Beginner Photography: Self-Portraits

Man, what is more intimidating that taking self-portraits? I love a good selfie, but it really is a delicate balance between narcissism and self-esteem crushing reality. You want to look good, but you also don’t want to look like you know you look good, but then you have to look at a million pictures of yourself vamping and think “I look like an idiot and also I have terrible skin.” Or is that just me?

T&C have a bunch of free portrait tutorials here that are super helpful. Especially this one on using natural light:

Being aware of your light source is probably the most important part of self-portraits. Face the light, understand how it casts shadows.

Anyway, here’s what I did. Put on basic makeup and a black dress, the simpler styling the better. I decided to take my shots in my bedroom as it has good natural light and simple decor. I tried a few different spots in the room and so many different moods. 

I set my Olympus E-M10 up on a tripod and used Olympus’ mobile app to control it from my phone, which is so incredibly useful. I shot in aperture priority with the lowest aperture to blur the background, but that made it pretty hard to nail focus on my eye. I also set my ISO to the lowest I could because my shots always end up noisy, but that wound up making my shutter speeds pretty slow which I didn’t realize until looking at them now. I really need to pay more attention to my settings.

f/4.2, 1/3 sec, ISO 100


f/3.5, 1/6th, ISO 100


Who would I be if I didn’t go spooky?

f/3.5, 1/6th, ISO 100


f/3.5, 1/60th, ISO 100

Real talk: I did quite a bit of post-processing on these. My makeup was a mess and my skin was looking rough, so I did quite a bit of smoothing, you can probably tell. This page of Lightroom tutorials is integral. 

So I don’t know how “creative” these self-portraits are, but they’re mostly non-traditional. I think the last one with the backlighting is my favorite. Whattya think?

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12 Responses to Beginner Photography: Self-Portraits

  1. Brett May 2, 2017 at 8:45 pm #

    Well done!

  2. Andy May 2, 2017 at 8:49 pm #

    Nice, I think this one is a real challenge. In the last one we lose some of the detail in your face. My favourite is the first one, though it does look a little like you’re sliding off the chair!

  3. Nic May 2, 2017 at 9:56 pm #

    Great job as usual

  4. Eric D May 3, 2017 at 12:01 am #

    I really like the first one. It has the most detail of you and has a very femme fatale vibe.

  5. Roderick May 3, 2017 at 4:46 am #

    The first one does not look like a selfie. Your near hand seems to add some tension to the portrait while the rest of you looks alert but relaxed (if that makes any sense). But it pulls me back for another view, so it works !
    Great eyes in the second one. I didn’t notice any over processing.
    The spooky ” I’m gonna turn you into a TOAD”! picture is good fun
    And the imperious, “.. do you REALLY want to say that in live chat..”? picture is great. Nice symmetry with the plants.
    Brave stuff.

  6. Jim Setzer May 5, 2017 at 9:42 am #

    #2 is my favorite. Love the Peter Hurley style hair crop and the natural light. I think I’d clone out the couple of plant leaves from the left. Good Job, Siobhan!

  7. Clayton Hunter May 8, 2017 at 4:16 pm #

    My girlfriend constantly asks me to smile in the few pics we’ve ever taken together. I despise selfies or even taking pics together. I should probably work on that. Its just one of the weirdest feelings ever. I do see the upside to this though and will definitely take advantage of it to gain some experience once I have the proper lens. Great job Siobhan.

  8. Peter Bartlett May 12, 2017 at 9:30 am #

    Okay – you guys forced me to finally do a self-portrait. Thanks for the website review, but after this episode and the website review, I finally broke down and tackled a self-portrait. Thanks for the inspiration and the push.

  9. Steven May 12, 2017 at 12:04 pm #

    My partner and I discussed trying this challenge, but then ran out of time because we were leaving for vacation. Plus I couldn’t think of an angle at which I’d be satisfied to look at myself. Maybe behind a plant? LOL

    That first picture is great! My partner raved about it- although I think he has a not-so-secret-secret crush on you and always cheers when T&C introduce you on the show.

    Anyway, love the self portraits and love the blog!

  10. David A. Innes May 14, 2017 at 10:38 am #

    I like the first one. Gatsbyesque.

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