#SELFIE talk – Learning Photography

How I Learn From Selfies

So let me start off with acknowledging that this post will most likely look incredibly vein. I get it. I also don’t have 10 Facts About Travis / Travis’ Favorite Things / TravsLikes, etc plastered on my website so I’m pretty sure the lack of that content can balance this one out. ;)

Terry Richardson inspired Self Portrait

This selfie was one of my first to test out high speed sync with my on-camera flash. I was inspired by the style Terry Richardson shoots for this image.

There’s lots of talk lately about selfies – which is a short-term word for self portraits. There are many fine art photographers out there who are self portrait photographers, that use themselves as their own subject in their conceptual work. They’ve built a business and make a living off of taking photos of themselves. Most people’s selfies will be taken with a cell-phone and given a splash of instagram love loaded with hashtags to gain more followers. Yeah, I do it and you probably do too!

But who doesn’t love a great photo of themselves? With today’s technology, we’re able to shoot and share images quicker than ever – and having photo editing apps at our fingertips makes it incredibly easy for one to form a fast addiction to the guilty pleasure that is #selfies.

Slow shutter speed and light trails shoot

In these selfies I test out slow shutter speed and my RayFlash Ring Light adaptor on my flash to create this high contrast, club-like effect. I used a table lamp’s ambient light and shook my camera during the exposure to get the great light trail patterns. I use slow shutter speed techniques when I’m photographing a wedding reception to get fun dancing shots.

I’ve been photographing since 2008 and I’m pretty much self taught. I’ve had a couple of people show me the basics and get me charged up, but the majority of my Photography knowledge comes from hours of studying and working on my own craft. I took 1 Photography workshop that was based on strictly shooting, every other workshop I’ve taken has been on Photography Business/Marketing. I tune in to CreativeLive when I can and my initial Photography 101 course consisted of a few great getting started books (I could’ve just read my manual like the bible), magazines and photography blogs. I’ve developed a shooting, editing and retouching style based on how I see the world and what I want to create. The internet has made learning so accessible and free (or very cheap), but I think it’s ultimately what you do with your knowledge that makes you the pro!

Practice Makes A Pro!

You can’t take someone’s money to practice a new technique. I’ve definitely allowed myself time to experiment with my clients, but only after I know that I’ve secured the shots that they are paying and expecting of me. :) Don’t be afraid to try new things out on clients, but don’t let it take away from their photography experience either!

I’m a 26-year old single guy with no kids. So who are my subjects? Friends & Family. However, I can’t always bug them when I have the urge to try out a new technique. So what do I do? I shoot myself. YEP. That’s right and I think that photographing yourself is a great way to learn how to shoot!

Video light portrait photography

I use video lights to photograph details for weddings but I wanted to see how they would look on people. I mixed in my off-camera flash to illuminate the background and create a glow behind me.

When taking photos of yourself, you will have the eye of the photographer AND the client. You want to make sure that you look good and you also want to make sure that the image looks great! Taking photos of myself gives me a better idea of what it’s like for my clients in front of the camera. I get to see how the light looks and feels from a subject’s perspective, have the anticipation of seeing the image for the first time and I get the feeling in my body of the posing/composition. I can take that experience and save it in my brain, so that I’m able to align myself with my clients and subjects.

Selfies for Photography Education

Posing: I’m not a skinny guy so I want to make sure that photos of me are flattering! I’ve learned how poses look and feel and what needs to be done to compliment my shape. I translate this to my clients and make sure that I’m always looking out for their best shot!

Natural light and flattering posing

It’s important that my posing instruction works on all different body types. I wanted to see how my posing translates to myself, how it feels and what’s the best way to instruct my clients!

Lighting: This has probably been the most helpful from selfiess. There have been MANY selfies taken over the years, so that I can understand light. Once you really get lighting and how to compliment a person’s features with lighting, then you’re really on your way to creating strong images. I did not really grasp lighting until I started taking self portraits, that way I could test many different scenarios and see how lighting came into the equation. I’ve learned how light falls on my face, how I can use and control light, whether it’s a strobe, video light or natural light. I’ve learned how reflectors help guide and shape light. It’s not all about knowing your camera settings – it’s about knowing the light source, power and direction!

Levitation Photography Examples

My first stab at levitation photography was on myself! A tripod is very much needed to have a successful levitation shoot!

Creative Techniques: Light painting, slow shutter speed, off-camera flash and levitation are all some creative techniques I’ve learned from selfies. Taking a self portrait is probably the best way you can test out a concept before shooting it for real. You may be like me and not have a surplus of subjects and time, so a selfie would be the way to go!

Retouching for self portraits

Lit primarily with window light and mixed with a light in my room, I studied backlighting as well as retouching and creative toning techniques in photoshop with this image.

Start Shooting!

If you’re a Photographer and you’re looking to sharpen your skills, I suggest you grab a tripod and make some time to take some selfies of yourself. It truly is a great way to practice and learn more about photography! If you don’t feel comfortable with posting them publicly, then don’t – but use your selfies as a learning tool to improve your technique and learn!

Enjoy it!

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