Self portraits are tough. Because you do not know what you are doing. And you cannot focus. And the camera doesn’t hold itself. Above all, it’s a drag, because you want to see to compose, but you cannot. Not until afterward, anyway, and that tends to be a pain too.

And yet, I do them all the time. Including this, the never do this at home, folks shot:

Yeah. The duck face. With gang symbols, and an iPhone. Ouch. These are usually shot in a washroom, and then you post it on Facebook, if you are a teenage/20s girl, and immediately all your fine feathered friends say “AWESOME PHOTO!!!”, while in fact it’s usually an awful photo.

But as you see, my selfie is technically good. So here’s how I do it:

So here’s the TEN WAYS TO A SELFIE:

  1. The camera is mounted on a tripod.
  2. It is set to manual mode, 200 ISO, f/8, 1/125th second (with these settings, only the flash will do any work, and ambient light will not interfere).
  3. It is set to the 10-second self timer mode.
  4. It is equipped with a Pocketwizard (set to send, or “remote” mode).
  5. The flash is mounted via a ball head onto a light stand. The ball head allows me to point the flash conveniently. I have it positioned 45 degrees up, as seen from where my face will be.
  6. The flash, too, has a Pocketwizard (in receive, or “local” mode), and it fires the flash via a hotshoe-cable.
  7. It is equipped with a Honl Photo Traveller 8 portable softbox.
  8. The flash is set to manual, quarter power. That gave me f/8, at that distance and at 200 ISO.
  9. See that additional light stand? A-ha! I put it where the subject (i.e. I) was going to be. Then I focused accurately on it. Then, with that focus distance set, I set the camera to manual focus. Then, when taking the shot, I moved the light stand away, and positioned myself exactly where it had just been.
  10. I aimed my face toward the softbox, in order to get the lighting pattern you see here.

That’s how I did this shot.

Oh yeah.. you see the iPhone pretending to be flashing? That’s an app, FlashLight, that allows me to turn the light on permanently.

And finally, you see that I also went close, and that I composed using the rule of thirds. Mission accomplished. Including Dreaded Duck face!

Here. One more. In case the duck face was too much to take:

Oh, OK, OK, here’s a more serious one, where I went closer:

And one last one from the same setup:

Now you go try!


Want to learn? I have just scheduled a special all-evening Flash course on 3 Oct; as well as a five-evening basic photography course, starting Oct 2, aimed at novice to intermediate users who want to learn to use their DSLR properly once and for all.

These courses are very special in that they are like private coaching: I will only take up to 5 students for each course. The Flash course includes the Pro Flash Manual, and the five-evening course includes course materials and homework. Both are now available for signing up on – see the flash course details on this page.


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