Building Skills: The Self-Portrait

Welcome to Picturing Kipi, my photo blog. Since my goal is to become a better photographer, I’ll be posting what I’m learning and the images that go along with it.

The Self-Portrait

I like taking self-portraits, but the problem with being in front of the camera is you don’t know how the photo looks and how to adjust your settings accordingly. This article by John Watson was pretty helpful in giving tips to get better focus. I packed up my camera and headed out into a nearby park, ready to shoot.

What I brought:

Gear for the self-portrait

I brought my tripod, a step stool, and my backpack. The step stool was my stand-in for the full-body portrait. I set it down on the deck with a little twig right next to the front legs of the stool. I set my camera up (f/3.5, 1/800, ISO 200 on a 50 mm 1.8 lens, self-timer delay 10 sec, burst: 3 frames) and used AF to focus on the stool. Then I switched to Manual Focus to keep the lens from resetting the focus, moved the stool away, and lined myself up with the twig that I left behind to mark the focus spot.

My stand-in for the full body shot, plus a twig to mark the spot

The full-body portrait:

This took very many tries to get right, but I finally figured out that if I kept my right foot directly in line with the twig and stood nice and tall I would be in focus. Here is one of the successful attempts:

Success on the full-body!

The seated portrait:

After taking a few more test shots, I decided to try a seated portrait on the bench where I put my stuff. I put the stool on the bench and the backpack on top of the stool which was to stand in for my upper body. I focused on the top of the backpack (near Hello Kitty’s ears) as a guess to where my nose/eyes would end up. Luckily, my torso/upper half is short enough that the combination of the bench, backpack, and stool was a close enough approximation.

This took even more tries than the standing shot. While I had 10 seconds on the timer to hop over onto the bench and sit, it was still a guessing game with regards to positioning. The most successful shots were when I sat all the way back on the bench, my back all the way to the edge:

After a million tries, face is now in focus!

It took a while, but I got the shots I wanted and learned a lot in a few hours. If you would like to try this, I suggest allotting an hour and a half of shooting, if not more. Setting up the focus doesn’t take long but positioning yourself properly will take a few tries.

Try it out and let me know how you do! Till then, keep clickin’!

– Kristina



Add yours →

  1. Wow, these are really nice! You have a very good eye. Well two, actually. 😉 Both self-portraits are great but I really love the seated one.

  2. When can i have lessons from you? Your successful shots look really professional.

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