My first self-portrait experience and what I learned from it...
My first week of quarantine was arguably my most inspired and while I have a couple of additional self-portrait shoots now lined up, I wanted to share my very first experience!
I had already gotten some fun new headshots thanks to my boyfriend Damon the week before in a style I wanted to try out- bright, fun and -dare I say- basic. His photos actually turned out really well and I loved the quality and the clothing choices, but most just weren’t me...and not the rebrand look I was going for.
(Bonus photo of Damon and Shadow LOL)
Disappointed and frustrated since I didn’t really know why these portraits felt so off, I dug deeper into Pinterest for inspiration (yes, even photographers do that sometimes!). I found some content I really liked and went to work to plan my self-portrait shoot (Damon is working from home during quarantine so I decided that taking my own portraits this time would be a fun challenge).
The photoshoot involved about ten different outfits, four hairstyles, a hundred different props to try out, my camera on a tripod and the ability to shoot remotely via the Canon mobile app. I set up my backdrop in the kitchen nearest all of the natural light in front of our sliding glass door, did my makeup and put on real clothes for the first time all week and got to work.
I started shooting and guess what happened? I didn't like any of them. Again.
I should rephrase: I liked how I looked in the photos and technically they were "good", but they seemed just as cheesy with even less of a theme than my previous portraits by Damon had been. Mixed messaging, very random props, and some expressions I’d never actually make in real life. I think they’re definitely cute photos all on their own, but not what I wanted to represent with my new brand. I was trying so hard to be enigmatic and personable when, although that's a big part of my personality, it's not all I want to show on social media,
And that’s when I said, “To hell with it.”
I dragged my comfiest sweater out of the pile and tied my hair up in a headband without even checking it in the mirror and took my last series of photos. No prompts, no outfit changes and no pressure to even look nice.
I looked at the back of the camera and immediately knew these were "the ones." They are SO me- every single one of them!
I've found throughout my life that I LOVE to make things complicated and that choosing simplicity is super difficult for me (when in reality it's the "easier" option), but here's the thing:
Simplicity isn't necessarily easy and neither is getting out of your comfort zone! I have a new belief now and that is by constantly challenging ourselves and letting go of a perfectionist attitude we can produce great things. And I honestly think a great way to do that is through self-portraiture. You have the courage to try new things- new expressions and poses you wouldn't normally want to try or ask others to try.
Not to mention you get a lot more familiar with how to direct photos...I found me telling myself, "Okay now tip your chin down just a little...and turn your head to the left, perfect!" And since everything is mirrored you also have to use extremely simple and easy-to-understand instructions: A skill that will totally benefit your own clients when you photograph them next time as well!
And friends, if you "aren't a photographer" please don't let that stop you! Prop your phone up on a stack of books, find a blank wall that's well-lit with natural light and set a self-timer. You too, can have the same enlightening experience!
Now that being said, a lot of photoshopping followed this shoot in order to edit my phone out of all of the photos (first time self portrait fail!), but with the help of some digital manipulation skills and Photoshop’s brilliant “Content Aware Fill” tool, I got the job done!
Here are a couple of before and afters:
So that’s the morale of the story, folks! Sometimes you just need to keep creating. And to make good art you have to make bad art (or good art that's not great)! Sometimes we just need to drop perfection and say “to hell with it!”
I have a couple more self-portrait shoots planned and I can't wait to share those with you as well. Stay safe, friends!
- Canon 5D Mark IV
- Canon Camera Connect app (for remote shooting)
- Reversible + collapsible backdrop
- Stands + clamps