aperature is 2-2.5. Most of the time it is at 2. I am generally able to get the focus where I want it using f2. For the kind of self-portraits I do, it’a not imperative that I get focus sharp right on a particular point. I do lots of movement in dresses so most of the time I’m fine where it catches focus. I also set my focus point so that I know exactly where to be. I’ve also heard of people focusing on an object first and then moving it and stepping into the shot in that spot before you take the shot.

  • Your photos are beautiful art. I’ve been following you on Instagram. I regret not having more photos of myself with my kids who are now grown. My camera was on them their whole life. Thanks for the inspiration I’d like to try this out not only to have some photos of myself but I feel like it will help me become a better photographer.

    What kind of interval remote timer do you use?

    • Hey Christy! I am so happy to hear this! You will not regret it. It’s weird in the beginning but it gets easier with practice. I use the Polaroid PLRTC18 shutter release remote timer. It is corded. You can find it on amazon for around $30. Good luck!

  • Thank you! You are amazing! Going to be trying this out myself now!

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