Today is the first day in dPS’s Self Portrait Challenge – learn more about what it is, how you can be involved and how you can get a free gift here.
Earlier this week, when I learned I would be issuing some self-portrait challenges for dPS, I was absolutely thrilled! Self-portraiture has been a very important aspect of my career as a photographer thus far, as well as many of my photography buddies – both professional and hobbyist.
When I first started learning about photography, self-portraiture never occurred to me as a way to hone my portrait skills. I found so many amazing and unique self-portrait photographers online, mainly through Flickr, and found the idea of self-portraits to be, let’s face it, slightly intimidating, and I did not really understand why anyone would want to photograph themselves on a regular basis. As I followed their work, however, I soon realized that their photography, not only their self-portraits, seemed to be constantly growing in new directions, which inspired me to try a couple of self-portraits of my own.
Self-portraiture is a fun and rewarding way to practice lighting, different camera settings, and portraiture in general. There was a time when I was petrified of photographing another person, but through my experiences with self-portraits, I acquired skills and a new level of confidence that has been very beneficial to my portrait work, which has become the basis for my photography business.
One of the really great things about self-portraits is that you do not need an expensive camera or an intricate lighting setup. Sure, having lots of gear on hand can make your self-portraits fun and challenging, but really all you need is a camera with a timer, and the possibilities are endless. This is a chance for you to spend some time alone, learning about your camera, how to adapt to different lighting situations and various locations, without the pressure of finding a model.
With that said, let’s look at our first self-portrait challenge for this week: Props
Photographers have been using props since the invention of the camera! They are a great thing to have on hand because not only do they add interest to the photo, but they can also be great indicators of time and place, as well as giving the subject something to focus on other than the camera. Just like a portrait of someone else, a self-portrait should be a reflection of you, the individual, and oftentimes a prop can help you feel more at ease in front of the camera.
Here are a few ideas to help you get started:
While this self-portrait challenge is geared more towards the beginner self-portrait photographer, I encourage all of you, even the more experienced photographers, to give this challenge a try.
Your prop need not be anything elaborate – when you are first starting out with self-portraits, I would suggest using a prop that has meaning to you, whether it has sentimental value, or is just something that you really like. This could be a family heirloom or a photograph. If you have a hobby, such as painting, for example, your paintbrushes would make a great prop. Or, maybe you just really love flowers, so even flowers could be a great prop. The key is to find something that is special to you, because if you are working with a prop that has meaning to you, personally, you are much more likely to relax in front of the camera and have fun, as opposed to being stiff and not knowing what to do with yourself.
Above the image above: In my free time, I collect antiques, and lately I have been using a vintage suitcase as a prop. Not only do I like the way it looks, but I wonder where it has traveled in the world and who has carried it, which has inspired a lot of ideas for my self-portraits in the past few months. Any object that spurs an emotional reaction or sets your imagination in motion will work great as a prop.
Experiment with different lighting and focus. If you are new to self-portraits and possibly a little bit uncomfortable with the idea of being in front of the camera, try making the prop the main focal point, with yourself being secondary.
Once you have chosen a prop to use, the fun begins! Just do your best to concentrate on what the prop means to you, whether it is a simple concept, or something more abstract, and let those thoughts guide you in setting up your self-portrait.
Once you’ve taken your ‘PROPS’ Self Portrait Photos – choose your best one and upload it to your favourite photo sharing site and either share a link to it in comments below. Alternatively – embed the image in comment below using the our embed tool.
If you tag your photos on Flickr, Instagram, Twitter or other sites with Tagging tag them as #DPSPROPS to help others find them. Linking back to this page might also help others know what you’re doing so that they can share in the fun.