Self Portrait Challenge #2: EXPERIMENT WITH LIGHT

For the shot pictured above, I set my aperture at f/6.3 in order to darken the background around me, and set my shutter speed at 1/125in order to tame some of the highlights.

Today is the Second part in dPS's Self Portrait Challenge – learn more about what it is, how you can be involved and how you can get a free gift here.

In our previous self-portrait challenge, we examined the use of props as a way to create visual interest, and also as a way to relax in front of the camera. Now, let’s take it a step further, and experiment with some different lighting ideas.

As photographers, we love light, because it is one of the most basic principles of photography – capturing light. Through lighting, we can create a mood and tell a story by the type of light in which we photograph our subjects. This same principle applies with self-portraiture, because light is a very important tool that can help you express yourself through your self-portraits.

The lighting you choose for your self-portraits not only depends on the type of look you are going for, but also what you have on hand in terms of equipment. Photographers are a very diverse crowd when it comes to lighting, and while some of us may have a lot of great lighting gear on hand, there are also those of us who rely heavily on natural light.

For the sake of this challenge, though, let’s try to keep the lighting as simple as possible. The goal for this challenge is to use as much natural and found light as possible, and if you are using studio lighting, do your best to limit your setup to one monolight or flash. In this case, we are trying to use light in a more artistic way to illustrate certain feelings or a specific mood, rather than going for technical perfection.

We all understand the importance of balanced lighting for certain styles of portrait photography, but for this exercise, let’s try to loosen up and play around a bit more, without worrying too much about whether certain parts of our photo are over or underexposed. I know some of you probably just cringed when you read that, but consider giving it a try! One of the most rewarding aspects of self-portraiture is the opportunity to think outside the box and try things that you wouldn’t otherwise try on a client. Self-portraiture is a fun and safe way to experiment and grow, and find new techniques that you can then use when photographing other people.  

With self-portraiture, there are so many variables – getting your camera on the tripod, making sure you are in focus, setting the timer, working with a remote shutter release, etc. – that the process can sometimes be overwhelming, and you can easily become frustrated if you are trying to do too many things at once. The more you take self-portraits, the easier the task of juggling all the variables becomes, but if you are new to the process, I would definitely suggest focusing more on content and mood, rather than worrying too much about the technicalities of the photo. As you progress, you will most definitely be able to work more with studio lighting to achieve a certain mood, but the goal with self-portraiture, especially in the beginning, is to focus on an act of self-expression.

For this challenge, try using lighting in a few different ways. Maybe you have a great window in your home that offers filtered, natural light. Or, maybe you know of a building that provides really interesting ambient light. Think outside the box – neon signs in store windows make fun, multicolored light, and definitely provide a mood all their own. I love playing with natural light outdoors, especially in the evenings, but if I can’t get outside, I have a window that gets really great afternoon light, and I try catching it as it comes through the blinds.

Always be sure to try the shot at different apertures and shutter speeds in order to find the best possible way to manipulate the light in your shot. This photo was taken by the same window as the one above, but I just changed the backdrop to white, and set my aperture at f/3.5. You will be amazed at the wide range of possibilities that you will find just by changing your camera settings.

There is light all around us, and the more you look around for unique lighting opportunities, the more fun you’ll have with this particular challenge. If possible, get out and walk around you city or town in search of different types of lighting. One of the things that makes self-portraiture so much fun is that you get to reveal aspects of yourself that set you apart as an individual, so you may also want to take a look around the locations that are important to you – your home, your office, a coffee shop, your favorite park – and find ways to incorporate the lighting of those locations into your self-portrait. Self-portraiture is rewarding not only for you, but for those who get to see the finished product, because all of us are curious by nature and want to see your shots – that curious nature goes along with being a photographer!

Show us your Lighting Self Portrait

Once you've taken your ‘Light Experiment' Self Portrait Photos – choose your best one and upload it to your favourite photo sharing site and either share a link to it in comments below. Alternatively – embed the image in comment below using the our embed tool.

If you tag your photos on Flickr, Instagram, Twitter or other sites with Tagging tag them as #DPSLIGHT to help others find them. Linking back to this page might also help others know what you're doing so that they can share in the fun.

Post from: Digital Photography School – Photography Tips. Check out our resources on Portrait Photography Tips, Travel Photography Tips and Understanding Digital Cameras.


Self Portrait Challenge #2: EXPERIMENT WITH LIGHT

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