Adobe Lightroom

6 Tips for Beginners Learning Photography

6 Tips for Beginners Learning Photography

Photography can be a very rewarding experience for many photographers. Not only do photographers create a permanent archive of memories, but the validation and criticism received when sharing your work – be it with friends and family or exhibiting in a gallery – can generate an amazing feeling and confidence within that photographer. While technology is making it easier and easier to “take” a good picture, many things are necessary in order to improve and “make” an extraordinary photograph.

Photo in my 2nd year of shooting.

Bern, Switzerland

 

In 2011, I started NYC Digital Photography Workshops, which has now collectively grown to over 5,000 members. Working alongside some of our world class instructors over these last six years, I’ve helped generate a terrific program, especially for beginners on how to best learn photography and have consistently seen positive results. Below are 12 tips for beginners on how to best learn photography.

 

DECIDE ON A WORKFLOW FIRST

I wanted to start with workflow first as not having one from the beginning was a personal mistake I made that resulted in over 30,000 images years later and not knowing where and how to start with organization. If you sit down, think about and create a good workflow from the beginning, you can avoid feeling like you will never be caught up because you keep changing your mind on how you want process your images from set up to sharing with the world.

I use Adobe Lightroom for the post-processing part of my workflow.

 

General Camera Setup

Since this article is primarily for beginners, it’s important to set up your camera’s general settings from the start and to know what will change from scenario to scenario. Some of the features you’ll want to consider setting up from Day One are:

 

  1. Your playback options of what is displayed on images upon playback such as highlights, RGB histogram and shooting data.

Info I’ve chosen to be shown on upon playback.

 

2. On your shooting menu, things such as file naming, card slot rules (if you have two card slots in your camera, what role each card slot will play), image quality (jpeg vs. RAW) and color space (sRGB or Adobe RGB). It’s extremely important for the sake of post-processing your images that you set your camera to record images in RAW format as this format will gather and record the most data. If you want to be able to instantly share your images, set your camera to RAW and JPEG together, but don’t just shoot JPEG as you will severely limit your editing options.

Shooting in RAW is extremely important for post-processing purposes.

 

3. On the video shooting menu (if you have this), you’ll want to set up your file naming convention, the destination where videos will go should you have more than one memory card slot, frame size/frame rate, movie quality, microphone sensitivity and wind noise reduction.

 

4. Under your custom menu, you might want to set up your general autofocus settings, metering and exposure settings such as ISO sensitivity, step value and EV steps, whether the camera beeps upon shooting (this can be helpful when shooting subjects in studio), continuous mode frames per second, whether or not you want to have a grid display in your viewfinder to help guide your composition and functions of the buttons on your camera. You can customize what the buttons on your camera do as you may find you use certain functions more than others and you’ll want to be able to adjust those quickly and easily, therefore, assigning those functions to buttons that are more easily accessible.

 

5. Under your setup menu, you may want to set up the color balance of your LCD monitor, your monitor brightness, the timezone and date/time, language, auto-rotation of images and customize your image copyright information.

 

How You’ll Backup

There are many ways you can backup your images as you create them with some ways being temporarily convenient while others are much more reliable in the long run.

Example backup sources (clockwise from top left): Dropbox (cloud), flash drive, desktop external

hard drive, memory card and portable hard drive.

Images courtesy of Adorama

 

Memory Cards. A CompactFlash or SD card will be your first method of backup as you are initially shooting your images (unless you are tethering to a computer or laptop…) This isn’t a reliable way to permanently store your images as they become full quickly, can be a bit pricey and offer no way to organize your images. Since you will need these regardless, I do not recommend using only one large capacity memory card when you shoot as should that one large capacity memory card become damaged, you will lose all of your images. Instead, use several smaller capacity cards so that if a card gets damaged, you only lose some of the images instead of all of them.

 

Flash Drives. While cloud-based platforms really make these unnecessary anymore these days, a flash drive is a great way to transport or deliver images should you want to share images in a place where you do not have a wifi connection. I wouldn’t recommend a flash drive for permanent storage of your images but more for when you might have a presentation and need to plug a pocket-friendly portable storage device into your laptop on the road.

 

External Hard Drives. An external hard drive is a “must” as local, secondary backup source. A couple of great options for external hard drives are the WD My Passport Ultra 2TB USB 3.0 Portable Hard Drive, the LaCie 6TB 2big Quadra Hard Disk Two Bay RAID Desktop Drive or what I have: the LaCie 4TB Rugged RAID 2.5″ External Hard Drive, Thunderbolt, USB 3.0. I’m a big fan of RAID drives because you can set up half of the drive to mirror the other half so that if one half goes down, you’re still backed up because the both halves of the drive are identical. Portable hard drives are a great backup option when you don’t have access to wifi to backup to cloud storage.

