If you're anything like Click Pro photographer Jessi Hamersky, you may find yourself behind the camera more than you are in front of one. If you're wondering how you can test your photography skills with some creative self-portrait photography, Jessi has you covered with these five tips that will help you feel confident in front of your camera lens. Read on to learn how you can capture some amazing self-portrait shots that will literally have you jumping for joy, playing with light, and testing out exposures & reflections.
We have a pretty sizeable gallery wall in the staircase of our home. There are 52 framed images. Want to know how many I’m in? For reference, I’m not one of the three formerly adorable now surly (yet still adorable in their own way) teenagers up on that wall. No, I’m the mom – the one who took the vast majority of those images. The answer? Three. I’m in three pictures. That’s 5.8 percent of what I deemed worthy of hanging on our wall – a wall that is a visual reminder of our shared family history, and I am only there three times?! The dog has a higher percentage than me.
I decided that something needed to change, and despite my insecurities, I started taking self-portraits. It wasn’t easy at first, but here are some tips and creative techniques that helped me feel more comfortable in front of the lens and will hopefully nudge you to get out from behind your camera too.
I mean it – play! Jump on the bed, dance like a maniac, wear a costume. Try anything that will help you to relax, laugh, and enjoy your time in front of the camera rather than stress about the millions of things that usually stop you from taking self-portraits in the first place.
Lensbaby 35mm | ISO | 800 | 1/25 | Nikon D750
For this image, I jumped on the bed like a complete goofball. Admittedly, it felt a little strange at first, but I laughed hysterically and doing cannonballs after a few minutes. Using a slow shutter speed helped capture the movement, plus the motion blur negated the fact that I was having a bad hair day and that I had a coffee stain on my shirt.
2. Find Cool Pockets of Light
As someone who loves photography, you are probably more than a little obsessed with light. I am constantly scanning wherever I happen to be, looking for pretty light and shadows. With the changing seasons, it seems I’m always finding new and exciting light patterns all over my house, and those pockets of light can make for some easy yet compelling self-portraits. So, once you’ve found some cool light in your space, what should you do with it? Keep it simple – sit, stand, lay down – let the light do the work.
Pro Tip: On sunny days, I like to open the blinds at a different angle than usual or pull the curtains back farther than normal to see if there is any fun new light for me to use.
Lensbaby Edge 35 | ISO | 400 | 1/125 | Nikon D750
Looking for light led me to take this image. I was walking down to the basement to grab something when I noticed this great little pocket of light on the floor. And like the completely normal person I am, I ran to grab my camera and then lay right down on the basement floor. The concept is simple, but the result ended up being pretty dramatic. The best part? I didn’t have to do much; I just let the light do the work.
3. Use Reflections
So now that you are wandering around your house looking for light, don’t forget to look for reflections too. They are everywhere if you pay attention – your phone, the tv, the countertop, artwork hanging in your living room, the freezer section in the grocery store. Play the angles, and you can get a creative self-portrait with a lot of depth.
Lensbaby Edge 35 | ISO | 500 | 1/320 | Nikon D750
Remember that gallery wall in our stairwell? One afternoon, I was doing dishes and happened to look up and notice that I could see the top steps reflected in one of the frames. So I grabbed my camera, set it on the kitchen counter, and ran up to sit on the top step. It’s one of my favorite images, and it only happened because I was paying attention to reflections.
4. Make Your Own Light
Some days it’s raining, and you have to get creative. I don’t have any off-camera flash equipment, so on days when the light is pretty lackluster, I break out my flashlight and raid the kitchen cabinets. Then, shine some strong direct light through a colander, a cheese grater, or a wine glass. You’ll be amazed by the light and shadows you can create in your self-portraits with what you’ve already got on hand.
Lensbaby Edge 35 | ISO | 1250 | 1/15 | Nikon D750
I achieved this light pattern by shining a flashlight through a metal candle holder. To strengthen the image, I used a Lensbaby Edge 35 to achieve the selective focus I wanted on the pop of color of my lipstick.
"Keep it simple – sit, stand, lay down – let the light do the work."
5. Fun with Multiple Exposures
Ready to take your self-portraits to the next level? Creating double or multiple exposures is a great way to challenge yourself and let your creativity soar. I’m not the world’s foremost expert on photo editing (or any other subject, for that matter), but even with my pretty basic Photoshop skills, I’ve been able to create some self-portraits that I am really proud of. I like to create my own layers, especially my own layers of light, to embed over my self-portraits. The layers can elevate even the most basic pose.
I noticed a small patch of light on the wall in my living room and thought it looked like a crown. So, me being me, I layered the crown of light image over a self-portrait and made myself a queen.
I used a wand from the Lensbaby OMNI Creative Filter System and made my own light image of a window in my house for this image. Again, I strengthened a simple self-portrait by layering and creating a multiple exposure during post-processing.
Taking self-portraits didn’t come easily to me – I still struggle with getting in front of the camera some days – but I’ve learned to have a lot of fun with it. Self-portraits have been such a unique creative outlet and what’s even more special is that no matter how terrible I think I look or how imperfect I feel, I always find something beautiful about myself. So I challenge you to get in front of your camera too. Start simple and use what you have on hand, and you’ll be taking frame-worthy self-portraits in no time.
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Jessi Hamersky is a Click Pro and a wife and mother to three teenagers who no longer like to spend time in front of her camera. As a result, you will probably find her outside crouched in the landscaping around her house, camera in hand, getting odd looks from her neighbors. If she is not outdoors shooting macro and nature images, you will probably find her inside taking self portraits. She loves finding new ways to look at the same old things and strives to create beauty in the ordinary.Instagram