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Selfies have flooded the internet in recent years but, as a general rule, they are low quality and limited by the length of people’s arms! Using your phone is a convenient way to quickly snap a picture of yourself in a memorable location but you can get much better results if you use a professional quality DSLR camera.
How Do You Take Self Portraits with Your DSLR?
Hiring a professional photographer is expensive and the shoot will be time limited. The good news is though, that if you’re pretty handy with your camera you can set up a self portrait shoot anytime and get some top quality results without any assistance.
You can take portraits of yourself alone, with your partner, family or friends. This is a fun way to remember a special time together or it can be used to create portraits for your social media, portfolio or even your website’s About page.
Whatever you want your self portraits for though, there are a few great tips that you can use to get the outcomes you are hoping for.
Use A Good Quality DSLR and the Right Gear – Getting Started.
Although you don’t want to use your phone because the results will be pretty poor that doesn’t mean you need to spend the earth. A good, middle of the range or above, DSLR will do the trick!
What You’ll Need To Take Self Portraits with Your DSLR:
- DSLR Camera.
- Remote Trigger Device.
Once you have your kit together you’re ready to get started. You’ll need to set up your camera on the tripod and adjust the settings. You can use an object to stand in where you plan to pose so you can get the focus right. Using a remote trigger will let you get in position and then snap the shot once you’re comfortable and ready. It’s better to use a wireless device so you don’t have to worry about the cord being in the photo.
Set Your Aperture.
For a good portrait shot you’ll probably want to use an aperture between about f/2.8-4.0. If you want to create a bokeh portrait then you can drop that aperture a little to f/1.4.
The higher that you set the aperture number the deeper the depth of field will be; so if you want to include a clear background in the portrait then you want to keep the aperture number high. Alternatively, if you want a shallower depth of field then keep your aperture number low.
Remember, if you’re doing your own self portrait photoshoot you’ll have plenty of time to experiment so you can try different depths of field and see how you feel about the results!
Use the Auto Focus.
If you don’t use auto focus and rely on the manual focus you’ll find that you’re going to be running back and forth from the camera to your position. Even then, you’ll rarely get it just right and your photos can end up slightly out of focus.
Using the autofocus is the easiest way to get those crystal clear shots and will save you a great deal of time and energy during the shoot.
One situation in which you can’t get away with using the autofocus is if you are shooting in a place that has a lot of objects in the foreground with you behind them. In this case the autofocus will tend to focus on the objects in the foreground and leave you out of focus. However, most of the time using your camera’s autofocus will take the stress out of the shoot and allow you to be more creative.
Remember that if you want to adjust the autofocus you can use the manual AF selection feature on your DSLR. This allows you to select a particular point within the frame on which the autofocus will operate.
Composition Is Important.
It can be easy to over concentrate on your own pose and position in a self portrait but you don’t want to forget about your compositions. Experiment with different angles, various placements of yourself in the frame and even props in the photos. Working on the compositional side of a self portrait will bring out your creativity and help you to express your personality in the shoot. Try to think of ways that you can pose which will enhance the overall composition of the image as well rather than taking away from it. A great composition will make your portraits stand out from the standard selfie and give it a genuinely professional feel.
Don’t Fear Judgement!
You might feel a little self conscious about working on self portrait photography but in the modern era there is no need for that at all! The internet is flooded with selfies and so there’s nothing to be worried about. Plus, don’t forget, artists have been painting self portraits for hundreds of years, including Van Gogh, Picasso and Leonardo Di Vinci.
Experimenting and working on self portrait photography is a great way to improve your artistic perceptions and compositional skills while giving yourself an unlimited path of self expression. Don’t hold back, and if you want to you can dress up in costumes, wear wigs or experiment with background, scenery and props! Everything you learn through the evolution of your self portraiture can be applied to other aspects of your photography.
Avoid the Trap of Using the Same Expressions and Angles in Every Shot.
Sticking with one pose or expression will soon become boring and won’t express your real personality. Be confident and use different expressions and poses in your self portraiture photography. A good place to get some inspiration for your self portraits is to scan through some fashion magazines but you can also imitate the expressions of famous paintings, such as the Mona Lisa, or the subjects of photographers such as Annie Leibowitz.
You should also try to work with a whole range of angles. This is something to consider as part of your compositions but it also filters into the portrayal of your expression. A photo taken from below will completely change the meaning of your expression compared to a photo taken from above. Using different angles will also let you work with the lighting and create interesting shadows and contrasts on your face.
Natural or Artificial Lighting?
When you’re taking self portraits it’s almost always better to work with natural light. Artificial light can be harsh and unflattering and take away from the intimacy of a photo shoot.
If you’re shooting indoors, then try to use windows or skylights to light the shot and if you’re able to then make use of the Golden hour when the sunlight will be casting warm, mellow colors.
Sometimes, you can’t use natural light and so you’ll have to use artificial light. You can still get some great photos and in some cases, particularly for more experimental and artistic shots, it can really add that extra layer of interest that’ll make it stand out. You can try using a table lamp with colored paper over the top of it to create colored tones or a torch to cast sharp light with strong contrasts.
For more traditional style self portraits you should still try to work with natural light where possible but if you find yourself unable to then you can have some fun experimenting with artificial lighting. Natural lighting is limited by the time of day whereas your artificial lighting is always available.
Use a Tripod.
When you’re taking self portraits you should use a tripod where possible. Not only will this help to keep your camera safe and secure but it will give you more control while setting up a shot.
Use a tripod that is sturdy with telescopic legs. This will give you the most options in terms of angles, perspectives and the height at which you are shooting from. Varying the point of view from which you shoot the photo will let you be more creative and work with more compositions and poses.
What are the things you have to keep in mind as a Photographer and as a Model when you Photograph Yourself?
Self portrait photo shoots are quite different to working with a subject as the photographer. You have to take all the factors into account at once, from setting up the camera, adjusting the settings, creating the composition and posing for the photo too!
It will take some practise to get good at this unusual art form but as you develop your skills you’ll find that your visualization abilities are evolving fast! There’s a lot to juggle when you’re working on your own as the photographer and the model but it gives such a great scope for experimentation and self expression that you’ll enjoy the process as you develop your technique.
You can use your self portrait photography to improve your modelling skills as well as your portraiture techniques. Everything that you learn is highly transferable and you can use your experience in all other areas of photography – particularly in portraiture. Getting in front of the camera will make you more sensitive to the needs of your subjects in the future and leave you with a more innate understanding of posing and portrait composition.
Have you photographed yourself using a DSLR camera?
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