“Success is counted sweetest by those who ne’er succeed.”
A couple of years ago, I created an Instagram page purely for fashion and self-portraiture. I didn’t tell a single soul about it because I was just starting out, unsure of myself, and embarrassed to ask people to check out my pictures. I’ve grown a lot since then.
For me, taking self-portraits has been an awesome creative journey. I can look at each picture and remember all of the memories and lessons that came with it. I’ve also been able to track my progress as a photographer and see my style evolve. Because self-portraits are not your average selfie, it requires heaps of patience and practice to continually improve.
Taking self-portraits can be a great form of artistic self-expression. I remember spending countless hours of my teenage years setting up my disposable camera in various places around the house (mostly on the floor) and trying to replicate the gorgeous editorial shots I saw in my mountainous collection of fashion magazines. There were lots of black and white pictures and a good dose of teenage angst, but years later, I’m still very proud of them.
When I got my first real camera, I took part in a 365-day self-portrait challenge. Every day from the time I woke up, I was thinking of some new way to represent myself that was different from the last.
I experimented with angles and filters.
I messed around with the shutter speed and other settings to see what would happen, then used what I learned to tell a story.
Over time, I realized that I wanted to make fashion a part of my self-portraits because fashion photography was my first love. Most of the pictures were taken in my yard or the street in front of my house because I wouldn’t be caught dead taking pictures of myself in public spaces.
It was around this time that I began to realize my love of natural light and outdoor settings. I also missed the artsier style that I used to do back when I first got started. So I began putting all of these elements together to create a style that more fully represents my sensibilities as an artist, which leads me to my recent work.
While there’s something that I love about all these photos, it’s obvious that the last set is more polished.
My work didn’t start off this way; learning to take self-portraits takes time. While I still have a lot to learn, I’d like to share some of the points that helped me get to where I am so far.
Learn Your Camera
I know. If you’re anything like me, you don’t want to. I avoided learning how to maximize the use of my camera for years because all the technical jargon made me feel like I was back in math class. I didn’t get it, and I didn’t want to get it. Photography was fun for me and having to remember ISO, aperture and shutter speed felt like boring work.
What made me change my mind and start using manual? The repeated frustration of not producing the consistent pictures that I wanted. If you want consistency and less time editing, learn your camera. Keep in mind that all the pictures in this post were taken by the same camera. Also, learning the technical stuff allows you much more freedom to be creative.
- You don’t have to do this alone. Search YouTube until you find a person whose teaching style makes sense to you and watch everything they have to say about learning to use your camera.
- I recommend doing, not just listening. As you watch videos on how to adjust for exposure, for instance, pull out your camera and try things out. The combination of hearing and doing will help concepts stick better in your mind.
Getting a sharp focus is so important to a good picture, yet it can be one of the most challenging aspects of taking self-portraits. You can’t be in two places at once, after all. If you’re using a camera that isn’t your phone, what you’ll need to do is have a stand-in. Wherever you plan to position yourself, place something like a stuffed animal in the spot and at the proper height, and use that as your focal point. I like to use something that has eyes so that I can make sure, above all else, that the eyes are in focus. There’s nothing worse than taking a bunch of pictures and realizing that they’re all blurry.
- Always check that the images are clear by zooming in on the image in highlights before moving on to a new set.
2. Set your camera to take continuous shots once you’ve determined that everything is clear.
I used to set the timer, press the shutter button, and dash to my spot in front of the camera where I’d be mostly stiff and clueless as to what to do with my body, repeating the same basic poses over and over again. Later I’d upload 300 pictures that looked mostly the same and weed through minor changes to decide on a photo. Such a time waster. Before you step in front of the camera, decide on a general pose, like facing away from the camera looking over your shoulder, and work on making subtle changes in your face and body. Once you’re satisfied, move on to another pose if needed.
- It’s also a great idea to study the work of others for ideas on styles of posing that you may like.
- Check your surroundings for any distracting elements.
If you’re going to be leaving home to do a photo shoot, give yourself plenty of time to prepare.
- Try on your outfits before the shoot. Pack them up the night before if they won’t get wrinkled. Take photos of combinations with accessories
- If you’ll be in a location where you aren’t always close to your car, pack very lightly. Lugging around 10 pounds of clothes and shoes won’t make you feel sexy and ready for pictures. It’s better to get great shots in two outfits than mediocre ones in five.
- Please bring water and a snack. You’ll despise yourself if you don’t. You don’t want to take pictures while famished, and you don’t want to pack up early because you’re too hungry to go on.
Okay, those are my tips for now! I hope that you find them helpful and that you get out there and capture yourself in the way that you envision. Have you tried self-portraits? Are there any additional tips you’d like to add?
For more fashion and lifestyle tips, please check me out on Instagram!
*This week’s Lit Talks (8pm est on Instagram Live) will be on “Success is counted sweetest” by Emily Dickinson.
My name is Lyz-Stephanie and I want to inspire you to be more connected to yourself and the world, to find beauty in simple pleasures, and to have more adventures. Every day we can do something to make our lives happier and richer, make our minds more active and engaged. I’m on the journey. Will you join me?