Me, Myself, And I: Introduction To Self Portrait Photography

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My Intro to Self Portraits

Until about two years ago, the only photographs that you can find me in are ones taken by someone else and they tended to be for the requisite family photos.  When a friend challenged a group of photographers to step out from behind the camera and get in pictures, it changed my photography.  The challenge was to take a photo of yourself – It didn’t matter if the camera was part of the image, like a mirror self portrait, or if you held the camera at arm’s length and snapped.  You had to take a photograph of yourself.

At that point, I became intrigued.  This was a new type of photography for me: self portrait photography.  It was exciting to try something completely outside of my comfort zone and see what I could do with it.  I took the obligatory mirror shot with the camera up to my eyeball, you know, the one that just about every photographer has taken of themselves at least once.

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Intrigued by Self Portrait Photography

Two weeks later, this friend issued the same challenge.  This time, I tried to hold the camera at arms’ length.  Do you know how hard it is to get the focus right when you can’t see through the lens?  It was tough and took several tries to get it just right. Every two weeks, this group of photographers was given the same challenge.  More and more photographers joined.  About this time, Halloween was around the corner and I tried channeling my inner Audrey Hepburn.  I was hooked on this “new” photography.

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365 Project: All Self-Portraits

This past January (2013), I decided to really put myself into self-portraiture and take on a 365 project. For one year, I took a photograph of myself every day.  I did this for several reasons.

  • I could learn how to love myself more by seeing what others, namely my husband, saw in me.
  • I could learn how to pose myself, and by extension, pose anyone in flattering positions and light.
  • I could expand my creativity and try things out on a model that is always available and willing to do whatever the photographer wanted.

About half of my selfies are planned, meaning I get my inspiration by looking through boards on Pinterest or I hear a song or I even read something that hits me and I want to show how it makes me feel.  From there, I picture in my head how I want it to look, and then I deconstruct into the parts that I need – background, lighting, my clothing, props, etc.  I will practice my “look” in the mirror so that I get a feel for how I want my face to look.  From there, I set up my camera and my “space” and then do a couple of practice shots.  I have a remote that I use most of the time, either I am holding it or I have it on the 2-second release and I toss it aside so it isn’t in the photo.

I keep an ongoing list of ideas on my phone and on my iPad so that if I get stuck one day, I can go through the list and get re-inspired.  I highly recommend this system if you try out a 365 or a 52 weeks project.  There will be days that you don’t feel inspired at all and you can’t think of anything, while other days, the ideas are pouring out.  This way, you can always get a bit of inspiration.

Not only do I have an idea list, but I also have several “mini” projects incorporated into my 365, such as Portraits Of A Modern Housewife, Ghost In The Machine (inspired by someone else’s 365 project), Demon Inside, Thirteen Nights Of Halloween and my latest, the Mini-Me’s.  Those mini projects also help keep me going.

This is a behind the scenes look at one of my Ghost In The Machine photos, with the finished shot below.

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Plan, Shoot, Repeat, Feedback: The art of the selfie

There are times where you will get the focus, the lighting, the look – just everything – absolutely perfect in the first 3 shots.  The flip side is that there have been times where I have taken 100 shots and have only come up with 3 to choose from, and I may not even adore all three of them.

The one thing I have learned, is that if you post publicly on social media, be prepared for unsolicited attention, whether it is ‘creepers’ or criticism or just jerks in general.  For me, I tend to ignore them and brush them off.  They aren’t worth my time and in the end, I am doing this project for myself alone.  I am doing this as a visual diary of how my year has gone.  My self portraits are a way for me to express myself and if you think of your self portraits like that, then they become much easier to do.

Because this is my visual diary of the year, I put a small piece of my heart/soul into every single shot.  I have found that when I do that, I stay true to whatever message I want to send and the photographs have a much bigger impact.  The downside of putting yourself into images, whether it is self portraits, landscapes, nature, even portrait work, is that you become tied into your work.  It can be emotionally exhausting and you can get burned out.  I try to cope with this by doing “silly” every now again.  Not every image can be soul-searching or heart-rending.

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I was once asked if my comfort levels shift depending on the photo.  They do.  It isn’t so much how much skin I am showing, it is more about what emotions and what side of me I am willing to show.  Am I willing to show the giddy, goofball side?  How about the emotionally-wrecked side?  Do I stay private about the losses I have had in the last year or do I show them through the photographs and gain some closure?  For me, this 365 project started out as a way to show someone that I really could finish it and I wouldn’t get bored and quit.  It has ended up being a way to remember my year and really push open my creativity.