 

Cloud Backup and Storage. Your best option for backing up and sharing your work is cloud storage. Some of most common options out there are Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive, iDrive, Google Drive (Google Photos), Apple iCloud Drive and Box. I was very pleased to find that Google Drive/Google Photos has options of 100GB to 30TB in storage ranging from $1.99 per month to $299.99 per month.

 

 

How You’ll Process Images

Another major workflow decision that you’ll want to decide on is what software you will use to organize and process your images. There are many choices out there such as Aperture, Capture One, Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom. I will be honest with you. Adobe has some of the best software out there for importing, organizing, processing and sharing your images. We generally teach our students to use Adobe Lightroom because it’s so easy to use and you can batch process images, to do as much as you can in Lightroom first and then do any fine tuning in Photoshop. You can take advantage of a free trial of Adobe Lightroom here: http://www.adobe.com/creativecloud/photography.html.


Various photo editing/tethering software such as PK Tether, Camera RC,

Control My Nikon, Aperture, Capture One and Lightroom.

 

Naming Conventions

When using photo editing software, you’ll want to decide up front on the naming convention of your images and the folders they will be stored in. Due to keywording features, some photographers keep all of their images in one folder, thoroughly keyword their images and then they are able to locate them upon a search later down the road. I personally title my folders by “yyyy-mm-dd Project Name or Subject Title” and then my images are titles “Subject Title-Sequence Number”. It’s really up to you how you prefer to organize and name your images, but it’s good to decide this in advance to avoid having to go back 20,000 images later and reorganize and rename everything in a consistent manner.

 

Keywording Your Images

Lightroom is a great tool for not only organizing your images but also locating your images when images are thoroughly keyworded. I try to be as descriptive as possible with keywording for each of my shoots so that if I need to find all images of models with black hair across all of my images, I can easily search and see only the images I have of models with black hair. It automatically picks up image information such as the camera and lens used, the date the image was created and the settings for each image (aperture, shutter speed and ISO).


Keywording in Lightroom

 

How You’ll Organize the Images

Going along with the topic of naming conventions and keywording, Adobe Lightroom is a great tool for organizing your images because you can import, create folders and move images from folder to folder within Lightroom and it mirrors the same organization on your local hard drive. An important tip: If you use Lightroom, don’t try to move images from folder to folder directly on your local drive instead of through Lightroom as when you go to look for the images in Lightroom again, you will have to locate and relink the images in Lightroom to the new location where you moved the images on your local drive.

Organizing images into folders in Lightroom.

 

If you’re interested in learning more about Adobe Lightroom, Adobe Photoshop or any other photo editing software, my group, NYC Digital Photography Workshops offers private workshops with photo editing guru, Clifford Pickett, who specializes in Lightroom, but also teaches other software as well. For more information, you can email pi@nycdpw.com.

 

GET TO KNOW YOUR CAMERA

You just got your camera and you’re ready to hit the ground running to start creating amazing images. It happens all too often though, that a new photographer will get frustrated with not getting the shot they want because they can’t figure out how to use the camera and they end up putting the camera into a drawer, never to be picked up again. Let’s safeguard that from happening to you.

 

Read Your Manual

You’ve probably heard this many times, and most of us hate to do it, but the best way to get to know your camera is to read your manual from front to back. I know, I’m terrible at manuals too, and usually don’t even look at directions when putting furniture together, but this is one instance where it will make using your camera a whole lot easier.

Read your camera manual cover to cover!

 

Try Out Every Function on the Camera

As you go through your camera manual, try out every function you read about to better understand what it does, where it is and when you might use it.

 

Lenses & Focal Length

While the camera is the performance mechanism for your kit, the lens is what creates the quality of an image once you’ve learned technique and composition. As you acquire lenses, you should have at least one good lens in your kit, which usually do not come cheap. As the saying goes, you can put a high quality lens on a non-top-of-the-line camera and still get a great shot but you can’t put a bad piece of glass on a top of the line camera and still get that same shot!

Just a few of my lenses.

 

What lens(es) you choose will be up to what you shoot. If you fancy shooting landscapes, a wider angle lens would be a good bet and those can vary in focal lengths. If you like to shoot portraits, a prime lens like an 85mm and using your feet to zoom in and out would work, or a zoom lens like a 70-200mm would do the trick – depending on how much space you have to shoot your subject.

 

LEARN MANUAL SETTINGS TO OBTAIN PROPER EXPOSURE

Learning manual settings give you more control over your shooting.

 

Program Mode

The program mode can be helpful for beginners as a place to start when learning manual settings. Set your ISO and the camera will select the aperture and shutter speed for a properly exposed image. This mode is a good start to see and understand the relationship of aperture, shutter speed and ISO and where you might want to make adjustments to these elements in full manual.

