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How To Make Self-Portraits: The Cheap And Easy Way

As some of you might now know, I am the kind of person that can be a perfectionist, but sometimes I also can be lazy. Reaaaaaaally lazy. Perhaps you can relate, you know, when you just don’t want to do anything complicated, you just want to have fun! That’s exactly how I felt when I did some really cool, easy and fun self-portraits. How to do it with minimal equipment and literally no setup – right here right now? Read on!

I had fun playing with Luminar’s filters. I made a really warm-gold tone for the cover image of this article and I wanted this one to be on the cooler side to create a more dramatic effect.

So yesterday I was by myself at home, kind of bored, looking for something creative to do with my photography. Then, I thought about this great image my friend and Photofocusfellow author Erin Holmstead. She shared a beautiful self-portrait on her Instagram account that really inspired me. She even quoted “Self-deceit is a most damaging trait. The remedy, for an artist, is to paint a self-portrait. – Scott Kahn”. That was the sparkle I was looking for to ignite my creativity! I saw this white coroplast plastic board my husband bought earlier this week and thought it would make a great background. I took my camera and I was ready to roll. The most difficult part was attaching the screw of the tripod mount under my camera (but maybe I am the only one with this issue).

If you look close enough you will see the texture of the white coroplast sheet behind me. If I would’ve wanted a more clean style I would’ve probably blurred the background in post-production. The raw look was actually what I liked and I even decided to add some grain to make it even a little more textured. I’ve also added some negative space to the right to change the composition.

Equipment

• Camera Well, of course, a camera is required.

• Tripod If you don’t have one, use a chair, a countertop, a table or even a hazardous stack of whatever the moment inspires. It may or may not include books, pans, and boxes.

• Background It can be a wall, a sheet of coroplast (I know a lot of people has 6-foot height coroplast in the middle of their kitchen like I do) or just no background at all. #YOLO

• Natural light A door, a patio, a window, anything goes… you can even be outside. I was standing in my kitchen where I had a great amount of light coming from my patio door. I closed the curtains to diffuse it and make it softer.

• Cellphone This won’t actually be used to take the picture (otherwise this would likely be a selfie). It’s your high-tech camera remote! How is that? If your camera has a built-in WiFi, download the free app to control it and see in real-time what’s in your viewfinder. You can even focus by tapping on your screen. I personally used “Nikon WMU” (Wireless Mobile Utility) which I downloaded straight from the App Store. Canon’s is called “Canon Camera Connect” and they both have the equivalent app for Android.

This image was purposely out of focus and this is exactly what I like about it. It’s a very personal artistic taste but it reminds me of a dreamy-ethereal look or someone looking through a thick fog or a dirty glass.

One Setup, 1 000 images

All the images in this article have been taken minutes apart. The setup remained exactly the same – I told you, I’ve been super lazy! So how can you add variety to the final result?

• The aperture/shutter speed If you want a sharper image, choose a smaller aperture like f/10. If you like the soft and blurry effect, use a wider aperture like f/1.8. If you want to freeze your movement use a higher shutter speed like 1/250. If you want a blurry movement effect use a slower shutter speed like 1/30. Changing one setting requires a compensating change on the other or even the ISO.

• Distance from the camera/background If you are at a wide aperture, the further away you are from the background, the blurrier it will be.

• Focus The “Laws” of Photography suggest focussing on the eye of your subject when doing a portrait. But laws are not always meant to be followed (as you can see in my last picture). Why don’t you try focussing on your lips, fingers or hair?

• Turn around For the cover image of the article, I was directly facing the window. I was in profile to the camera with the light coming straight in front of me. For the other images, I was facing the camera and the light was coming from the side. The way you move your body around the light changes the way it is being lit and shaped. Play with that!

• Post-production This is one of my absolute favorites. It is SO easy to completely change the style of an image simply by playing around with colors, filters and presets. You can also crop it and totally change the composition. I said this before and I say it again: I LOVE to use Luminar to get totally creative in my editing.

I hope this little read gives you some inspiration to do some self-portraits of your own! If you enjoyed this article and are a photographer on a budget, you might also like to have a look at my previous article: “Improve your Photography Skills for $0-$5 with these Essential Tools“.

Until next time!

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