From selfies to group portraits, self-portraits are a great way to explore and experiment with your inner creative side. Whether you’re experimenting with lighting, trying different angles, or just trying out a new filter, self-portraiture allows you to express yourself in new and exciting ways.
Do you feel like you need something to reignite your creativity? Are you busting to push the boundaries of what you already know and challenge your inner artist?
Today I want to ask you to consider starting an art series.
An art series is a project that explores a specific theme and results in a set of cohesive images. The theme could be genre, subject, a shooting technique, etc. You’ll often see artists do this for an art show, photography competitions, or simply as a means of exploration – either of self, to develop specific skills, or to push the bounds of their comfort zone.
Regardless of the what or why, it requires you to create a framework to shoot within, and that really helps with the dilemma of what to shoot and busts the dreaded creative rut.
And it can be life-changing.
It will reinvigorate that love of photography you had when you got your first camera and force you to think outside the box. Aaand I want you to make yourself the subject. Yes, that’s right…a Self-Expression Self-Portrait Photography Project!
So we turned to the queen of self-portraits, CLG Advanced Grad Almitra Hill, who has taught extensively on this topic in our creative workshops. Almitra believes self-portraiture is a powerful form of self-expression that allows the artist to connect with their most intimate creativity. Read on for a fantastic introduction to self-portraiture…
Self-portraiture has long been a vehicle for artistic expression. History shows us that any artist worth their salt has, at some point, turned to depicting themselves.
It gives the viewer an insight into your state of mind, interests and inspirations. And for you, the artist, it offers a channel to express yourself or explore a theme, whether in realism or abstraction, documentary or fiction.
It allows you to connect with your most intimate creative, to ask deeply personal questions of yourself. It allows you to step into a persona, to act a part. It allows you to be provocative if you wish.
On a simpler plane, self-portraiture allows you to write your own social record — a diary of sorts — documenting your tastes, fashions, places and people. It tells a story that grows with meaning over time.
It can also be a matter of convenience, as I’d come up with kooky ideas I’d like to try, and no one in my household was willing to play model.
Then, in 2016, the year after I’d completed the Advanced Photography Course, I committed to a 52-week photo challenge. It followed a format where every three weeks there was a portrait theme.
Week 1 was a self-portrait, which I dutifully delivered with curiosity in mind. For week 4, a fellow grad and I agreed to model for each other, but something came up. On a whim, I decided to do all my portraits as self-portraits, and I’m still so proud of that series.
Over the course of that year, it was immensely satisfying to explore different ways I could photograph myself. There was no stress of trying to rope unwilling participants into modelling, no lost-in-translation of ideas, and no pressure to perform. I had complete freedom to experiment.
The way I see it, there are two main branches to self-portraiture:
We’ll start out with some technical tips and then look at shooting techniques that can apply across both approaches.
I think the easiest self-portrait to start with is shooting your own reflection. Mirrors or windows are great candidates. You could try this when you take your kids on an outing to a favourite shop or cafe — or when you’re out and about by yourself.
I love creating layers by standing outside and shooting onto a scene inside — focus on your reflection in the window and let the context fall to blur. It can also be powerful to capture your reflection in a mirror with the goings-on of the room happening around you.
Shadows are another great way to start playing with self-portraiture that can feel a little less confronting. Keep an eye out for hard light sources and play with the shapes you can make. Decide whether you want to incorporate your camera’s shadow or hold it in front of your body so it’s hidden from the shot.
The aspect of self-portraiture that most resonates with me is the expressive side. I like to use colour and creative techniques to portray how I’m feeling. Going beyond posing and facial expressions, slow shutters, and multiple exposures allow me to explore a complexity of emotion that is deeper than a standard shot.
Maybe you’ll discover something unexpected.
This shot below is a multiple exposure, which you can create either in-camera if you have that function — most cameras do. Check your user guide if unsure — or in Photoshop by layering photos. The tutorial below contains a step-by-step guide to creating multiple exposures in editing.
Related: 12 Outside the Box Photo Ideas
This next image was created using a combination of a slow shutter speed and squatting down from standing whilst the shutter was open. Experiment with different shutter speeds and speeds of motion to get an effect that conveys the feelings you’re trying to express.
This is where we branch off into imagination — where you take on a persona or perform a part. You can create a character and a narrative and bring it to life without having to translate that into directions for a model. You have the freedom to experiment and the licence to play.
We hope you enjoyed Almitra’s tips and ideas, which were a snippet from our Artistic Photography Projects Creative Workshop. They’re just a few of our favourite ways to explore self-expression self-portrait photography but, ultimately, you’re only limited by your imagination!
We hope this blog on self-portraiture inspires you to embark on creating an art series, and if you’re a grad join us in the CLG Photography Projects Group and share your work with us!
Join my new workshop and learn Simple Steps For Taking Pro-Quality Photos of Your Kids & Family…and it’s totally FREE to join! Register here…