52 Project, Week 22: Self Portrait

52 Project, Week 22: Self Portrait

This is perhaps the most difficult photography project yet.  Like many of you, being in front of the lens instead of behind it makes me cringe a bit.  Attempting to photograph oneself requires more work, more equipment, and more bravery.  However, it can also be a lot of fun!

So what do you need for a self-portrait project?  Why does it require more work, and what equipment is necessary for a project like this?

More Work

Like all of my projects so far, I have usually researched the work of other artists.  I love using Google and Pinterest for this.  By using keywords for the general idea of what you’re looking for, you can find inspiration for your own project.  Plus, seeing all of the amazing things that others have come up with is great motivation!

Although, sometimes, even after all of my research, I scrap my whole idea and come up with something entirely new.  It’s all part of the process.  By finding what you don’t like about something you’ve tried, you find what you do like instead.

In the case of a self-portrait, you have to try to find ideas that can apply to a self-portrait.  Some angles and positions are tricky enough for a photographer and a subject, but for oneself, it can be next to impossible.

Over the years, I’ve become more aware of posture and angles, due to being a portrait photographer.  In the beginning, I used to catch sight of myself in a mirror and pause, refine the pose, and mentally save the idea for later.  After several thousands of subjects later, posing became second-hand nature.  The downside to this is, I hate to be repetitive.  Too much a good thing can be bland.  So I try to mix it up and try poses outside of my comfort zone.  THIS IS NOT THE PROJECT FOR THAT.  Stick to the classic, tried and true posing for yourself.

When you’re on location, you won’t be able to see yourself to make sure you’re in a good pose.  The best way to handle this, besides bringing a full body mirror and a stand for it, is to practice at home in front of a full body mirror.  Turn around a few times, wiggle, then face the mirror.  Close your eyes and try to recreate the pose you practiced.  Open your eyes.  Once you have refined the muscle memory necessary, you’re ready to go!

To summarize what you might like to do for your project:

  • Reseach keywords on Pinterest and Google image search.  Good keywords are self-portrait photography.
  • Don’t be afraid to scrap your original idea if it’s not working out.
  • Become aware of natural bends and curves.  Watch people to see the angles and tilts of their heads, the bends of joints, like elbows, wrists, waist, and knees, the positioning of arms and hands, legs and feet.
  • Practice posing in front of the mirror.

More Equipment

This leads me to what equipment is necessary for self-portrait project.  The obvious thing necessary for this project is a camera.  Almost every camera on the market has a self-timer, from iPhones to high-end DSLRs.  Not every camera has a remote option, but should yours have one, it can make the job easier.

A tripod is also extremely helpful.  Yes, you can be creative and find ways around this, but the job will be more difficult.  A classic tripod is awesome, you can raise your camera to your eye level at any location.  A portable, flexible tripod can be great for trying some of those weird angles that I was talking about earlier.  For example, if you want your camera to be higher than your head, or if you’re in a small and tight location where there isn’t room for a traditional tripod.

A mirror is also a nice thing to have on hand.  If you don’t have someone (usually the photographer’s job) to check to make sure your hair and makeup are ok, then you definitely need to check yourself.  Otherwise, you could have a lot of post editing should you have a clump of hair sticking up at a colic.

Everything else necessary is only what is necessary for every photo shoot, which I’m not going to go into detail here.  I don’t like a lot of equipment.  I like to stick with the basics.  For a self-portrait, where you are the photographer and the subject, you don’t want to carry a large amount of gear and end up crumpled and flustered. Carry what’s light and easy, so that you can focus on the task and not the gear.

To summarize what you might like to do for your project:

  • Find out how to set up the timer on your camera.  Or figure out how to work the remote for your camera.
  • Figure out if you are going to use a tripod or set your camera on a shelf.  Make sure you have all the necessary pieces for your tripod.  Mainly, the attachment for your camera.
  • Gather supplies, including a mirror.
  • Ask yourself if each item you’re bringing is necessary or excessive.

More Bravery

As for bravery, I don’t like photographs of myself.  There are very few that I do like, much less love.  The idea of being the center of attention makes me cringe.  Taking a self-portrait feels like I am baring my soul, naked to the world for critique.  I overthink it and due to that, I haven’t taken my portrait.  Seriously, months have dragged by and my project is a little behind.

Silly, I know, when I’m writing a blog.  For me, this is kind of terrifying.  I fit the classic description of an introvert.  Every time I make a post, I have a small panic attack.  What if they don’t like me?  What if they hate me?!

Being brave enough for your own self-portrait is mostly necessary during the planning phase.  I tend to overthink everything, so if I can get past the planning phase and into the action, I’m a much more laid back person.

Once I’m on location and the camera is on, I’m focused on my work, all worry erased from my mind.  I love being a photographer.  I love working with my chosen beloved tool, my camera, analyzing light, hunting and seeking the details that make it come together, creating an image, a work of art.  I look back on my work years later and I am so thankful, for all of it.

So, despite the delay, I’m going to take the plunge and post my self-portrait.  I’m choosing to be brave.

How do you feel about having your portrait taken?

See my first attempt at a self-portrait project here:


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Next Week:52 Project, Week 23: Green
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Need inspiration for your self-portrait project?  Check out my inspiration board on Pinterest!

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