 

The Aperture Mode

With Aperture Priority, you select the aperture and ISO and the camera figures out the shutter speed for optimal exposure. Aperture Priority is best when you are wanting to control the Depth of Field. When shooting things like landscapes, cityscapes and seascapes, you will most likely want everything sharp in focus, so you will need the maximum aperture (a higher number). When you are photographing people, whether it’s portraits or headshots, you will most likely want your subject to be the only thing in focus with things behind your subject out of focus so as to avoid mergers and distractions in the portrait or headshot.

The background is out of focus here through a shallow depth of field.

 

The Shutter Priority Mode

When using the Shutter Priority mode, you select the shutter speed and ISO and the camera determines the aperture to obtain a proper exposure. The shutter speed priority mode is best used when you are trying to capture motion or to control freezing motion and to make everything in the image sharp.

 

Full Manual Mode

If you choose to use full Manual mode, you are controlling all aspects of the capture: the aperture, shutter speed and ISO.

Aperture is basically how large the opening of the lens is when a picture is taken. The aperture is what controls the amount of light that enters the camera. The smaller the opening (the higher the number), the less light will come into the camera. The larger the opening (the lower the number), the more light will come into the camera.

Shutter speed can best be described as the amount of time that the shutter stays open when a picture is taken. The longer you leave the shutter open, the more light that gets onto the sensor.

ISO is the measure of sensitivity your camera has to available light. The lower the ISO setting, the less sensitive your camera will be to light. The higher the ISO setting, the more sensitive your camera can be to light. The part of your camera that needs this input to make an image is the image sensor. The image sensor is what takes available light and creates the image. As a rule of thumb, you want to try and keep your ISO as low as possible to obtain the best image quality. You want to use a low ISO setting when there is plenty of available light to satisfy the sensor sensitivity to make the image. The workaround to use a low ISO setting in a low-light environment would be to stabilize your camera on a tripod or sit it on a stable surface and set a longer shutter time to allow more light onto the sensor. Note that anything moving within the frame may disappear or become blurred in motion. You may want to use a higher ISO when you are in a low-light environment but want everything captured within the frame and/or are limited in time to capture the image. Again, you may have to compromise image quality (introduction of grain) to get that low-light shot quickly.

 

LEARN THE KELVIN SCALE & WHITE BALANCE

To top off a good exposure, you want to also make sure that you have the proper white balance in your photo.

 

White Balance Settings

As you can see in the first image below, tungsten lights tend to produce a warm yellow-orangish hue while a typical fluorescent light might produce a little bit of a greenish hue. If you look at a scene on a cloudy day or if it is in a shady area, the image might have a slight cool cast. Your camera offers quick white balance settings for lighting situations like shade, cloudy days, sunlight, artificial/flash light, tungsten and fluorescent lighting to balance the color of your images. For more control over the white balance of your images, it’s a good idea to learn the Kelvin Scale and how to use it in certain lighting situations.

 

The Kelvin Scale

White balance and the Kelvin Scale.

Image courtesy of Google

Since the goal is correct white balance, you want to match the Kelvin number to the environment lighting. When using tungstens, for example, you’ll want to set your Kelvin number to somewhere around 3000 to get a proper white balance.

 

Tools to Help With White Balance

The easiest way to get your white balance correct is to use an 18% gray card and correct your images in post-production. You can also use the same Lastolite Gray Card or an ExpoDisc 2.0, snap a photo using one or the other and use that photo to set white balance under the Custom White Balance setting in your camera.

Lastolite Gray Card (left) and ExpoDisc 2.0 on the right.

Images courtesy of Adorama

If you don’t have a 18% gray card or an ExpoDisc, you can still get your white balance close to accurate by using the white balance settings in your camera and/or making adjustments in post-processing.

 

STUDY COMPOSITION

Good composition of a photograph is generally what will make the subject of a photograph more appealing to a viewer. To break the rules of composition, you first should learn the rules. Some elements of composition to familiarize yourself with are: The Rule of Thirds, line, balance, motion, shutter speed, depth of field, focal length, light, color, form, positive/negative space, camera position, texture, pattern, contrast and tone.

Lines make this image a little more appealing to look at. The S-Curve takes a viewer’s eyes through the image.

 

A good exercise is to go through a bunch of magazines and tear out the images you like, and then determine if composition played a part in its appeal to you.

It’s good to study magazines containing photos of your favorite genre to shoot to determine what about the image appeals to you.

I wrote a great article earlier this year that involves many of the elements of composition among other things that make an image more appealing called, Creativity & Awareness: Learning to See Before the Capture. Be sure to check it out.