Below is an image from the Mini-Me series:

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Tamara Pruessner is a nature photographer in Marana, Arizona who specializes in storm, landscape and macro photography. She started out on a manual Minolta film camera 13 years ago, while learning how to develop film. Eventually, she wants to chase storms throughout the Midwest. You can find her self-portrait photography at her website or on Facebook.

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Should Photographers Make Subjects Look Like Magazine Models?

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How far is too far when it comes to slimming, smoothing, and altering your subjects in Photoshop? As photographers we decide how far to go every time we edit photos.

My personal Photoshop retouching philosophy is to edit temporary things if a customer wants, such as reducing acne and smoothing out skin, but to leave the permanent ones like freckles, scars, and overall appearance.

To me, liquifying a shirt where the fabric bulges or an arm where a wedding dress dents in because of the angle is acceptable. Changing a person’s facial structure or taking 50 pounds off a person by liquifying the weight into Photoshop oblivion is wrong — it indicates you feel they are imperfect and look better thinner or different. We should not make people look super human. Most of us are not cover models (and even most models get lots of editing help to look how they do on the cover of a magazine).

It is not our job to change people’s appearances. Everyone is beautiful in their own way.  Scars, freckles, thin or thick hair, our curves and even our weight define our character. As photographers, we should aim to document life and preserve moments and memories. While we want people to look their best, we should not do it at the expense of their identity.

Here’s a short You Tube clip by BuzzFeed that really helps this hit home.  Women were given physical and then digital makeovers. And in the end, they preferred their own imperfect realities (who they actually are) to the “perfect” versions that the photographers and editors created.

Remember this next time time you edit photos. What do you think?

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Top 5 iPad Apps for Professional Photographers

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Tools like the the iPad and other tablets give you the ability to e-mail clients, schedule shoots, present and sign releases, check the weather for shoots, proof photos, show clients virtual samples, take payments and much more all one one sleek and professional device! If you’re a photographer with an tablet, here are some iPad apps you need to know about:

Top 5 Apps for Professional Photographers

1. YouProof

What is it? YouProof is an app for the iPad (no android version at this time) designed for in-person proofing.

What’s so great about it? With YouProof, you will not have to waste money on printed proofs or an expensive proofing software program. Using the vivid display and sleek design of an iPad, you can present beautiful, professional proofs to your client for a fraction of the cost.

How much is it? YouProof is available in the Apple App Store and costs $34.99.

Is there an Android version? Not at this time.

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2. Preveal or Shoot & Sell

What are they? Preveal and Shoot & Sell are wall art display apps.

What’s so great about them? With these apps your iPad becomes your virtual salesroom.  The best feature is that you can take an image of your clients’ wall, and show them what their wall displays will look like on their own wall in the proper proportion. These apps are the perfect compliment to YouProof for in-person sales, especially if you don’t have a studio!

How much are they? Preveal retails for $74.99 Shoot & Sell retails for $79.99.

Is there an Android version? Shoot & Sell has an Android version. Preveal does not.

Download on the App Store Badge US UK 135x40 Top 5 iPad Apps for Professional PhotographersPreveal                    Download on the App Store Badge US UK 135x40 Top 5 iPad Apps for Professional Photographers  googleplay Top 5 iPad Apps for Professional PhotographersShoot & Sell

 

3. Square Register

What is it? Square is an app for taking payments.

What’s so great about it? With Square, not only can you can accept credit cards (Visa, MasterCard, Discover & American Express), but you can also organize your products and services for faster checkout and easy reporting. When you sign up, Square send you a free card reader. There is a 2.75% fee per swipe (it’s slightly higher if you enter the card number instead of swiping) and funds are deposited into your account in 1-2 days.

How much is it? Square register is free to download but there is a fee per credit card transaction.

Is there an Android version? Yes.

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4. PhotoSync

What is it? Photosync is an app for transferring photos wirelessly.

What’s so great about it? PhotoSync allows you to wirelessly transfer photos to and from your computer to your iPad or iPhone via WiFi. This eliminates the need to connect your iPad to your computer and go through iTunes to import photos. This makes using apps like YouProof, Preveal, and Shoot & Sell even more convenient.

How much is it? PhotoSync is available in the Apple App Store and costs $2.99 

Is there an Android version? Not at this time.

