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Taking self portraits - advice please.

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Angi_Wallace
16 Jul 2009 - 8:50 PM

Ive joined the members meeting challenges to take a self portrait Im having an awful time trying to get something decent. Ive taken about a 100 shots today and not one was any good. Im afraid my main experience lies with macro, flowers, frogs, reptiles and insects, rather than portrait work.
My shutter release cable seems to be playing up so I tried using the timer instead. Ive tried natural window lighting, in built camera flash and studio lighting, but seemed to have made a mess each time.
My choice of lenses is - 18-55 kit lens, 70-300 lens, 60mm 2.8 macro lens and a 10-20 lens. I opted for the 18-55.

Im hoping someone on here who is good at self portraits such as beckas might be able to offer me some tips.
I have a fun idea in mind, which would involve me sitting down with my knees up, hopefully I can portray what I want.

Last Modified By Angi_Wallace at 16 Jul 2009 - 8:51 PM
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16 Jul 2009 - 8:50 PM

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fauxtography
16 Jul 2009 - 8:56 PM

What is not working? Of your tries so far what is it that you do not like about the results? It might be worth stripping it back to a really simple idea and setup first and once you have that start to push it further.

Pete
Pete Site Moderator 1318446 forum postsPete vcard ePz Advertiser England96 Constructive Critique Points
16 Jul 2009 - 9:19 PM

I've just explained in one of critiques that one of the main problems is focusing. Cameras tend to have systems that pre focus when a timer is used. And some don't focus when a remote control is used. So you need to pre focus on something that will be at the same position as your eyes when you move into position. Then switch to manual focus and move into frame.

If you don't have a tripod make sure the camera is on a table or chair and use something under the camera to adjust the angle. When out I often use the camera strap under the lens to point it upwards or under the base to point it downwards.

Composition can be harder. It's safer to use a wider lens and crop later until you become competent at judging space.

It's not as easy as you'd think and is a great challenge and one I'd hope more people would get involved in.

csurry
csurry  129230 forum posts92 Constructive Critique Points
16 Jul 2009 - 10:17 PM

My main problem with this challenge is needing a better model Wink

RogBrown
RogBrown  73006 forum posts England10 Constructive Critique Points
16 Jul 2009 - 10:18 PM


Quote: My main problem with this challenge is needing a better model

Me too, Cheryl. Me too. Smile

Simon_Palmer
16 Jul 2009 - 10:42 PM


Quote: My main problem with this challenge is needing a better model

I had that problem too, weird when you look at a photo of yourself. Flip the image on the horizontal though and it's you as you look in a mirror and as daft as it sounds makes you more recognisable to yourself. Just remember to flip it back once you've worked on it Wink

csurry
csurry  129230 forum posts92 Constructive Critique Points
16 Jul 2009 - 10:52 PM

Nah I tried that simon was originally working with two ideas one of which was me in a mirror anyway. Just need a more co-operative model who likes to be in front of the camera and not behind it!

Angi_Wallace
16 Jul 2009 - 10:59 PM


Quote: What is not working? Of your tries so far what is it that you do not like about the results? It might be worth stripping it back to a really simple idea and setup first and once you have that start to push it further.

I think Pete hit the nail on the head, the focusing problem is my main difficulty. I have two simple ideas but just cant seem to get the focus right at all. Ive done it before - a long time ago and did not have such difficulty , but then I used a camera up close for a headshot only, triggering with a cable (which isnt working now, must get a new longer one I think). So Ive been setting the camera on muliple shot timer, but as Pete says the camera prefocuses and Ive not hit the focus properly yet in what must be around 400 images this evening. I really need to find something I can put in place to focus on, but cant find anything the right size that will stay in position for focusing, that I can whip out of place once the timer is set.

I am also finding it very hard to get the lighting right too, any flash at all makes me look ghastly as Im extremely pale already. One of my ideas involves quite moody dark lighting from one side and the other fairly natural lighting more or less face on. I want to produce one head and shoulders shot and one full body where Im sitting with my knees up sort of hugging my knees ( you will see the reason when I get it right).