 

LEARN LIGHT

Light and shadows are what make up photography, after all, the word photography literally means “to draw with light”. Light and shadows can create patterns on surfaces, which we’ve already determined is appeasing to the viewer’s eye. It can also create lightest and darkest areas of an image whereas the lightest part of an image generally will attract a viewer’s eye before anything else.

 

Natural Light

Many photographers may think that natural light photography is easy but it’s uncontrolled light that spills everywhere and with things like harsh daylight, can cause very harsh shadows, not to mention cause your subject to squint, which can really break a photograph. Once you learn some of the tools and techniques necessary to control natural light, this type of lighting can be your definitely be your friend.

Playing with the shadows of the trees in natural daylight.

Model: Daria Komarkova

 

The best time to photograph outdoors is when there are clouds in the sky. Why? Because the clouds serve as a natural diffuser to soften the harsh light the sun produces. However, when you don’t have cloud cover and you still have to shoot, you learn to find workarounds like breaking up harsh sunlight with a tree’s shadows or using a manmade diffuser to soften the light. A white sheet works wonders and can be tied or clamped to trees or light stands or held by assistants. If you can swing it, you can buy a large portable collapsible reflector, which generally has a diffuser as the base option when the covers are taken off. Another option is a scrim which you can attach to a light stand to diffuse light from the sun.

Using a reflector shooting in natural light.

Image courtesy of Yann Bizeul

What is really important to learn whether you shoot indoors or outdoors and no matter the subject is how to use a portable collapsible reflector to bounce light back onto a subject to fill in those harsh shadows. Learn how to angle the reflector and see the light on your subject and you will always have a well-lit subject.

 


Artificial Light

Another great way to learn light is by purchasing one or two continuous lights and placing them in various positions around your subject. This will give you the what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) result of how the position of lights affect the way your subject will be lit. These are a great learning tool prior to obtaining monolights. Adorama has a great Flashpoint CL-1144R Circular LED Two-Light Kit to work with for $560.95.

One of my first portraits with monolights.

Model: Tara Virada

 

CONCLUSION

As a newbie to photography, these are going to be the six most important keys to learning your craft as exposure (learning your manual settings to obtain this properly), white balance, composition and light are the most important elements of photography while having a workflow in place and knowing how to use your camera will make your creating and processing your images a lot easier and much less stressful down the road. Stay tuned for more tips for new photographers learning photography – coming soon!

 

Posted by Dawn Wayand in Workshop, 0 comments
THE MODEL PORTFOLIO PART IV: AFTER THE MODEL PORTFOLIO SHOOT

THE MODEL PORTFOLIO PART IV: AFTER THE MODEL PORTFOLIO SHOOT

Whew! Your actual photo shoot is over but your work is not complete just yet. You have your images but they’re not delivered to your client directly out of the camera. Post-production is in order so there’s a few more steps to completing your TFP model portfolio shoot.

My studio.

Image courtesy of Subrahmanyam Chilakamarthi

 

In my first article, How to Plan a Model Portfolio Shoot, I shared my general checklist for preparing for a model portfolio shoot. In the my second and third articles Shooting the Model Portfolio: Part One and Part Two, I went over the things that I do the day of a shoot and gave you my checklist for the actual shoot itself. In this last installment, I’m going to share what I do after a shoot.

 

POST-PHOTO SHOOT

 

Pack Up Your Studio and Set to Be Ready for Your Next Shoot. I always make it a point to clean up my studio directly after a photo shoot as it serves several purposes. First, it allows me to put everything back exactly how I want it so that I can easily access it for my next photo shoot; b) I’m more likely to let it sit until just before my next shoot if I don’t do it right after a shoot; c) it leaves my space clean in between shoots; and d), I have my assistant(s) there, so I have them help me break everything down and put everything away, otherwise, I’m on my own!

Gear packed up for shoot outdoors the next day.

 

Backup Original Images. If you haven’t done so already, it’s a good idea to backup your images right away. Many photographers do this during a session. I typically back up to an external hard drive and to Dropbox.  You can choose to do it during or after and using whatever system works for you, but definitely do it so you don’t lose your work.

Backing up my images to my hard drive as I shoot.

 

Import Images Into Adobe Lightroom. Import your images into Adobe Lightroom or any other software that allows you to rate, keyword and work on your images, if not already there. Your photos should already be imported into Lightroom or other software if you use it to tether during a photo shoot. Be sure to keyword your images so you can find their exact pinpoint location later, say for instance, if you are looking for all photos with a model that has blue eyes.

Importation of Images into Adobe Lightroom.

