How To

Contemporary Self-Portraits

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Self-portraits need not be one-sided. Usually we see the common front view of one's face with a curled grin. Surely everyone has tried the "myspace" version where the camera is placed higher than the head, and then coupled with pouting lips. ugh, let's forget about that.

Basically the cameras I used for my self-portraits are my Holga 120FN, Diana+, Canon Autoboy, Konica C35, and my dear old Sony Cybershot DSC-P8. Tripods are useful but optional. Internal or external flash are just as important, and the cable release is quite handy as well.

Let's focus back on the different vantage points of self-portraiture; I've been experimenting with a variety of angles and techniques to come up with quirky self-portraits. You see, I never take myself too seriously most of the time so I am not entirely fond of morose looking self-portraits. So what I did was to kick in a few amusing experiments which in turn resulted into this set. Just a reminder, this is just to give another perspective on photographing yourself (I must suggest though, pry away from "myspace self-portraits"... too much cliche is too darn much). Experimentation is very much encouraged.

Double Exposures are a nice touch for boring backgrounds or facial expression. Stand on a pure whitewashed wall, smile don't smile whatever, take a picture. Don't wind it to the next frame when using analog cameras. Go to the library or a book shop, then shoot the array of books closest to you. Then you can wind the film. While some analog cameras allow you to take a second shot on the same frame, some don't. BUT there's a solution for this. The trick is to rewind the film ONE FRAME, then re-shoot. You just need to make sure that it is only one frame back. Not two, just one. Or else you might overlap the other frames. Hey, who knows the results might also be cooler. It's up to you.

Mirrors are very very much essential when it comes to self-portraits. They are the reason why painting one's self has become rampant in the early days of Renoir and Rembrandt. Since mirrors come in different shapes and sizes nowadays, let us improvise on that fact. Get a compact mirror (not too small, not too big), handle them with care and stop shaking, place them in front of you making sure that you see yourself in the viewfinder, focus the camera then shoot away. One of the best mirror self-portraits I took was that from the side-mirror of a motorcycle. Try taking your picture on bizaare looking mirrors or any surface that could reflect your image. It may be a puddle of clear mud (seriously), heavily tinted sunglasses, sliding windows while the sun sets, etc. Also the classic full body mirrors are pretty cool as long you won't show the frame.

Do you own fisheye lens? What about a fisheye camera? No? Are you near a hardware store? Yes? Good. Go buy yourself a glass peephole. This is the most downright cheapest thing next to a fisheye camera. However, analog cameras are not likely to be used when you plan on attaching this unto your lens. Digital point and shoots are your best bet. Disable your macro feature, zoom in the lens and attach glass peephole on it. By attach, what I really mean is place the peephole on the lens then tape it or just hold it as it as it is. Just make sure that you don't scratch the lens. Adjust the lens, zoom in a little bit, zoom out, adjust again. Do this repeatedly until you have reached breaking point....err... I mean, until you have your desired settings. Move your head on the peephole attached lens, move in closer leaving about 5cm space between you and the lens. Now take photos of your distorted face. Viola! Or you can skip all the zoom in/zoom out shenanigans and go buy yourself a fisheye camera. I got mine pretty cheap from a second hand online shop. Again, its all up to you dear reader.

Be awesomely silly. Dress-up. Make faces. The best self-portraits I've seen so far are the most unconventional ones. Ones that wouldn't require the subject to be looking at a distant as if all the world is pouring its sorrows on him. I say, be a jolly pirate! If you don't have the necessary costumes or whatsoever, then I suggest you go get some paper or card stock and then some markers. Draw cartoony eyes, whimsical mustache, or a pair of apple shaped cheekbones and stick 'em on your face. If you have sensitive skin, by all means never use any kind of tape. Buy those hypoallergenic tapes at a drugstore. You surely won't want a puffy face when taking self-portraits.

All these experiments I have tried and tested. And I could assure you that with every click of the shutter, I was having fun. I still am a fan on the traditional way of taking a portrait; perched on a chair with a scenic background, subject half-smiling half-pouting. This is a classic way of doing it and I don't want to meddle with standards. But as the title says contemporary, these are just my personal way of doing it. I hope it did help some of you. If I missed anything important (because I know I did) feel free to message me.

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