love & lifestyle photography

5 tips for pro selfies; shut up & dance!

This article is about self-photographs. For other uses, see Selfie (disambiguation).

A selfie is a self-portrait photograph, typically taken with a digital camera or camera phone held 

in the hand or supported by a selfie stick. Selfies are often shared on social networking 

services such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. They are usually flattering and made to appear 

casual. Most selfies are taken with a camera held at arm's length or pointed at a mirror, rather than 
by using a self-timer. A selfie stick may be used to widen the angle of view, such as for group selfies. 

I feel bad for the selfie.

Selfies shot to popularity with mobiles, were legitimized by Wikipedia, knitted onto sweaters, and have since been immortalized in song - #selfie. They have enjoyed their day in the sunrays but have since been dragged down by a prolific hashtag culture, the rise of narcissism and selfie-associated behaviors - presumably boisterous crowd gathering and selfie-stick holding, if not poking.  As a result of the aforementioned, selfie sticks are now banned from venues such as Disneyland and hipster festivals and selfies are suffering a seriously bad rap.

But from where will we get our new profile photos?
While I'm far from pro when it comes to selfies, I thought I would attempt the pro version, namely the self-portrait.  The lost art of the self-portrait involves a big-girl camera - at least one that has manual controls with a self-timer or remote - and tripod.

5 tips from my first self-portraits, aka pro selfie sesh:

1) white walls & window light are very forgiving
 I positioned myself in front of a white wall with window light to one side and in front.  This allowed for soft shadows and catch lights in the eyes, both great elements for good portraiture.  White also bounces the light around and offers no strange color casts.
2) positioning is key
I struggled a bit to get what I wanted, just enough face and body, from the opposite side of the lens.  Photography is just as much about what not to include - as what to include - in the frame.  At no time is the art of the crop more important than when selfie-taking.  (See cropping out photo-bombers.)
I inadvertently gave myself the difficult task of wearing my fave typography shirt.  I thought the juxtaposition between hard and soft would be cute.  But then, not only did I want to frame my face but my wordy - ALL I NEED IS COFFEE & MASCARA - message as well, darn it.
I would suggest wearing something word-less to start.
While I struggled to position myself, I was reminded of the pure joy of happy accidents. For instance, sometimes blur is magic and grain can be gorgeous.
3) get creative with wardrobe
I've mentioned the juxtaposition I chose between hard black and soft & flowery.  This prevents your images from looking too precious (note: chippy nail polish also does the trick) and adds visual interest. I scoured my local thrift store and came up with a  25 cent floral garland that I fashioned expertly with a garbage twist-tie into a crown.  Who needs a good hair day when you have a flower crown?
Another suggestion is to change outfits for added impact.  Either way, be sure to shave armpits, girls,  if wearing a sleeveless top in winter.  Unless that is part of your message; then, do your thing.

4) shoot for forgiveness
I used the flattering 85mm portrait lens but many fixed lenses will do, including the 50mm. I thought f2 would suffice for my shoot.  Pure rookie mistake.  I moved a bit and wanted more forgiveness with my focal length.  Next time I will use a wider aperture and might even try jumping, twirling or dancing with a higher shutter speed too.  Crazy, I know.
5) backwards focus
You don't need a stand-in to set your focus.  I've been intimidated by self-portraiture for this reason.  I simply stood in my location and auto focused (I back-button focus) back onto the tripod.  Once focus was set, (pushing button 1/2 way) I also switched my lens to manual focus.  Focusing is all about focal length and not about the subject, especially when mostly stationary.

I found self-portraits great for reinforcing basics of good portraiture, namely light, framing and interest.  That interest can derive from a range of expressions and attention to detail.  For instance, I paid attention to posing including the lines of the body.  I chose different framing and focal lengths. I allowed myself to feel - as most subjects must feel - self-conscious but continued to push through.
But more importantly, I found taking artful self-portraits a great pick-me-up for my winter slump. That's right, selfies can act as self-medication.  I live in a small mountain town where light is low and snow is piled high. The phone isn't ringing as often for portraits post Christmas and creativity can't wait.
Also, I need not take myself too seriously.
For these reasons I think the self-portrait just might help redeem the notorious selfie's tarnished reputation.  What do you think?
I think you should put on some make-up, set your timers, Shut Up & Dance!