 

Use Adobe Lightroom or Other Software to Rate and Select Images for Retouching. I obviously use Adobe Lightroom for my capture and some of my post-production work. You may use other software. I like Adobe Lightroom because you can import, keyword, rate, edit and showcase your images all in one program. It even automatically detects what your camera settings were for each photo (if shot in RAW) as well as the camera, lens and focal length too. I use the star system for rating my photos. Instead of assigning a star of quality to each photo, I first assign one star to every photo I like and that has potential to be a final image. I then take a break and go back a little later and do a second round of rating, going through all one-star photos and getting more selective. For those that seem to score in technical quality, I assign two stars. I take a break and do this again a few more times until I am left with 5-star rated images, which should weed the images down quite a bit.

You can use colors, flags or stars to rate your images in Adobe Lightroom.

 

AND

 

Retouch Images. Once you have your images selected, you can dive into editing these images. We have always taught our students to do as much as you can in Lightroom first before pushing your images into Adobe Photoshop. You’ll only save a lot of time. Adobe Lightroom has a wonderful feature that allows you to roundtrip your images into Adobe Photoshop and back into Lightroom (should you choose to watermark your images…)

 

OR

 

Review Images and Prepare Instructions for Retoucher on Revisions. Many photographers like to edit their own photos as they have a vision in mind and they don’t trust anyone else to get the results that they would get themselves. Other photographers, like myself, are really pressed for time and are very lucky to find a very good retoucher that understands the photographer’s vision. If this is your case, you’ll want to create a checklist for your retoucher to follow, which will aid them in creating the result you want. I have a general list that applies to every image and then I have a shorter list of fine revisions that are specific to each image.

One of my retouching checklists.

 

Set Up Dropbox Folders for Retouching. I then set up a few folders in my Dropbox under the client’s folder for the retoucher called Retouching and then two subfolders called: Originals and Retouched Images for Review. Then, I copy original images to be retouched into an Originals folder. I don’t just move these into that folder because if the retoucher accidently deletes an image – I need to have my originals safe. I then upload my instruction checklist into that same Retouching folder.

My Dropbox folder under a particular client.

 

Working With Your Retoucher. I then contact my retoucher, give them a deadline and wait. If they have questions, I answer right away. It’s important to have good communication with your retoucher if you you want your images to turn out the way you envisioned. Before or around the deadline, my retoucher either contacts me to review the images or I follow up to see how they are coming along.

 

Once Images Are Complete, Re-import Retouched Images Into Editing Software, If Sent Out to Retoucher. You might find that you could go back and forth all day with a retoucher over something that might be very subjective. I occasionally tell my retoucher to not crop my photos, that I prefer to do it as I know exactly how I want them cropped. That is just something that is hard to get exact in a description because you may also change your mind a few times after seeing a result!

 

Complete Any Additional Personal Retouching. Again, push your images through your photo editing software and complete any additional retouching that results from a subjective decision.

 

AND

 

Watermark Images, If Desired. This is pretty self-explanatory, however, this also depends on the type of client. For TFP shoots, I watermark my images with my logo at the bottom right or left depending on where it is best placed. This helps my branding when the model shares the images. For paid clients or if I’m working with agency models, I do not do this.

I watermark the bottom of my TFP model shoot images.

Model/Actress: Celeste Smith

 

Export Images Into Folders in Dropbox for Client and/or Team. Once editing and any necessary watermarking is complete, I then create another folder in Dropbox for the final images to distribute to the client, his or her agency and my team. I like to share end results with my team for two reasons: 1) so they can see the fruit of their labor and 2) so they are excited for the next photo shoot!

 

Notify Recipients. While you can notify your client, the agency and your team through Dropbox that the images are ready, I tend to also like calling and/or sending an email as it’s a little more personal. I can add my logo at the top of an email and actually have formatting choices!

Notify your clients, their agency and your team.

 

ADDITIONAL STEPS

You may also be tasked with ordering composite cards for your model if shooting a paid model portfolio shoot. Here are two more steps for this process.

 

Gather Model’s Complete Specs and Contact Details. You will need to gather the model’s complete specs, such as height, measurements and clothing and shoes sizes as these will things listed on their comp card.

 

Contact Printing Company to Order. Last, you will want to call a reputable printing company that specializes in comp card printing and provide them with all of the information you gathered on the model as well as the chosen photos to include on the comp card. You will also want to advise them on specific placement and size, based on a conversation you’ve had with your client prior to calling the printing company.

 

THAT’S A WRAP!

 

Model portfolio shoots can be a lot of work. It’s amazing that we occasionally do these for free! However, TFP model portfolio shoots are not only a great way to build your portfolio, but the portfolio of the model and your hair and makeup artist(s). They are also great practice for newer photographers to that area of specialty. Just remember to, at some point, start charging for your work too as there are many photographers out there trying to make a living off of shooting model portfolios as well as other areas of specialty, including, what someday, could be you.

