Things I learned about shooting self-portraits in the woods
The main thing that distinguishes photography from art and other creative forms is how much of a team effort it really is, especially if you're shooting people and clothes. The entire process is a collaboration of stylist, makeup artist, hairstylist, model and photographer, and a balancing exercise of elements that include everything from the whims of nature to physics, time and equipment. And if you're a chronic perfectionist like me, the biggest problem is pushing through the doubts of 'I don't have everything perfect yet' and - in the grand tradition of Shia Lebouf - just do it. You can't convince people to work with you if you have no portfolio to show for it, so if you must use your own clothes, your own makeup, make your own props and use yourself as a substitute model to start a portfolio... sketch out a plan and run with it, right?
Two days of running in the woods between position and my camera-laden tripod in heels (don't do it), three mosquito bites and a missing 50mm f/1.8 lens cap* later, here are things I've learned about self portraits outside.
- Prepare the styling before you go outside. Smile politely at the inconveniently timed family gathering on your neighbours' front lawn as you traipse past them with 3 bags, a tripod, a full face of makeup and a home-made paper crane headband
- Buy a remote shutter trigger. You will save yourself from having to erase 50,000 rejected burst mode photos and spare yourself the sequence of photos in which you can watch yourself being hit in the face with a sunflower
- The perfect shot will always happen when something is out of focus. Accept and move on (but leave a piece of your heart behind)
- If you're using the 10 second timer and want to capture fabric in movement because you're a masochist, listen to the beeping, watch the beeping, become the beeping (but seriously: take a methodical approach to the timer and test the same swish at different moments to trial-and-error the timing)
- Cry about how Margaret Zhang does it so perfectly
- Visualise the pose and mood you want to achieve before you run in front of the lens. Be aware of your relative position to the camera and other things that could affect a set of images if they're out of place. Get really annoyed by a clump of hair that ruined an entire set of shots and then delete 2000 images of you fiddling with your hair from every burst-mode session. Put all your Next Top Model guilty pleasure watching to use
- *If you accidentally find you have a lens cap in your hand when posing, do not toss the lens cap to the grass on your right, hoping to pick it up right after the shot. You will forget about it until it's time to wrap up and, by then, the ground will have eaten it (no, but seriously. It remains missing. I am exasperated and bemused)
- Get some friends who like you enough to help you. No, really
If you're the type who hates having her drafts scrutinised during any creative process, you will actually have a lot of fun when there's no one else to witness you try stupid poses and fail spectacularly at them. You will then proceed to get extremely sick of your own dumb face during editing.