Thursday, May 2, 2013

BEDM Challenge: Day 2 Let's Model: How to Take Self-Portraits

Here is day 2 of the BEDM challenge! 

I was a bit conflicted when I read the prompt: Educate us on something you know a lot about or are good at. Hmmm....a thousand things ran through my head so I guess that's a good thing? Right? Yay, I'm a woman of many talents! While this challenge was a little tough to pin down it was a great opportunity to share a post that I have been procrastinating about like nobody's business.

How to take self-portraits/How to successfully model clothing

When I opened up my Etsy shop, Seoul Sold, less than a year ago I had absolutely NO idea what to do when it came to showcasing the clothing that I hoped to sell. While I had taken tons of photographs of other people I was lost in the woods on the modeling front and had never been the subject before. I'm not going to lie it was NERVE RACKING to be IN FRONT of the camera and not the photographer. 

There is a sort of power in the anonymity that being the photographer grants you, you are able to see all the perfect angles, make instant adjustments to your camera, give instruction, and can make the most of what light you have available. But what do you do when you are pretty much your own photographer AND model? A model's power is different than a photographer, and is even more potent by the images you can create, but to do this you have to be adaptable. 

First, things first
You'll need:
A tripod
Camera Remote (preferably wireless, don't worry if you can't find a remote, because I take ALL of my photos without one)
A light background

It's important to have a good background ready to go for your photo shoot. A blank wall works well or if you want some decorations pick something that won't be distracting or interfere with your modeling. For my own uses I picked a room in my house that had decent light exposure with a white wall, and to add some interest to it I added a small string of bunted flags I made. The flags are useful because not only do they add fun to the photo, but they also help me mark my spots! When I look through the camera I usually take note of which flags I can stand between and in front of to get the best light. 
My special little makeshift photo spot!
Know your body, know your face
Having a working knowledge and command of your own body and face are musts and I had to spend some good old fashioned alone time staring in the mirror discovering which angles worked the best for my face and body. Not to mention it was hard work mastering my facial muscles! Just because you think you are giving your best bedroom eyes doesn't mean that is what your face is ACTUALLY doing. I have found that unless you feel your muscle working then you are probably looking flat faced with no emotion. The trick for me has been to OVER react with my muscles because that is where the life is put into my photos. Even when I want to look serene and quiet I have to actively force my face to calm and I must be careful to control my face otherwise I look lifeless. Another point is to make sure that your smile reaches your eyes, like Tyra said SMIZE! Whatever emotion you are trying to convey MUST reach your eyes otherwise you'll look fake and tired.

Lighting, Lighting, Lighting
I cannot stress the importance of natural lighting and the major role that it plays when you are trying to make your photos look polished and put together. Since I have mastered the use of lighting I do absolutely ZERO touch-ups to my photos, which is awesome because I lack the necessary skills to even make a serious attempt at this. The photos below show what a difference in lighting will do with the exact SAME pose in the SAME place.
Marking my spot let me take two separate shots that were almost identical!
Mark your place
When you start to take photos make sure to mark where the best lighting is in the room. Once you have marked the best place to stand then you can cut out a lot of guess work on where you were standing when you achieved lighting heaven. A word of advice is to NOT TAPE if you are going to eventually include your feet in your photos....I did this on tile and I am still trying to scrape up the tape gum. The spots on the floor drive me crazy when I want to photograph my cute shoes, but I'm kind of a perfectionist so that might not get on your nerves quite like it has mine. Marking your place also let's you be more methodical in your poses by letting you go through a series of poses a bit faster. I would suggest maybe putting down a piece of colored cloth or even a coin to help you remember where you were standing. Plus, if you know exactly where you are going to stand then it will cut down on you moving as the timer for your camera goes off which will eliminate the dreaded FUZZY shot! 
Casualties of the fuzzy shot!
Test Shot
Test shots are so IMPORTANT! I can't count the number of times that I didn't test shot and I was so annoyed with myself because I had either put on too much make-up or misunderstood the lighting for what I would be modeling. At the start of each modeling session I like to do a test shot and then adjust the camera settings. Also, I like to do the first shots with no make-up so that I can get a better idea if dramatic make-up will best suit the lighting or if I need to go with a fresher face. Test shots are also great for determining where the shadows will fall during your shoot so that you'll know whether or not to keep your face face east or west, and which position your body should be in to stay out of the shadows. 

The Fun Stuff: MAKE-UP & HAIR
Make-up and hair go along way to making your photo shoot a success and I always end up putting more make-up on when I take photos as opposed to days when I don't. Using more make-up when I take photos goes beyond wanting to look my best and is due to the fact that the extra make-up helps my features pop on camera. I usually snub lipstick in favor of chap stick or a light gloss, but it's a fact that lipstick is the key to helping your lips show up on camera. Extra eye-liner and mascara help create a pulled together look that is based on the drama and polish that made-up eyes grant you. Make-up and hair also let you put your own particular spin on the photo shoot and help give you a vehicle to communicate personality and feeling into your photos, so don't skip this step!

