Beyond the Selfie: The Art of Self Portraiture
Self portraits are hard. I mean like really, really hard. So hard that the following post was written and supposed to be posted in June. JUNE. Four months have passed. Four months since I last mustered up the courage to try something new and then quickly abandon the project, stuffing it far away from the mind's eye where I could easily forget about it.
The following was written in my original intended post, drafted in June 2016:
I've dabbled a bit in the art of self portraiture many times but usually pack it in after a lot of frustrating experiences. The most success I've had has been recently while travelling, learning to use my iphone to include myself in my travel photos (no selfie stick required! See the article here) One of the biggest things I am struggling with is getting the image in focus. I've read countless how to articles, tips and tricks and they all pretty much say the same thing: put an item in your place, like a light stand, use auto focus on that item, lock it in by swapping over to manual focus (so it doesn't shift from where you left it) and then either set the timer or use the remote. Recently I set myself the goal of practicing obtaining focus when shooting a self portrait with my DSLR. I thought I'll take a few minutes, take a few snaps and boom you'll have it - a great simple self portrait with awesome natural light.
Well 75 minutes later and about 1000 shutter clicks I have ONE image that is in focus. ONE. I tried everything, all the usual suggested techniques. I tried setting a prop in place of where I would sit, using a light stand as my stand in. I would set the focus on the light stand and then switch over to manual focus so that when I clicked the shutter it wouldn't try to readjust. Did it work? Nope. I tried changing my aperture to close down a bit so that I had a deeper depth of field. I finally managed to get this one image which I think was around f5.6 which is ok, but I really want to be able to nail a nice image with that dreamy melty depth of field that makes everything look a little more dramatic.
Being held hostage for 34 years by my type A creative personality I quickly became frustrated, discouraged and filed the project under "FAILURE" yet again, stuffing it far far far away where I could easily forget about it and go about my business. Simple, right? Except that I didn't go about my business. I stopped doing any business. And I don't mean the creative bring home the bacon type business. I mean all and any forms of expression. My shooting and creative pursuits went from 100 to zero, like a high speed train that just suddenly and miraculously stopped. I thought I would shoot more. I mean, I had the entire summer off to work on my own creative projects. A time I look forward to every year like a child counting down the days until Christmas. This year was the same. I waited and counted down the days, making lists of all the challenges and projects I would undertake. Except I didn't do any of them. For some reason I allowed myself to flatline due to a "failure."
An interesting concept. One that we know is required to push us forward and leads to other wins down the line but can often stop us in our tracks rendering us immobile. So where was my internal dialogue telling me that "every failure leads to something?!" More to come on that later, during next week's post. "The Art of Failure"
Have you ever allowed a self labelled "failure" to squish your creative vibe? How have you pulled yourself out of it? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below:
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