Posted by Dawn Wayand in Workshop, 0 comments
Getting More Creative With Professional Self-Portraits

Getting More Creative With Professional Self-Portraits

Self-portraits have been a form of portraying oneself that goes very far back in time through not only photography, but sculpture and paintings as well. It has only been recently that it has morphed into an arms-length version called a “selfie”. The more classic version of a self-portrait, allows endless possibilities of how you tell your own story. In general, a self-portrait should be a reflection of you, your ideas, your tastes, your interests and your personality. How you communicate these things is where the fun begins.

A simple pensive self-portrait.

 

Why Self-Portraits?

 

It fuels creativity. When you have all the time in the world to create a portrait without the pressure inconveniencing someone else’s time to create it, and no boundaries set by a subject other than yourself the possibilities are endless with how creative you can get with your self-portraits. The less pressures that inhibit you, the more creative you can become.

 

Perspective In Front of the Camera. Self-portraits gives you a sense of feeling of what it’s like to be in front of a camera – rather than behind it – making you more aware of how your subjects feel in front of your lens.

Self-portraits give you perspective in front of the camera.

Behind the scenes image courtesy of Gil Aldrin

 

Giving Direction and Posing. This form of photography can also help you learn how to direct your next subject or model as oftentimes you need to mimic the pose to translate to the subject/model what you want them to do.

Giving direction for posing.

Behind the scenes image courtesy of Rachel Endoso

 

Self-expression.   Self portraits are also a good form of personal self-expression. Yes, we can put a personal touch on a portrait of someone else, but using yourself as a subject adds a whole new level personal expression.

 

Ideas & Experimentation.  It’s difficult to find friends and family who are patient enough to sit for you when you are only beginning learn lighting techniques or you want to experiment with a new idea. I resorted to using a mannequin when learning lighting but I found that using myself as a subject also worked and improved my photography tenfold.

 

You Can’t Find a Model. You know what they often say, “you can only depend on yourself…”. Sometimes you fall short of time and end up without a model and sometimes your model is late or just doesn’t show up at all. No one is more available than you.

 

Coming Up With Ideas

Inspiration for self-portraits is all around you, you just have to open your eyes, be aware and seek it out. It’s also important to reach deep within for inspiration that is unique to only you. Some things that can be considered to inspire ideas are:

 

Hobbies

You are a photographer, so there is a theme right there! Let your hobby be expressed in your self-portrait through the use of locations and props. For example, as a photographer, be sure to include your camera as a prop for a self-portrait.

A quick self-portrait of me in my home studio using a remote.

 

Profession

What you do for a living can also be expressed in a self-portrait. It is usually successfully portrayed only if it is something you love and enjoy doing for a living. For some, your hobby and your profession might be one in the same. In my case, while photography has only more recently become a profession for me, my long-time career has always been as a paralegal. For this, I might shoot a self-portrait of myself researching and writing in a library or maybe just a classic headshot in front of law books.

 

Location

Tripods will always be your best friend when shooting self-portraits. They are mandatory. They are also a portable tool to take with you to shoot yourself on location. Including your favorite hangouts and/or quiet spots in your self-portraits can sometimes add to the ambiance of the photograph and reflect part of your personality.

My favorite graffiti location.

 

Physical Abilities

Play sports or a musical instrument? Including something you are able to do in your self-portrait is a great way to convey your personal interests and extracurricular activities.

I don’t play enough, but when I have time, I love to play guitar.

 

Your Actual Physical Features

If there’s a part of you that you favor more than the rest or perhaps have been the topic of others’ conversations (in my case, it’s my long hair), focusing on this can make for an interesting self-portrait.

I consider my long hair one of my prominent features.

 

Wardrobe

If you a fashionable person, photographing yourself in your best rags can also reflect your tastes – especially in fashion.

 

Objects of Your Affection

We’re taught as portrait photographers that the best way to get a great personal image of a disinterested teenager is to include an object of their affection in the picture. You are no different. For me, not much comes before my cat and my guitars.

My other dream, as a rockstar.

 

Theme

Like any photoshoot, sometimes it is good to conjure up a theme and let it go from there. Have a favorite color? Create a monochromatic image using only that color around you. Maybe you are into cosplay? Dress up in your favorite costume, find a good location, set up your tripod, grab your remote and shoot. If you can create a theme for a party, you can certainly create and shoot a theme for you.

 

Capturing “You”

 

The Classic Headshot. We’ve already discussed how to create a classic headshot in my last article, 4 Ways to Create a Professional Self-Portrait (Not a “Selfie”) – Part I, so we’ll move onto other fun ways to get more creative with your professional self-portrait.

Here is a classic headshot I took as a self-portrait using the Lightroom capture button.