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5. Easy Release

What is it? Easy Release is an app for creating & signing model releases.

What’s so great about it? Easy Release is the quickest and easiest way to have your clients sign model releases. You can use the releases that come with the app, or you can create your own legal text for the release. You can customize the forms with your own branding and e-mail the signed releases to yourself and your clients.

How much is it? EasyRelease retails for $9.99.

Is there an Android version? Yes.

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What’s your favorite professional photography app? Let us know in the comments!

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Vote for Your Favorite Entry in the MCP Photo Contest

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In case you haven’t heard the news, MCP Actions has TWO new sets of Lightroom presets coming out at the end of February: InFusion and Illuminate. We decided to do a fun photo contest on our Facebook Group to celebrate! The TWO entries with the most votes on Tuesday evening (around 7-8pm eastern) will each win the upcoming sets before they are available on our site.  Oh, and if you are not a member of the MCP Group, request to join now, as we occasionally post special discounts and will do an early release of upcoming products just for members.

To make this work, we need your help.  Please vote for your TOP THREE favorite images. You may vote once per day and you must pick exactly three for your vote to go through.  Multiple votes from the same IP address in the same day will be deleted (if you see a count go down, that is why).  Thank you!

As for the contest rules, participants were asked to take and edit a picture that incorporated “MCP” and to use at least one MCP product. 1, 2, 3 GO VOTE.

This poll is closed! Poll activity:
start_date 14/02/2014 22:01:38
end_date 18/02/2014 21:00:00
Poll Results:
Vote for your favorite three photos:

My daughters, Ellie and Jenna, and I narrowed it down to these 10 images (which was no easy feat).  There were some really creative photos. 

Entry 1: Extra, Extra.  Read All About It (by Dayna More Photography)

Edited with MCP Remember When Lightroom Preset + Text Tool.

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Entry 2: Life of a Teen (by Cinnamon Wolfe Photography)

Edited with MCP Inspire, Brilliant Base B&W, Chic, Classic Vignette

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Enter 3: My Gear (by Jenniffer Romero/Dulce Luce Photography)

Edited with MCP Inspire and MCP Fusion actions.

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Enter 4: Multiple Choices (MCP) Quiz (by Mary Durand)

Edited with Mini Quick Clicks Lightroom presets to correct WB +
MCP Fusion: Peachy, Creamsicle, Beach HouseAutumn Base from Four Seasons.

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Enter 5: Toyland (by Sadie Sturgis Photography)

Edited with MCP Inspire Brilliant Base, Spunky, Gem Polish on camera and letters and webify.

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Enter 6: Technology (by Jenniffer Romero/Dulce Luce Photography)

Edited with MCP Inspire Photoshop actions.

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Enter 7: MCP Saves Me Time (by Tracie Grantham Photography)

Edited with MCP Inspire: Bittersweet, Enchanted Rainforest, Modern Matte Twist, Brilliant Base, Gem Polish

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Enter 8: Game Time (by Jenny Haralamos)

Edited with MCP Inspire Photoshop actions

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Enter 9: Game Time (by Nicole Baldwin/Nick of Time Photography)

Inspire Brilliant Base, Bittersweet, Spunky, Modern Matte Twist, Multi Matte, Custom Edge Burn

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Enter 10: Sign Language (by Sophie De Backer/Belgian Touch Photography)

Edited with MCP Enlighten LR Preset: Awake

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Three Step-By-Step Photoshop Edits: What is Your Favorite?

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Three Step-By-Step Photoshop Edits: What is Your Favorite?

Which edit do you like best?  Each was edited with MCP Inspire Photoshop Actions for PS and PSE.

Edit 1: Color Carousel: Used Brilliant Base, Sun-Drenched, Spunky, Georgia Peach, Beaming, Bold Color (masked off denim), Precision Sharp (painted on balloons + eyes)

Edit 2: Color Carousel: Used Brilliant Base, Sweet Dreams, Enchanted Rainforest, Beaming, Bold Color (masked off denim), Magical Matte (painted off the balloons and face) Precision Sharp (painted on balloons + eyes)

 

Edit 3: Brilliant Base (masked off jeans), White Balance Sliders, Bold Color (painted on balloons), Precision Sharp (painted on balloons + eyes)

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Thank you to Niki Foret Norton for letting me share this wonderful Valentine’s Day themed image.

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