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My black light selfie experiment

Confession: I love a good selfie! I am taking selfies all the time — and not the kind where I raise the camera above my head and make duck lips. I actually love a good creative artist selfie. I love coming up with an idea and trying to execute it by myself on myself. I received a black light for Christmas, so I knew that I needed to shoot a new selfie series and thought I would share the process.

To start out with here is a list of the pieces of equipment I used:

Setup

I started by setting up my V-flat behind me to block out the fact that I was shooting in my unfinished, messy basement and to allow me to have a black backdrop. I then marked on the ground with a piece of painters tape where I was going to stand in comparison to the backdrop. I knew that once the lights were off I wouldn’t be able to see it so I also took a dab of the neon paint and place it on the tape so it would glow.

I placed my camera and Oben tripod an arm’s length away from the marker. Since I was doing this all by myself I needed to be able to push the shutter button and didn’t want to have to spend too much time running back and forth trying to get my focus right. I then set up my Vanguard tripod to the right of where I was going to be standing.

My UV light is not able to attach to a light stand so I took this wooden table top that screws into the top of my tripod that a friend made me, and set that on top of the Vanguard. That way I could have the UV light at head height and within arms reach as well.

After I got everything set up, I took my UV paint and turned off the lights to see the kind of the reaction I was going to get from the paints. I took the four brightest colors — pink, orange, yellow and green — and headed upstairs to the bathroom. I had intentionally wanted to do a makeup inspired image. So I started painting my face and neck all black, however, halfway through I realized acrylic paint probably wasn’t the best option for that as my eyes were starting to stick together. :) Rookie mistake I guess.

I immediately washed that off or more like scrubbed it off and started over. I took a paintbrush dipped it into the paints and started flicking it at my face. I did this for a few minutes with each color and then headed back downstairs. I turned off the lights to see what I had done and loved it.

Camera settings

I knew from the beginning I wanted to use my macro lens, because I wanted to be able to see a ton of the details in the paint and my face. I decided to set my aperture to f/13 just to ensure that nothing was blurry. As for my shutter speed, I kept changing that though out all the images. On some I wanted everything to be really sharp so I was shooting at 1/60s, other times I wanted to add some blur so I was shooting with a 1s shutter speed. That being said I never changed the ISO. I kept it at 400 the whole time and to be honest, the reason I did that was that I loved the variety it was giving me.

Some images were super bright and others were dark and moody. I spent a good two hours standing in front of my camera just messing around with the settings, trying all sorts of things and I loved all of them. Throughout the entire process, I was either holding the black light myself or I had placed it on the stand to the right of me. I really wanted to experiment with the light and get a feel for what it could do.

As for the actual way I took the photo. Because I kept my camera at arm’s length, I flipped out my camera’s LCD screen and swiveled it around. This way I could actually see myself on screen before I took the photo. This was incredibly helpful in allowing me to lock my focal point in place and then just move my face around that. I also set my camera on the self-timer mode so it would wait 10 seconds after I pushed the shutter button before taking three images.

Conclusion

The whole process was a ton of fun and very educational. Not to mention a huge stress relief for me. Sometimes I get all caught up in my head with photography and forget that I became a photographer because I love it. That I do it sometimes just for myself, not just for my clients. It always brings me back to feeling like an artist and that’s what I love. I can’t wait to try it again and I hope you give it a shot as well. I promise you’ll love it!

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