Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Pursuit of the Better Self Portrait ~ Part I

"Photographer's Self Portrait"

I must admit, self portraits are my least favorite project of ALL time. So when I thought about a new two part post on a subject I rarely post about, this totally fit the bill. I say two part post because today I'll show you the first  shot from the beginning of my pursuit for a better self portrait... and next Monday I'll show you the final portrait after my wrestling with off-camera flash, lens choice, and processing... not to mention putting a more positive expression on my face. I was going for smoldering and mysterious.
Seriously. Stop laughing now.

The first part of this session was rough for me. I'm still learning about off-camera lighting. I'm so skittish with light. But I did remember one thing I've learned recently... the closer the light source, the better the light wraps around the entire subject. The further away, the more harsh and hard edged it gets due to fall-off because the light has to travel further to light your subject... er, yourself... you know what I mean. Makes sense but it takes me a second to remember this rule of lighting. So at least I remembered to set my SB-600 on a stand with a diffuser really close to where I would sit... and by close I mean it intruded into my personal space bubble. But it was not directly in front of me either... it sat at a slight angle to me. I also had on the immediate right a large window with soft white curtains diffusing the light. My speedlight was in manual mode, not quite on full power (could have dialed it up a little more), triggered by my on-camera flash which had been dialed down all the way so as to keep from overpowering the shot by itself.
Needless to say, it took many adjustments, and many trips back and forth to the camera to set my flash settings.

But here's where you have to pay attention to the ambient light in the room if you've never worked on this type of shot before, and decide if you want your own lighting to overrule the room's ambient exposure. Or you may want to preserve the light already in the room and simply enhance it. I pretty much overlooked this in the image above, I was so busy just trying to get the camera in a good place, my head in a good spot, and get my gear working the way I learned. Next week you'll see what I decided on.

Oh, and I cloned out all the panicky little beads of sweat across my forehead in this shot by the way. Just saying. It's not easy to put up before & afters, online for all to see. Geez the pressure.

Lastly, we'll talk about lens choice. I used my portrait lens, my 50mm F/1.8 prime, and I think it was the right choice from the start. It gives no visible distortion no matter where you position the lens around the subject... er, yourself... and it has fabulous depth of field. I could have used my telephoto for similar results, but the camera would have been much further away to compensate for it's long range. The wide angle really is a no no for this type of portrait, the minute you angle it the lens slightly distorts various facial features... definitely not a look for me.

So not a terrible self portrait, but not a real prize winner yet. Stay tuned for next Monday when I discuss all the additional things that I needed to change and to see the "after" shot! I will also attempt to have a diagram for you of the final set-up for those that would like to see what worked best in my tiny little work space. Can't wait for PART II... I think.

Have a great day gang, thanks for the challenging ramble!


  1. Nice work, though you kinda look like the Packers just lost! LOl!

  2. Hahahaha... it's all part of the plan buddy :) I mean my "before" expression, not the Packers EVER losing a game this season, lol.

  3. I love it!!! No i wasn't laughing ....miss you much Christine!

  4. Heh heh heh.... aw, thanks Paola :) Stay tuned for Mondays post, I think you'll approve! Miss you too m'dear. Life's been busy, but that's no excuse, will do some catching up with you VERY soon!!! Have a great weekend chickie!