Assignment: Self-Portrait

As photographers, it’s important that we are constantly challenging ourselves. It’s one of the easiest ways to sharpen our skills and improve our craft. Creatively speaking, if you’re not open to trying new things, taking chances, and opening your mind then you are putting limits on your creativity and your abilities.

I had been needing a new headshot to use on my website, Facebook, blog, etc. and so instead of having someone else shoot it for me, I thought I would just do it myself. Now, I’m not talking about taking 5 minutes and shooting a picture of myself in the mirror here. Been there, done that. (And yes, I know you have done it too.)

I wanted to do something cool and make myself work for the shot instead of taking the easy way out. So I broke out my tripod, wireless remote, three speedlights, some lightstands and I went to work. Before setting everything up, I had already decided on a lighting scheme. Small softbox overhead and two snooted speedlights behind me on either side to provide a hard, chiseled light on the edges of my face.

I used my Lastolite Ezybox for the main light with an SB800 inside and I had two SB80DXs on stands with my FlashStrap and two homemade gobos on each flash to act as barn doors. This would help prevent light from flaring into my camera and also keep it off my white seamless paper. I didn’t light the seamless paper, as I wanted it to go gray.

I shot at f8, 1/200th, ISO 200, with my D90 and 50mm f1.8 lens. Triggered the Ezybox SB800 with CyberSyncs and then the two SB80DXs were in SU-4 (slave) mode. SB800 was set to 1/8th power (with no diffusion dome) and my SB80s were set to 1/16th.

I did most of the post production in Lightroom 2, but when I had the photo where I wanted it then I headed over to Photoshop CS4 for the finishing touches. I wanted an edgy look to the photo, but didn’t want to go overboard with it. So in Photoshop, I applied a little High Pass filter to really sharpen the photo and bring out some serious detail. That filter tends to oversaturate your colors, so you need to keep that in mind based on the photo you’re applying the filter to. I’ll have a video coming soon on how I post process images for this type of look.

So the next time you need a new portrait, think about shooting it yourself. And when I say “think”, I mean it. But some thought into what you’re going to shoot and how you’re going to go about it. Don’t settle for the “self-portrait in the mirror” shot. It’s all about challenging yourself. 🙂


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