How I Took Self Portraits Without Hating Them
I finally did it.
I have finally faced a huge fear of mine. I managed to take self-portraits of myself without hating the results. In fact, I love the self-portraits I took all by myself.
TLDR; scroll to the bottom for photos.
Taking photos of yourself can be a little daunting, especially if you do not see yourself as the bold model type. However, I decided it was time to get over that and make it happen.
This year, I decided that I wanted to take a summer vacation. I am a big advocate of maintaining mental health and self-care, so I figured some place that would bring light and happiness to my mind would be necessary criteria for finding a place to vacation in. More than vacation, I needed a place to spark my creativity so that I could get out of my personal funk. In a nutshell, I felt that because of personal things going on in my life, I was not creating things that brought me happiness and satisfaction. To remedy that, I felt taking self-portraits would challenge me to break the mold of my usual content. I also felt that taking on a project like this would be the first step to literally working on me and only me for a change.
If you read below, I have listed the equipment I used to complete this project.
Canon 16-35 III f/2.8 (connection made possible by Metabones Adapter IV)
Vanguard Alta Pro 263 AT Aluminum Tripod
My iPhone 7
The Playmemories iPhone app (available in the iOS App Store)
To be honest, there are many alternatives to this list. As long as you have a camera, the proper lens, a tripod, and some type of wireless remote, you are just as capable of taking self-portraits.
I came up with an idea.
You thought taking pictures of yourself was already hard enough, try doing it when you do not have an idea. Looking for inspiration can come from various sources such as books, television, music, and just about any corner of life you can imagine. Please be present and be aware of the content you consume every day. It has more value to you than passing time and filling the void you call boredom. It may help you take photos of yourself.
To come up with an idea for this project, I made my idea a goal. With any idea that you want to bring to life, it must become a goal with measurable qualities. For example, I wanted to take environmental portraits. By being specific, my idea became stronger by limiting all the possibilities to what kind of portrait these images could be. In some images, I wanted the setting to be an empty beach, and others to be interesting architecture in Downtown LA. In terms of selecting clothes, this was easy for me because I am big into simplicity. My color scheme would be black and whatever color shirt I brought in my luggage. In terms of editing, I wanted to leave room to add something interesting such as adding clones of myself or taking part in the collage trend happening on social media.
Now that my idea has measurable qualities, I have made it easier to execute.
I searched for a location.
Strategically selecting a location is crucial to my workflow because I want to maximize my time and energy. Because I specifically wanted to take environmental portraits, I needed to find a place that would add the proper visual elements as well as context to my image. As covered in Step 1, I wanted to find locations such as private beaches and interesting architecture in Downtown LA. However, several problems presented themselves.
My biggest problem is that I am not from Southern California. I do not know where to find these locations and how to get to them off the top of my head.
The simple solutions consist of a simple Google search and some quality time spent on Google Maps. Because I made my idea a goal with measurable qualities, I have made my Google search a lot easier. As for Google Maps, I recommend using it on the computer for this step, you will have more functionality and less frustration.
Using a simple Google search, I found El Matador Beach in Malibu and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Because I have never been to either of these places before, I needed a way to get a closer look at these places without physically going to these places. Why? To get anywhere in California, I am just convinced one cannot do it without traffic. To avoid wasting time, money, and resources, using Google Maps Street View helps drastically! I used this tool to further explore the location and have a better idea of what shots are attainable. With Google Maps Street View, I have the ability to virtually advance up and down the street, swivel 360 degrees, and ultimately plan all aspects of my self-portrait shoot. This is so much better than just Googling photos of these places because I am given a chance to see what the location looks like on an average day.
3. I researched where the sun was going to be and at what time.
Not many people do this, however, I found that it was very helpful in determining how the sun was going to hit me. Without this information, I could be going to my location at a time where the sun is blocked by a taller building. There are many resources to doing this, but I purchased an app called Sun Seeker. If you type in an address on Sun Seeker, it will give you detailed information on when and where the sun will be in the sky.
4. I executed.
With my idea and my location planned out, all that there is left to do is executing the plan.
I got my tripod set up in a desirable location with my camera adjusted to the proper settings.
I have connected my iPhone to my camera via wifi using my Playmemories app. With this, I can see myself and how I look.
I began to shoot.
I have done all my homework and I have all the tools to help me achieve success in this project, yet another problem presents itself. This problem is something that no tool can fix. I am picky. I am by no means a professional model, and being comfortable with my poses took some time.
Because I am my own worst critic, these different shoots took lots of time. I easily took 600 photos altogether. This is the part where it is hard. You can plan and plan as much as you would like, and it could still not turn out the way you want it. But that is how you learn and improve your images. You can change any of the steps to best fit the look you would like to achieve. Your execution gets better with more execution. Overall, my biggest lesson in this self-portrait session is patience, planning, and organization yields excellent results.
Check the finished products below!