Self-portraiture is an excellent way to experiment with different poses and compositions in a controlled setting. For beginners, working out how to get the best results from natural light and flashes can be frustrating at first, so it pays to become familiar with these techniques through self-portraits before asking someone to be your model. You can then use these photos as social media profile pictures, promotional images for a website, or dating apps. Here are some tips to get good results fast.
Use the Right Lens
Different photographic situations require the appropriate choice of lens. You choose a wide-angle lens to capture the grandeur of a sweeping landscape, and when you are on safari and want to capture images of lion cubs playing, a long telephoto lens will bring the image close enough to see the cheeky expression in their eyes. Still, these lenses are not usually suitable for portraits.
Portrait photographers tend to use lenses with a focal length of 70mm to 100mm (on a full-frame camera) because they provide distortion-free images that are very flattering. With the 2x cropping factor on a micro four-thirds camera, a 35mm prime lens, and a 50mm prime lens turns into the equivalent of a 70mm and 100mm lens. This focal length range will produce a natural-looking perspective isolating the body from the background for a more compelling image.
Prime lenses have an advantage over other lenses because of their wide maximum aperture, which allows more light to enter the camera and results in a shallower depth of field. This is handy for MFT cameras which effectively halve the aperture size on each image. This camera’s sensor affects the depth of field and the amount of background blur produced by a lens. A lens with a given aperture on a Micro Four Thirds camera has a deeper depth of field and less background blur than the same lens used on a full-frame camera at the same aperture. So using a prime lens means using a relatively wide aperture with your MFT camera to capture bokeh.
Use the Right Lighting
Photography always comes down to the right lighting for the style of image you want to create. The ‘right light’ could be natural light from the sun, reflected light, flash, or a studio lighting system for a professional-looking self-portrait. Here are some suggestions for stunning self-portraits using various types of light.
Indoor natural light: The most straightforward indoor lighting technique is to get close to a window and illuminate your face with the light from that opening. If the camera is positioned parallel to the window and you look directly into the lens, there will be soft light on the side of your face and gentle shadows on the other. For a bit of variety, you can also set up the camera outside the house and photograph yourself looking at the camera through the glass. This adds a framing element to the image while supplying pleasant lighting.
Outdoor light: Avoid taking a self-portrait in direct sunlight, which makes you squint, creates dark shadows under the eyes, and washes out skin tones. Instead, find a shaded location with even, diffused light. Place a speedlight flash, continuous light, or strobe light on one side of your face to add depth to the image. You will probably need a modifier to diffuse this external light source, as it may be too harsh for an appealing portrait. If you don’t have artificial lights or flashes, try bouncing extra light toward your face with a reflector.
Studio lights: If you are fortunate enough to have a collection of studio lights, find a neutral, uncluttered background and set up a key light, fill light, and hair light. Artificial lighting helps you control the intensity of light and shadows and avoid dramas with the weather.
Use the Right Composition
The rule of thirds is a classic composition technique that involves dividing the frame into thirds both horizontally and vertically. Placing your face at one of the top intersecting points creates a more dynamic and balanced composition. It’s also worth capturing self-portraits from different angles to find the most flattering light for your face. Adjust your position to create a better perspective, and pay attention to things like your posture and hand placement to create an engaging image.
Taking self-portraits helps you become more familiar with composition and lighting techniques. It also gives you an opportunity to use your micro four-thirds camera in a new way. Doing self-portraits means you can take your time and take as many shots as you need to get the perfect picture.