I recently, while preparing for a commercial shoot, took a few self-portraits. Including this one:
As always, click to see it large. (You really do need to see this one at original size to see the full effect.)
To do a portrait like this, I did the following – and I thought it might be useful for me to share the thought process:
- I decided I wanted black and white, and to shoot it that way.
- I set up the right studio lighting. I used a softbox on camera left; an edge light on camera right at the back; and a fill light using an umbrella on camera right in front.
- I metered for these lights, with a fairly high key:fill ratio. In other words, I wanted the less-lit part of my face to be much less lit. To get this, I set the fill light around three stops darker than the main light.
- That in turn allowed me to set up an edge light, to show the contours of my face.
- I set up a white background.
- I positioned myself at a distance from the background that would ensure a grey (rather than black or white) background.
- I set up the main light, in a softbox, such that I would get nice catch lights in my eyes.
- I pre-focused (on a chair), then set the camera to manual, and then used the camera’s timer to take the shot.
- I used a horizontal layout, to create enough “negative space”, by using the rule of thirds (i.e I did not put myself in the “Uncle Fred” position right in the middle).
Finally, in post-production I added some film grain. This is one of Lightroom 3’s Develop module’s “Effects”, and it is one I really like. Tri-X film, anyone?
I am about to set up the same setups for Saturday’s workshop. Deciding on lighting is a photographer’s major job!
Great work Michael! I have been wanting to do a self portrait for a while now and think I found my inspiration.
Thanks! Self portraits are by far the toughest (if only for mechanical reasons: try focusing on yourself). But they are rewarding.