- Become a better photographer today!
remember me:     

Photography QnA: Understanding Self Portraits

Browse by Category | All New Questions | All New Responses | Q&A Home

Category: All About Photography : Photographing Specific Subjects : Understanding Self Portraits

Understanding self portraits is an important aspect of creative photography. This Q&A discusses that very thing.

Page 1 : 1 -6 of 6 questions

Photography Question 

member since: 8/3/2004
  1 .  Self-Portraits
I am interested in doing self-portraits of myself. What is the best way of doing this when on my own? Any tips would be useful.

11/3/2004 2:46:24 AM

Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 7/17/2003
  What do you like to do? And for what activity are you most known?
These qualities or activities should be portrayed in any portrait of yourself to make it a little more interesting to the viewer. If you are a gardener ... a shot of you watering a rose bush, or standing proudly behind a table full of healthy-looking fruits or vegetables would convey that fact.
As a photographer ... you can take a photo of yourself, shooting something else. This is easy to do if you have access to two cameras (even if the "prop" camera you are holding doesn't work).
The possibilities are limited only by your imagination. For best results when operating a camera by remote, or with the self-timer, use a manual exposure setting and focus manually on where you will later be standing.

11/3/2004 1:13:48 PM

Scott Pedersen

member since: 11/18/2001
  Heres an idea, if you have a larger mirror place it behind the camera so you can get an idea of how your posing. Make sure your remote is out of view of the lens.

11/9/2004 4:42:01 AM

Respond | Ask Your Own Question
Photography Question 
Terri  Stanley

member since: 10/7/2004
  2 .  Self-Portraits: How to Shoot Them!
I am having trouble taking self-portraits. My face is either not in the picture or out of focus. Someone started telling me about a string method. I was hoping you can tell me how to use this method or another method that might help take a good self portrait.

10/7/2004 4:49:15 AM

Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 7/17/2003
  Both of these scenarios are common when attempting self-portraiture.
  • To overcome the first problem: When you compose your shot, remember a particular element within the scene that is your approximate height and is visible in the viewfinder where you will later be standing. With your camera mounted on a tripod, tilt the camera angle to where your face will appear at the same spot as the object you used as reference.
  • The second problem ... relating to focus is easy if you can focus manually, but more difficult if you only have an AF camera. You will need to "pre-focus" the lens to the point where you will later be standing. You can use the self-timer (standard on most cameras) to do this by pointing the center of the viewfinder at a solid object at the same distance to the camera that you will later be standing. Set the timer and press the shutter. The camera lens will focus on that spot, but won't take the picture until the timer finishes its cycle.
    Then, quickly re-compose and get into position before the timer runs out.

    10/7/2004 4:55:12 PM

  • Respond | Ask Your Own Question
    Photography Question 
    Stephanie Moyer

    member since: 9/9/2004
      3 .  Using a Remote Release Cable
    I am thinking about getting one of these, to take pictures of my son and I. I'm thinking it would be easier than using the timer. What your thoughts? Would I really like and benefit from buying one? Thanks a bunch!

    9/10/2004 1:05:54 PM

    Nancy Grace Chen
    BetterPhoto Member

    member since: 3/18/2004
      Hi Stephanie, I just bought one, and I wish I had bought it earlier. I think it works MUCH better than the timer, especially with people. When you set the timer when doing portraits, the subject's expression starts becoming stiff and unnatural while they're posing and waiting for the camera to actually take the pic. With the remote release, the expressions are more natural, and you can work a lot faster.

    9/10/2004 3:05:56 PM

    Bob Cammarata
    BetterPhoto Member

    member since: 7/17/2003
      For normal portraiture, your timer would probably be the most practical. The only drawback being that you never really know the exact moment to "smile".) The cable remotes work fine at short distances, but for portraits, you may have trouble hiding the wire.

    One thing to keep in mind anytime you operate an SLR by remote cable - OR when using a timer - use a manual exposure setting or cover the eyepiece. When you use auto-exposure, stray light will filter in through the eyepiece and bounce off the mirror, throwing off your in-camera meter.

    9/10/2004 3:07:42 PM

      My remote release for the Nikon has no wire. It uses an infrared signal, and I get instant response. So, if you are shooting children, animals, or anyone, there is no lag time. You can catch the exact moment. Your timer does not give you that.

    9/14/2004 4:46:25 PM

    Respond | Ask Your Own Question
    Photography Question 
    Lynn J. Sims

    member since: 6/24/2004
      4 .  Wedding Photography
    Hello, I recently took wedding photographs for a friend, who was pleased with the results. However, in a couple of the photos taken of the entire wedding party, the center subjects were in perfect focus, while those on the outer frame were slightly out of focus. I used a Minolta QTsi with a 2000xi flash and 200 speed film.
    The subjects were in a single line. Would changing the composition of the subjects correct this problem or should I purchase a wide-angle lens?

