Self Portraits {Photo Fridays}

’50’s Housewife with 5pm Martinis

Do you like taking self portraits? I can honestly say I DO NOT! I’ve always been more comfortable behind the lens. Always. But if I have to be in the shot, as in taking group shots, I totally don’t mind. Me with my hubby? Awesome! Me with my babies? Love it! Me with my besties? Bring it on! Me with myself? Screeeech! {that would be a record scratching – you remember those, right?!}

So with the current class I’m taking (Environmental Portraiture), we were tasked with creating two characters for our self portraits. Some classmates struggled, and some were amazing! There were some really inspiring images, like editorialbeauty’s images here and here (she’s a GORGEOUS woman, and totally nailed both shots!), and Alaina’s 1930’s image here – love the vintage vibe!

As a crafty kinda gal, I loved the idea of creating a character. But as a non-lover of self portraits, I was not looking forward to the actual task of seeing myself in the final image. So as the assignment deadline approached, I realized I had no choice and just had to Get. It. Done.

We had just studied and discussed Cindy Sherman in class. I will warn you – there are some CRAZY shots; some are funny, some based on old masterpiece paintings, some with nudity (although they are props), but not something you want to open up if the kiddos are around. Cindy Sherman is the creator of the highest selling photographic print ($3.9 million, yes it’s true!) – you can read about it here. She’s a genius when it comes to self portraits. She creates amazing characters and has the most fantastic collection of props – entire drawers of teeth, noses, etc; endless wardrobes full of clothing and costumes, and so on.

My mind was going in a myriad of directions for my characters/self-portrait. But most of them involved backgrounds and props I just did not have access to. I started opening up our closets and drawers, trying to find some inspiration with what I did have around the house, not what I wished I could create. It made me think back to being a kid, when my mom didn’t have the money to buy the costume I wanted at the grocery store (think late ’70’s). It was probably a super hero or Scooby Doo character. Instead, she put my robe and slippers on me, painted on a black eye, and rollers (or was it a shower cap?) in my hair, and said I was an Abused Housewife. Perfect for a little kid and super classy, I know.

But I digress, and my thoughts had to return to my project. So as I started looking around, I mostly found my daughters toys, and stuffed animals, and dolls, and tea party toys, and stuffed animals, and kitchen toys, and art supplies, and stuffed animals and you get the idea. They both love Hello Kitty, just as I did as a young girl. Oh, Sanrio Store, how I truly did love you! As my homage to that wonderful stage in life, this image was born:

The Pouty Collector
1/100 f/2.8 ISO 500

Honestly, it was a pain in the bum-bum getting those little figures to stay in place, and the big ones were even more of a pain! But I’m happy with the image and my girls got a total kick out of seeing the photo! Hearing their giggles totally made it worth it!

As I was seeking props, I really wanted to use my girls bright red, vintage inspired, retro kitchen. I put on my closest-to-’50’s-inspired-dress, threw some rollers in my hair, added more eyeliner, and some bright red lipstick. I wanted a shot with the kitchen in the background. I could’ve made it work if I photoshopped and composited the images, but I didn’t have the time, and we weren’t supposed to use photoshop for this assignment. It was good in theory, but it just wasn’t working.

I switched to plan b, decided to use our martini glasses, shaker, almond stuffed olives and set the stage for a ’50’s housewife getting ready to greet hubby at the door with 5pm martinis. I think it worked.

’50’s Housewife with 5pm Martinis
1/100 f/2.8 ISO 500

What I learned in taking these photos, I’ve decided to share as my top four tips to creating a self-portrait:

1. Use your tools (tripod, remote/self-timer)
Clearly, these are instrumental in taking self portraits. I have an inexpensive tripod I bought at Target years ago, but it’s held up and does the trick. If you don’t have a tripod, using a safe, solid item to set your camera on will work (counter, chair, table), and using a bean bag (or even a bag of beans or rice) will help you position your camera, too. As for the remote, it was a stocking stuffer gift from my husband a couple of Christmas ago. Not something I use all the time, but has been nice to have for family shots that I want to be in, and definitely works for self images. If you don’t have a remote, using the self-timer will definitely do the trick. Depending on your camera and options, as well as your props and staging, you can set it your timer for anywhere from 2- to 10-seconds. The hardest part is getting the right expression at the right time.

2. Work with a dummy!
In my case, I worked with my husband. Just kidding! I used a stuffed dog. I propped the dog on top of the back of a high backed chair, and fixed my focal point on the dogs eyes. When I was positioning the dog, I made note of where the eyes were on a vertical plane and tried to make sure my eyes were in a similar alignment. Trust me, it took a bunch of out-of-focus shots to realize I needed a “stand-in” to get my focal point right. I could’ve bumped up my aperture, changed my settings and gotten everything in focus, but that wasn’t the look I was going for. Thank goodness for toy doggies with creepy real eyes!

3. Frame it! Mark it!
While I was shooting, I knew my framing was off a tad bit. So I’d try to adjust, and end up with something else off. After shooting, as I was working on these images in Lightroom, I realized just like using the dog as my stand in, I should have used markers to define the space I should be using. By markers, I mean a simple piece of tape. Masking tape, duct tape, scotch tape, washi tape. Anything to give a little guidance as to where I or my props should be. Something for me to make sure the shot framing was consistent.

4. Background – love it or change it
While I was staging the housewife/martini shot, I didn’t like the background in the shot (our kitchen window overlooking a fence and rather unkept banana tree). I grabbed a window sheer we use for our girls clubhouse in the backyard (mentioned in Feeling Crafty post) and rigged it. I added our “Love” decor piece, on top of a gift box to fill some of the white space. I still think there’s a lot of dead white space, but it works in not competing with the hair rollers.

I hope these tips help you next time your having fun (or working on an assignment) and find yourself alone with your camera! I’d love to see any of your self-portraits, so be sure to share your links in the comments!

Thanks for stopping by and have a joyful, creative, blessing filled day!
Happy crafting!

PS. Thank you Lili for the gentle nudge yesterday! Always nice to know a friend and reader is looking forward to a new post : )

3 responses to “Self Portraits {Photo Fridays}”

  1. I totally look forward to your blog! : ) I had been wondering where it was -really- before running into you.
    Love how you captures such different sides of yourself! Honestly, I love seeing your work. I, too, much prefer the camera on my kids rather than me! That pic at SGG wasn’t my idea of a good time, but of course you made the image look great.


%d bloggers like this: