I’ve found one of my biggest challenges for developing portraiture is finding a willing subject. In an effort to make a start, I forced the one unwilling subject I could to take part. Me.Having not created any portraiture projects again so far this year, I decided to do a self-portrait to update my social media profiles. I had bought a Lencarta lighting kit earlier this year, partly to update some product images for a client and partly to enable me to start to develop my portrait shooting. And like a lot of photographers, I’m not desperately keen on having my own photo taken, so I figured it was also a good exercise to help me relate to future models.
I did this shoot at home for simplicity and speed. For the background, I decided on the vertical blinds at the end of the lounge. They are plain white and with enough separation between me and them I intended to get them sufficiently out of focus to blur them and give a plain background.
The main challenge I had was focusing as I didn’t have a remote release or stand-in available. I went for trial and error with manual focus, checking for sharpness and adjusting after each shot to fine-tune.
Firstly, I wanted to set up a hard rim light (monoblock with standard reflector) as my main light behind my left shoulder and I would use a white reflector to bounce some of that light back in to my face. I used a reflector rather than a fill light because I only had two flash heads available and knew I wanted to put the second to a different use. Besides, I wanted to create a high contrast between the rim and fill lights. If I had wanted more fill light, I would have swapped to a silver reflector as a first step.
The camera was set to manual at 1/125s, f4, ISO100 with a 105mm focal length. I went for a wide aperture to blur the background; looking back now, I could have gone for a longer focal length as well, but truth be told I just stuck with the lens I had on the camera at the time. The background was still distracting but I also hadn’t finished getting the high key look I was after. I added a second flash head fitted with a standard reflector and raking up the blinds from ground-level to blow out the background. You’ll notice that the second flash also contributed to the fill from the reflector, which lifted the levels into my eyes.
Both these development shots are straight out of camera, with a little sharpening added. The last step was to do a bit of touching up in Capture One (cropping, a little dodging & burning plus sharpening), which left me with this final image:
There is still plenty of scope to play with this and improve it (I won’t even start to list the flaws!), but for a quick self-portrait to update my online profiles, it gives a modern image that is a big improvement over what was there before.