Thanks for the reply Pete. Im using a tripod, would you say I would be better off with the 10-20 lens then? Im going to by a remote, or new, longer cable release I think, just for this challenge.

Finding this one of the hardest photography challenges to date. But Im not giving up, its going to be a steep learning curve but Im determined to try my best to get this right.

fauxtography
16 Jul 2009 - 11:02 PM


Quote: My main problem with this challenge is needing a better model

I know that feeling.

Last Modified By fauxtography at 16 Jul 2009 - 11:08 PM
Paul Morgan
Paul Morgan e2 Member 1315404 forum postsPaul Morgan vcard England6 Constructive Critique Points
16 Jul 2009 - 11:04 PM


Quote: I've just explained in one of critiques that one of the main problems is focusing. Cameras tend to have systems that pre focus when a timer is used. And some don't focus when a remote control is used


Quote: It's not as easy as you'd think and is a great challenge and one I'd hope more people would get involved in

Got involved on this one as well, yes focusing and composition can be a little fiddly.

Another option is using a mirror.

Once set up you can pose to your hearts content, just make sure your camera and tripod is not visible in the mirror and that its nice and clean.

silly sample

Last Modified By Paul Morgan at 16 Jul 2009 - 11:07 PM
Simon_Palmer
16 Jul 2009 - 11:06 PM

To get focus on my eye when I did my shot I did this, right or wrong. I got an old transistor radio with a telescopic aerial on it, put it on the floor then focused on the top of it, sat down put my eye where the aerial top was and pushed it down out of shot. Daft I know but wasn't a million miles out and seemed to work.

fauxtography
16 Jul 2009 - 11:06 PM

I used a light stand to focus on, so quick and easy to move, plus i could extend it to the height of my eyes for my focus point. Do you have anything like a spare tripod that you can stand in place?

Alternatively, if you are not using a very shallow DOF, prefocus manually using the distance markings on your lens. If you have a tape measure you can get the distance bang on.

Angi_Wallace
16 Jul 2009 - 11:06 PM


Quote: Nah I tried that simon was originally working with two ideas one of which was me in a mirror anyway. Just need a more co-operative model who likes to be in front of the camera and not behind it!

Lol, I know exactly what you mean, Ive hated all the photos Ive taken of myself today. Its so tempting to add some manipulation afterwards, as in previous attempts -
http://www.ephotozine.com/u76915/gallery/890095 http://www.ephotozine.com/u76915/gallery/975030

Last Modified By Angi_Wallace at 16 Jul 2009 - 11:08 PM
Simon_Palmer
16 Jul 2009 - 11:09 PM

The second one is nice Zaro, me likes.

beckas
beckas  10 United States1 Constructive Critique Points
16 Jul 2009 - 11:48 PM

Hi Angi

Here are a few other suggestions.

Shoot at F8 or F10 if your camera is having trouble focusing. I often do this just to avoid focusing issues.

I agree with the tips that Pete has given. If possible, shoot farther away and then crop. I have ruined so many photos from a chopped hand, etc. LOL!

Regarding lighting, I never use my onboard camera flash. Most of the lighting I use is either indirect window light or from a sofbox or two put at slight side angles.

Don't use the 10-20mm lense for a head shot. It will distort and not look right. Use a 50mm or longer lens, whatever you can get away with. I use a 28mm for full body shots (because of the limited space I have to work with) and a 50mm fixed lens for my head shoulder shots.

The remote I use is an inexpensive wireless canon remote and it works great. I hide it usually in the palm of my hand. The only problem that I face when using it is that I have to pose within two seconds of pressing it.

A tip about the mirror, if you use one, make sure that you are looking at the camera and not the mirror when the camera fires. It's a natural instinct to look at the mirror instead of the camera. The mirror will only be a general guide as it will not be the exact view of what the camera is seeing.

Lastly, there's nothing wrong with a little PS tweaking. Wink

Good luck!

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