You don’t always need a snazzy expensive camera to take a good self portrait. The wonderful women of They Be We used all sorts of different cameras to take their pictures. Some took them with point and shoots, some took them with scanners, and some painted images of themselves then took pictures of those. It’s all in the eye of the beholder. Here are some examples of self portraits that I have taken recently and descriptions for each.
1. Think Outside Of The Box:
This image was taken in my bathtub with nothing more than a inexpensive GE point and shoot camera. I changed the setting to portrait, lit a bunch of candles around the bathtub, added the flowers and jumped in. Keeping one hand out of the water I arranged the flowers around my face and hair and got myself ready to go under. I quickly went under, breathed out of my nose and took the picture. This took a few rounds and afterward I looked like a drowned rat but it was all worth it. After I loaded the images onto the computer and cropped the image to the desired composition. Be creative with your images. Play with angles and try a few different shots. You can always go back and edit.
2. Making Eye Contact:
Playing with eye contact is a great way to improve your self portrait skills. If looking head on look straight at the camera, this establishes a feeling of intimacy between you and those viewing the portrait. Just make sure to relax your face. We don’t want any deer caught in headlight shots or if you are smiling the blank eyed Stepford wife look.
When taking my Lilith inspired photos I wanted to establish a relationship with the viewer, as if I were looking through them. I set the camera up aproximately 3 feet off the ground on a stool and set the timer. Out of the twenty or so portraits this was the one I was looking for. This portrait was taken with an Olympus FE20. The setting was set to portrait and I turned off the flash.
You can also play with the eye contact. Take a few shots in the same pose and look in different directions. By giving myself a a focal point outside of the frame I created a second point of interest and a sense of the shot being a candid moment being captured. A focal point off camera also can create a sense of emotion. What is making her act/look this way? This was taken at self portrait setting on the Olympus with the flash on.
3. Find Your Composition:
Play with your composition, move around and play. My camera gives me 10 seconds to wiggle, squirm. and play with props. Don’t worry about getting it perfect, when you load your images onto your computer you can always crop them to the desired composition.
I like to move around in my photos. If you are good with your hands make strange shapes with them, let them tell the story. You can also introduce props to make the composition more interesting, just make sure they are not getting in the way of your subject matter, YOU!
Try different angles. If you have a tripod or a sturdy place to place your camera you can get all sorts of great compositions. I’ll stress it again, take as many shots as you can. The more you have to work with the better.
Try some full body shots as well. If you find an interesting location it can set the mood for a great photo.
4. Play With Lighting:
This shot was taken in a very dark room with only one light on me. I placed books on top of a stool and set the timer. You can angle the light in different ways to create shadow shapes on the face. Also try taking pictures near venetian blinds letting the light create stripes across the face and body. Usually early morning light and evening light work best for portraits. The light tends to be warmer at these times and more flattering to actual skin tones.
5. Find angles that flatter your features:
I look terrible in profile shots. My chin looks flat, my cheeks are round, and my nose looks like a little onion bulb at the end unless I tilt my head slightly to the side and raise my chin up elongating my neck. So then I still have a partial profile but I’m also focusing on the most flattering parts of my features. Some people look best with the camera pointing down at them and others do well the the camera slightly below (always lift your chin for these shots as you do not want the dreaded double chin.)
The best way to take a good self portrait is to take as many photos as possible and delete the one’s you don’t like. Don’t have a camera? Use your computers camera to experiment and start there. If anything it will just spark up your creative juices. And that’s not a bad thing at all now is it?
Also start teaching yourself a little bit about the photo programs on your computer. Knowing how to even out skin tones, covering blemishes, and playing with color balances can really turn a generic picture into an outstanding one.