Photo Shoot Tips

How Not To Shoot a Self-portrait

With One Light

Radio DJ’s often say that they have a face made for Radio. Hence the reason they aren’t on Television. (Unless your name is Ryan Seacrest)

There is a reason I work behind the camera, I simply hate having my picture taken.  Probably because I am never happy with what I see in the finished result.  YES – I am my own worst client.  Not to mention that I have relatives who have spent a lifetime perfecting the art of catching me off guard to actually get a photograph that proves I was at a family gathering.

I recently had the great experience of losing 40lbs and decided it was time for some new marketing images.  I didn’t want to shoot the usual guy holding the camera and thinking he looks cool because of it self-portrait.  I wanted something that shows some personality. Since I loathe the process of having a portrait taken so much, I decided to have a little fun.

Now you may think this is a bit extreme. Possibly, but from a marketing standpoint it shows a lot of personality and that I like to have fun – hence fun to work with.  During a shoot it is a great tool because when I am trying to get a new model to do something that is a bit goofy or show extra personality it is great to be able to point out to them that if the photographer can do it – they better be able to do it if they want to be a model.

The self-portraits that you see here and above are the result.

One Light Self Portraits

The Self-portrait Set Up

I went old-school.  Since these were going to be full length shots that included my hands – I couldn’t use a trigger as it would be seen in the shot.  So I did the shots with a self-timer set on a 10 second delay.

I mounted the camera on a tripod and shot with my Nikon D800 and a 50mm f/1.8 lens.  ISO was 250.  Exposure was 1/250th of a second at f7.1 aperture.

I set the camera at a height just below the midpoint of my body so that it would not be tilted up or down – it was important to keep the camera parallel to my body so that there was no distortion.  I am only 5’8” so I don’t want to look any shorter!

I decided to keep the lighting very simple.  One Light.  It doesn’t get much simpler.

I used a white vinyl seamless backdrop which is only a few feet from a white wall on camera left.  On camera right, I used a 5’ x 7’ white diffusion panel that I have mounted on the same closet track that I use for my fluorescent light fixtures.

A Paul C. Buff AlienBee B800 set at half power was on the other side of the diffusion screen.

Self Portrait Lighting Diagram
Watch the VIDEO…

Be sure to watch the video above and take a look behind the scenes at the entire self-portrait shoot which took less than an hour start to finish. It took me more time to write this blog article than it did to shoot the images.

I hope you found this information useful. Now go pick up that camera and shoot something! Because your BEST shot is your NEXT shot!

Joe Edelman

Joe Edelman is an award winning Photographer, Author, and Photo Educator.  Follow this link to learn more about Joe or view his portfolio. Please be sure to connect on the social media platforms below.
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