If somebody had told me three or so years ago, that I would have an extensive collection of self-portraits and I would be writing a tutorial on how to take your own, I’d have probably laughed at them. But life works in mysterious ways, and it appears that the first ever self portrait I took of myself was on 29th March 2010 at 9:37am. I would have never done it, if it wasn’t for my 365 project: a free website, where you post a photo a day to document your life/creative process.
Selfies require you to be a little brave. To point the camera at yourself and let it document all your little imperfections up close. If you don’t like what you see in the viewfinder, you are the only one to blame. I was not ready for that back then. But, as with everything else, you have to start slow and take baby steps.
You don’t have to have a special camera/equipment to take a self-portrait. You can do it with your phone, a point-and-shoot camera, your DSLR. What’s the most important thing is for you to be in the photo.
So, once you have your photo-taking device and you have battled with the fear of being in front of the camera, it’s a matter of how. You can hand-hold the device (like my first selfies above), sit it on a firm surface, or mount it on a tripod. If somebody else is holding it, it does not count. It has to be just the camera and you. That’s how selfies are made.
For a good selfie, like for a good anything else, you must be in the mood. Maybe you see something, and it inspires you. Maybe you read a book and a visual image floats into your mind. Maybe you hear a song and it stirs your soul. Selfies are a statement, and outward expression of an inward emotional excess, a record of a fleeting feeling, a spur-of-the-moment image of you at the here and now.
Yet, most of the time good selfies are equal to good light. You see the light, and it beckons you. You grab the camera, hold it as far as you can, while trying not to lose you grip, strike a pose, focus, click. And again, and again, and again. Until you get a couple of photos with you in them, hoping that when you upload them on the computer at least one will be worth posting with a decent amount of editing.
Reflection selfies are great for beginners. No tripod needed. They happen in windows, mirrors, hotel bathrooms, and other shiny surfaces that catch your eye. The camera/device can cover all or parts of your face, depending for the effect you are going for. You can have other reflections add to the effect. Everything is possible. It’s your selfie. Your rules.
Sitting the camera on the floor also works, but it’s a workout. If you don’t have a wireless remote, you can set your camera timer which will give you some seconds to press the shutter, throw yourself on the floor, spread your limbs in different directions, and strike a pose hopefully before the photo is being taken. Then, you spring up, take a quick look, the results are usually tragic, and you do it again. This little exercise continues until you get a somewhat satisfying result, or your body hurts so bad that you are happy with the outcome no matter what. In either case, you are extremely grateful that there’s nobody around to witness your ungraceful camera-floor-floor-camera mad dash.
Once you overcome the initial fear and you begin enjoying taking reflection and hand-held selfies, you become like an addict. You see an opportunity, make sure nobody is watching, look around once more and then hurriedly snap the photo. If you do it too fast, it’s blurry. You are brave now, you do it again. But then, as with any addiction, if you do it long enough, it’s not enough. You need something more. A challenge to keep the adrenalin rush going. That’s when you invest in a sturdy tripod (you can pick one up virtually anywhere), and a wireless remote.
To sum it up, the essential elements for taking a self-portrait are:
- a photo-taking device
- reflective surface/firm surface to sit the device on/a tripod
- hand/camera timer/remote control
If you have these, you will manage to take a photo of yourself. But is that all that goes into it?
For me, it’s a little/lot bit more. As one of my 365 friends put it,
“there really is something about self portraits that encourages you to show your emotions. the isolation and loneliness of being both the subject and the photographer allow you to be who you are and show unrestrainably how your feeling”
Spontaneous/planned, song/movie/book/quote-inspired, taken for a reason or just because, selfies can be a way to express something within you that needs to show its manifestation. They just happen, you let them out, and then you keep moving, evolving and discovering. There are no rules on how/where/when to take them. You make the rules as you go. They don’t have to be perfect. You are not. Nobody is. And that’s where the beauty lies. In learning to love yourself, as you are. Imperfections and all.
Are you ready for your selfie? Feel free to share it with me. I’d love to see.