Been playing around with self portraits lately and I wanted to share a couple of things I picked up, and also get some advice from other people.
- With self portraits, you need a tripod or some stable surface to rest your camera. A tripod is good because it allows you to be consistent and also allows for fractional changes which are the difference between an infocus and out of focus shot. If you want to be creative, a gorillapod is a good option as well. Also, you want to turn off Steady Shot since it might introduce vibration. Also, try to make sure the camera stays at eye level (unless your trying to be creative).
- Manual mode and manual focus is your best option. You will need a lens which has focus scales (most minolta lenses have these). Reason being that you will need to mark out roughly where your going to be standing for your portrait and dial your focus ring to match that distance. Remember that the focus value will vary with focal length, i.e. at 50 mm your focus value might be at the 2m setting, but at 70 mm you focus value might increase to 2.3m. Usually the focus scale on the lens will have tick marks that directly coincide with the tick marks for focal length. Full manual mode allows you to be consistent, which is critical since you will be making minute adjustments to get the image just right.
- Compose your image so that the subject (you) fills the frame. Easier said than done, but with trial and error, its a simple process. If you use a particular lens a lot you will be surprised to know how quickly you can do this because in your mind, you already know (subconsciously) what focal length will fill the frame at a particular distance from the lens.
- Shoot at the fastest shutter speed and smallest aperture possible (within the limits of proper exposure). Since you will be taking portraits of yourself, large apertures (anything over f5.6 IMO) will result in a whole lot of very blurry pictures. This is because with a large aperture your depth of field is very small and your focus has to be very good in order for your shot to be blur free. At f8 you have about 20cm of give before parts of your body starts getting blurry. You want to be within this 20cm range (varies with lenses I guess, but this is based on my experience so far). A fast shutter speed will also improve sharpness further and cut down on ambient light (if that's your aim).
- You might want to use an external flash as well, since with an aperture of f8, even a well lit room may result in underexposed images. You should diffuse the flash, either by bouncing off a wall or ceiling or sending light though a umbrella or white fabric. If your using a flash, look out for flare, especially in a small room.
- Check you camera each time (especially your histogram) you take a picture to make sure your exposure is good, the focus is good and that your composition is as you want it.
- Introduce action! Try jumping, pretending to sing (or actually singing), dancing etc. At fast shutter speeds you will freeze the action and you will get some interesting poses.
- Introduce a prop: a football, a headphone a book. Something to add to impact of the image.
- Play around with lighting angles, try back lighting, using a gel, shooting through the branches of a house plant.
Most of my portraits look sweaty, because where I live is right next door to hell apparently and its always hot and humid (even at nights). The last image got overprocessed when I did a JPG export. And yes, I am a Chelsea fan.
I have a whole lot more, but I'm tired of typing
. Maybe more at some other time!