 

Your Reflection. You’ve probably tried this before in your own bathroom, in museums where there are mirrors present or even in Chicago at “The Bean” statue, but since you are a photographer, using a mirror to shoot your reflection showcases you engaging in your personal hobby or profession.

Shooting yourself in front of a mirror is an easy way to create a self-portrait.

Just make sure you don’t have your flash on and watch your borders!

 

A good tip for a better self-portrait using a mirror: be mindful of your background. Check out every inch of your frame before taking the shot to make sure anything unwanted is not in the image. Also, if desired, be sure to flip your camera’s logo in post. 🙂

 

A creative tip: place a mirror behind you to add a repeating effect.

 

Without a Face. Shoot only part of you – instead of all of you – and I don’t mean a headshot only. I’m sure you’ve seen images of expectant mothers that creative photographers shoot that include only the chest and down to emphasize the beauty in a mother’s body during pregnancy. We might not all be able to be pregnant right now (if at all) so try shooting only your feet, only your waist-down or only your neck to waist.

Most people know I am a world traveler and love this image entitled “I am here” taken in Madrid, Spain.

 

Location! Location! Location! Switch it up and take your shoot outdoors, to a garden, to a zoo, to a library – anywhere but the plain four walls of your home.

Under train tracks right down the street from my apartment.

 

Capture Your Dark Side. Create a silhouette of yourself by using backlighting without any front or side lighting.

Here I’ve created a quick silhouette example in the studio using red background paper.

 

Get a Move On! Incorporate motion into your self-portrait. Dance around, shadowbox – get into a groove and set your camera’s shutter speed on a slightly slower speed to capture a range of motion.

While I can’t say that I can really dance anymore, this self-portrait of me twirling in song did turn out pretty cool.

 

Don’t Be Afraid of Your Own Shadow. Your shadow in the morning and midday sun can make for an interesting, unique image. Shadows can also elongate your body depending on the position of the sun.

Shot around 3pm.

Behind the scenes image courtesy of Gil Aldrin

 

Work Your Angles. Shoot yourself from different angles. Set your tripod low and shoot up. Stick your camera on a lightstand via your tripod ballhead and position it up above you and shoot down on yourself.


Shot from below. I love the shadows on one of my favorite shooting backgrounds in my neighborhood.

 

I secured my camera to a light stand and used a remote to shoot from above.

 

Creating a Mirage. So this may take a little bit of Photoshop skills, but combining two images into a double exposure can make for a pretty spectacular image. Here, I took the initial profile image in this article and combined it with an image of one of two of my favorite flowers – cherry blossoms.


Here I combined a self-portrait with one of two of my favorite flowers – the cherry blossom.

 

Create Enough of You to Go Around. A fun self-portrait to create, which also takes a little bit of Photoshopping skills, is to composite several images of you together to create a “multiple-you” image. Here, I took advantage of my most used space in my home (aka. my “woman cave”) and created four separate images leaving the tripod in the exact same place for each shot. Each image was of things I pretty much do daily, creating a pretty accurate representation of me.

Here is a composite image of everything I like to do in my woman-cave.

 

The Honest Truth. Capture yourself doing an everyday task around the house or outdoors. You don’t even have to be looking at the camera. In this image, I captured a natural image of myself on my front doorstep in the industrial area of the SE Bronx.


Just be yourself.

 

Equipment Needed for Self-Portraiture

The Basics

 

  • Camera (DSLR preferred). I prefer a DSLR camera because I can generate RAW images to work with, I can tether to a computer or laptop, I have a lot more lens choices and because if I shot with film – this project could get very expensive! I have a few suggestions on DSLR cameras in my article: Building the Home Studio Part 1: Space and Essential Shooting Gear.

 

  • Tripod. A tripod is a must for self-portraits otherwise you will be very limited by using any available level surfaces. Imagine, if you had a tripod (with a ballhead), you have a choice of all available surfaces plus a decent height and just about any angle. I have several suggestions for choosing the right tripods in my article: Tripods: Choosing the Right Support for Your Investment.

A tripod is pretty much vital to creating a self-portrait.

 

  • Camera Remote. It just makes things much more simpler than running back and forth to the camera to set the timer over and over again…

A simple remote for my Nikon D750.

Image courtesy of Yann Bizeul

 

 

  • Light Source. A light source can consist of available light, a speedlight, a continuous light, a monolight or strobe. You can really get by with any of these, though you can create an endless variety of results and achieve them much faster with the use of some sort of flash light source (speedlight/monolight/strobe) due to positioning, brightness and modifier used.

 

To start, a speedlight can work just fine. This is my old Nikon SB-700 Speedlight.

Image courtesy of Yann Bizeul

 

The Flashpoint Rapid 600 HSS Monolight is a good choice for a monolight.