Tell A Story
Telling a story with your photos is very important so that you don't lose your point-of-view during the photo shoot. Sure, a bunch of good looking photos are nice to have, but if they aren't cohesive then they won't communicate to your audience. I know that for a while taking photos was a chore because I always felt confused when it came to what I should be DOING in the photos, but trying to tell a story helped me have a clearer idea of what to DO on camera. For example, when I started doing the photos for this little how-to I decided that I wanted to create a fun beach type look and so I used that as inspiration and grabbed a hat and bag to add to the feel. Remember that props are useful and will help you create the look you want, just don't let the prop become the focal point of your photo!

Don't be afraid to move or try new poses. Taking your own photographs can be so much fun if you just free yourself up to look a little silly. A trick that I got off of ANTP (Yes, I ran to Tyra when I had no idea what to do!) is to laugh out loud to get a natural look to your face you might feel silly doing it, but it will make look natural easier. Another trick for me is to put my tongue to the roof of my mouth when I smile, doing this helps me keep my neck relaxed and also hasn't let me down in created a genuine smile. New poses can be fun, so don't be afraid to try new things to keep the lines of the photo interesting. Switching things up regularly will help breath life into your photos.
Mistakes Happen!
Don't freak out if you don't do well your very first photo shoot and even if you are a seasoned veteran like me, you won't always be perfect and it could be 200 shots later that you FINALLY get into the groove. Taking photos is supposed to be fun and mistakes happen alllll the time! I love to have my husband photograph me because not only does it cut down on the time that I have take photos, but I always have more fun and laugh a lot more. Here are some of our outtakes that I wanted to share with you to prove that even if you know what to do mistakes happen!

One way to NOT get frustrated when you take photos is to make sure to block off enough TIME so that you can take your time and figure out what you are doing. I usually pick a morning or early afternoon that I have nothing going on so that I don't have to worry about being on schedule. Sometimes I take up to 400 photos over 2 hours when I am photographing by myself, guhhhhhh! Really long sessions can leave me pretty tired and they aren't the regular, but they can happen. I have gotten really good at taking photos and now that I have a system I can be done with photos in 45 min to an hour, but it is important to be patient and make the time to go slow and relax when you do your own photos. 

Stay True To Yourself
Make sure to stay true to the vision that you have for your photos. Don't let anyone else get in the way of the type of photos that you want to take and mastering how to take your own photos is definitely the route to keeping complete creative control over what you do. Before I took my own photos I had a few friends that would graciously swing by and help me out, and even though they had the best intentions I was often left with photos that weren't quite what I wanted. Taking my own photos has given me the freedom to do as I please and I notice that my photos are more creative, happy, and better composed as a result.

I hope this blog post about how to take your photos with confidence was helpful to anyone that wants to get started on doing their own photography. If you have any questions that I might be able to answer, please let me know and I will do my best to help! Have a great day and I hope you enjoyed the blog post because I know I had fun putting it together and sharing what I have learned with all of you. What a great blog challenge!


  1. such good tips! I always get stuck doing the same old pose - love these ideas :).

    1. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. :) I hope the ideas are useful to you and I'm glad you liked them! I LOVE your bridal collection, btw. :)

  2. This was very clever and informative.
    I do a lot of modeling with myself, and you hit it right on the money.

    Especially with natural lighting. Oh gosh, that makes me the most frustrated.

    1. Thank you for stopping by leaving a comment for me. :)Hahaha, YES! Good lighting is so hard to come by! I get so envious of all the expensive lighting stuff that I see pros using. Oh, to dream!

  3. I'm a photographer and I would be so nervous doing this!! I totally know how you first felt!

    1. Thank you for stopping by and commenting. :) It's so crazy to step out from behind the camera, but a cool thing is that I understand photographing people a lot better now that I have done it.

  4. Great advice, & I love your out-take shots lol

    1. Thank you for the comment! I'm glad you like the outtakes because it was a struggle of WHICH ones to include. I could do a whole blog post on the weird faces that I make when I am doing photos, haha.

  5. I can't imagine trying to do pictures of myself--I always cajole my husband or siblings into doing it (of course, I don't have the equipment either. But I'm always impressed by people who can take pictures of themselves and look natural doing it. I think I'm fairly good at posing when there's someone behind the camera to focus on...but simply posing for a camera? I think I would start acting silly...which is not necessarily a bad thing...

    1. Thank you for stopping by and commenting. :) You hit the nail on the head with being silly when you are alone, I am definitely sillier when it is just me.

  6. A very useful post :) Need to try this :)

    Please check my photo blog when you have a chance xx

    1. Let me know how it goes if you give it a go! I'm hopping over to your blog now. :)

  7. Thanks for posting this. I've always wondered how girls get their pics for fashion posts. I am kinda clueless when it comes to posing.