    8/26/2004 11:02:06 AM

    Jon Close
    BetterPhoto Member

    member since: 5/18/2000
      It's typical for lens resolution to be less at the edges of the frame than in the center, especially with zoom lenses. Try leaving more space between the outer-most subjects and the edge of the frame. Also realize that subjects at the end of that single line are farther from the camera than those in the center. You need more depth of field (smaller aperture), or you need to arrange the subjects in an arc rather than a straight line, so all are at the same focus distance.

    8/26/2004 12:17:22 PM

    Mark Mobley

    member since: 3/5/2004
      Just want to correct the answer of Jon C. Pretty much ALL well-designed rectilinear lenses focus in a PLANE, not an arc, so you don't need to change the arrangement into an arc shape (the only lenses that need this are fisheye and panoramic swing-lenses). Resolution fall-off across the frame is a problem, and may be particularly bad on your camera, although there is not really anything you can do about that. Try setting the aperture to a mid (~f/8) value for best resolution, and try leaving more space as Jon C. suggests.

    9/1/2004 5:34:20 AM

    Respond | Ask Your Own Question
    Photography Question 

    member since: 12/18/2003
      5 .  Setting Up Self-Portraits
    How does one get a camera to focus for a self-portrait, without the remote release. I know you have to use the self-timer, but how do you get it to focus at the point where you plan to be? I'm totally lost how it is done with just a self-timer and no remote release

    4/15/2004 2:15:40 PM

    Bob Cammarata
    BetterPhoto Member

    member since: 7/17/2003
      If you don't have the ability to manually focus, you can "lock-in" the auto-focus by pointing the camera at something that is the same distance away from the camera where you will be standing. Engage the timer, and press the shutter. The lens will focus on that spot. Then, quickly re-compose and get yourself into position before the timer runs out. Most point-and-shoot cameras will work this way. One thing to keep in mind if using an SLR for self-portraiture. Use a manual exposure setting - or, if using auto-exposure, cover the eyepiece, as stray light can enter through it and throw off your meter.

    4/15/2004 2:41:51 PM


    member since: 12/18/2003
      They say God is in the details - and wow, I never thought of this. Thank you for the quick response!

    4/15/2004 2:56:20 PM

    Bob Cammarata
    BetterPhoto Member

    member since: 7/17/2003
      Another easy way to pre-focus is to photograph yourself sitting in a chair. Then, it's easy to just use the back of the chair as your focus point ... set the timer ... press the shutter ... and have a seat!

    4/15/2004 3:00:12 PM

    Joan Bellinger

    member since: 9/6/2001
      I have stuffed bears that I've used to pre-focus for self-portraits.

    4/28/2004 3:44:25 PM


    member since: 12/18/2003
      I did think of the bears, but I thought it would probably not work, because I had never heard it mentioned before! Thank you.

    4/29/2004 5:41:01 AM

    Respond | Ask Your Own Question
    Photography Question 
    Aldo Tristan

    member since: 12/4/2001
      6 .  Self Portrait (Without Smoke and Mirrors)
    I want to take a self portrait without using a mirror. What other ways is there? Do you know of a a book that shows you how to do it? Or maybe you can just tell me how to.

    Thanks for your time,

    12/4/2001 3:43:31 PM

    doug Nelson

    member since: 6/14/2001
      How long are your arms? Just kidding. Many cameras, even inexpensive ones, have a self-timer. Set the camera on a very steady object or tripod, focus on where you will be, trip the shutter, with the self-timer set, and go around to the front of the camera. You might prefer to do this with no one else around, as it presents quite a little spectacle.

    12/5/2001 8:34:18 AM

    John A. Lind
    BetterPhoto Member

    member since: 9/27/2001
      Don't kid about it too much Doug. If you have a fisheye or a super-wide in the 18-20mm range, it can be held stretched out in front of you. The results look a little goofy (big nose, small ears), but for a humorous shot . . .

    More seriously, if the camera has a threaded socket on the shutter button for a "cable release" you can get a longer one that works using air. It has a plunger at one end for tripping the shutter and screws into the shutter button, just like a cable release. Attached to it is a thin hollow tube that can be unreeled to about 20-30 feet. At the other end is a bulb that is squeezed to trip the shutter. Squeezing the bulb pushes air through the tube and actuates the plunger. Typical cost of these is about $20 or so, complete with small reel for rolling up the tube (so it doesn't become a tangled mess in the camera bag).

    If you cannot hide the bulb in your hand, or conceal the tube very well, you can use your foot (don't stomp on it, lightly push on it using the ball of your foot).

    Some newer, totally electronic cameras also have an IR remote, about half the size of the key fob for activating auto door locks. If your camera is totally electronic, see if this is an accessory for it. You might need to poke around in the camera accessory brochure that has all the little odds and ends listed.

    -- John

    12/10/2001 1:47:14 AM

    Leo Enriquez

    member since: 12/2/2001
      You might want to check my pic on selfportraits (Not a happy hour)!..I went for a wide angle and time shutter!...Your margin of error diminishes.

    7/16/2002 2:43:36 AM

    Respond | Ask Your Own Question

    Copyright 1996-2014, Inc. All Rights Reserved.