 

  • Light Stand(s). If you are using any light source other than available light, you’ll need light stands for your lights. Don’t skimp on these. They are what are supporting your $300-500 flash or $500-3,000 monolight or strobe. I have a few recommendations for light stands in my article: Building the Home Studio Part 2: Continuous Lights and Light Stands.

Light stand(s) and sandbag(s) for support.

 

The Superstar Setup

 

  • Laptop or Desktop. The bare essentials are completely fine for creating self-portraits, but you’ll eventually need a laptop or computer to edit those images. One or the other is also key if you plan to tether while you shoot. I do have an old 27” iMac but if you are considering going the iMac route (which I highly recommend for any graphics or photography-related use), don’t skimp here – like I did, or you’ll be sorry – like I am. If you can’t afford what you really want – wait and save for it, otherwise you’ll be stuck with a computer that doesn’t run fast enough or have enough memory for your needs. For photography-related work – especially if you shoot RAW (which you should!), be sure to choose an iMac with the latest processor (currently the Intel Core i7), at least 1TB of memory, but more if you can swing it, and at least 8GB of RAM. My heart is currently set on upgrading to the Apple 27″ iMac with Retina 5K Display, 5120×2880, Intel Core i7 Quad-Core 4.0GHz, 16GB RAM, 3TB Fusion Drive + 128GB Flash, AMD Radeon M295X which is currently available at Adorama for $2,900.

My iMac and my Dell 17” XPS Inspiron laptop.

 

  • Tethering Cable. If you choose to use a computer and tether, you’ll need a good tethering cable – one that does not lose connection a lot or fall out of your camera port more times than the number of frames you’ve shot thus far. The Tether Tools Starter Kit is a pretty useful and reliable tool for tethering.

Tether Tools makes a great line of custom tether cords.

Image courtesy of Tether Tools

 

I wrote a pretty lengthy article on tethering a little while back called: Preview While You Shoot: The What, Why, When, Who and How on Tethered Shooting that you might find useful on this topic.

 

  • Adobe Lightroom or Other Tether-N-Edit Software. Using software that allows you to tether so that you can review and edit your images as you shoot on the big screen saves a lot of time and incorrect assumptions that might happen if you rely only on the LCD screen on the back of your camera. Adobe Lightroom is probably one of the best all-inclusive tools out there for both tethering and editing and is the first tool I use before exporting it for fine tuning to anything else, if even needed. If you plan to use it for tethering, be sure to check to see if your camera is compatible for tethering to the software first. If for anything, it is “magic” and easy to use for organizing and editing your images during and after a shoot. You can get in on the Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plan, which includes both Adobe Lightroom AND Adobe Photoshop for one low annual price of $119 and you will always be up to date on the version you use.

There are several programs available out there for tethering, some of which also allow you to edit in post.

 

  • Adobe Photoshop. You may need Adobe Photoshop to do some finer adjustments or to just do some completely creative edits to your images. Again, you can get in on the Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plan, which includes both Adobe Lightroom AND Adobe Photoshop for one low annual price of $119 and you will always be up to date on the version you use.

 

Other Stuff

The number of things you can use to help create your self-portrait is endless, but here are a few obvious choices.

 

  • Background. Whether it’s seamless, your living room, your backyard or down the street in the park, you will need some sort of non-distracting background to put yourself in front of.

I sometimes use creative art papers for backgrounds.

Image courtesy of Yann Bizeul

 

  • Unique Wardrobe. What you’re wearing, or not, can sometimes be the center of the intention for the image.

It helps to have some unique pieces in your closet.

Image courtesy of Yann Bizeul

 

  • Props. Adding in a wig, facial hair, a baseball bat, baton, bicycle, car or other prop can only lend to telling the viewer more about you and things that interest you.

Just a small fraction of the props I’ve collected over the last few years.

Image courtesy of Yann Bizeul

 

  • Additional Light Sources and Stands. You can do a lot with one light source but your options can open up even more with added monolights, strobes or speedlights to create multiple light setups.

 

  • Patience. If you are aiming for things like your eyes to be perfectly sharp, you will be shooting the same shot, let’s just say… A LOT, before you get it just right.

 

Creating a Picture Perfect You

Creating a self-portrait, whether for business purposes and/or for fun can be a great release of self-expression and showcasing the real (or not so real) you. Creating self-portraits of ANY kind will take a lot of time and practice, even for a skilled photographer. The images in this article took a great deal of time and effort to create. Whatever you do, don’t get frustrated if you are shooting and not getting exactly what you want. Number one, your frustration show in your images and number two, it will happen – just keep shooting and shooting and shooting until you get exactly what you are looking for. Using some of the ideas and tools above, you can come up with an endless number of ways to reinvent yourself digitally, and most ideas without the need for heavy photo editing.

 

Posted by Dawn Wayand in Workshop, 0 comments