Here's a secret that may not really be a secret... I take most of my own photos for social media myself. Being a photographer has been really helpful as I've moved into this new space, and I want to share a few simple tips that can have you upping your selfie game in no time!
First lets talk setup. This may look like a lot, but in reality I rarely use the flash. (I prefer using natural light.)
I'm including two setups here - one I can use my phone, and one I can use my camera.
So first, my *main* setup is with my Canon 30D, and a 50mm 1.8 prime lens. I have a remote trigger that plugs into my camera. I put it on the tripod, and I'm good to go.
A lot of the newer cameras have built in wireless connectivity, so you don't need the same type of remote trigger, check the manual (or google) whatever model you have to see what your needs would be.
(A prime lens just means that it is a fixed length and doesn't zoom.)
The 50mm 1.8 is my favorite lens because I can easily control the depth of field (how blurry the background is) with the F stop, although with self portraits this can get tricky. It's easy to end up with the background in focus and my face completely blurred out. Not usually what I'm going for.
Also, 50mm is a great length, and it's fairly easy to get either a good panorama, or a portrait. I also have an 85mm 2.4 prime lens which gives really amazing bokeh, but I need SO much room to be able to use it well, and it's not very practical for self portraits.
I like to shoot on manual, because I am used to setting my own lighting, but there's no shame in flipping your camera on auto or portrait mode.
The big differences in digital SLRs vs phones and point and shoot digital cameras are how much control you have over your image. The ability to swap out lenses means you can get really specific with what kind of image you want to create, and then there's adding in lighting control, and more options in post processing as well. The nice thing is that digital SLR's are not nearly as cost prohibitive as they once were. I think I spent 500 on my first "cheap" camera, and the one I have now was 7-900. Of course now you can buy the camera body on eBay for under $100.
Now, that doesn't include lenses, lighting, SD cards, but you can get a bare bones setup for under $300 out the door now.
The second setup, is a remote trigger using my phone. I don't use this a lot, because the photo quality is just so much better with my "real" camera and the photos are easier to manipulate afterwards as well. But if you're looking for a cheap self portrait setup, this will get you going.
The remote trigger and tripod attachment I have was $12.00
The tripod was also $12.00
You can be in business for about $25.00 using your phone. Everything else though, framing, modeling, lighting, all of that applies no matter what your setup is.
If you want to get comfortable in front of the camera, the easiest way is to take some self portraits. It's so easy to try new things when you have full control of your images, and see what angles feel most comfortable for you specifically.
I personally like to try new ways to take up more space in photos (as opposed to trying to shrink as much as possible like a lot of us do!) Also, as a photographer, I find self portraits a great way to hone my posing skills for my clients. I can more specifically direct them when I've personally been there and done it.
You don't have to do any crazy amount of styling either, although you certainly can. My favorite spot to set up minimal self portraits is in my kitchen, next to my slider. It's like sitting in front of a giant softbox. (see above)
As I've gotten more specific about the pictures I want, I have no problem taking my setup out in public and clicking away. Does it look weird? Yes totally. Do I care? Not remotely.
General rules of photography apply here. Direct sunlight makes for strong shadows (and washed out highlights), overcast days and shade are our friends for well exposed photos.
I make sure to stay on public property as much as possible, or try to find someone to get permission from otherwise. Parks, trails, and woods are all great places, and if your setup is minimal enough, it's easy to pack and go.
Of course, my most styled shoot meant toting an empty frame and various other props into a walking trail, but it worked out!
I really love self portraiture as an art form for so many reasons. It frees me up from other peoples schedules, and I can just pick up and chase a sunset, fog, or light with no notice to create something beautiful.
I also like taking time to create self portraits when I get all up in my feels, and working to communicate those powerful emotions effectively.
I hope this helps you on your photography journey, I would love to see examples of what you create!
I had never heard of Jen Hatmaker, but her book “Of Mess and Moxie” was chosen for my groups first book club. Bonus, it was available at my local library. DOUBLE bonus, the audiobook was available on the library app, and I had a long drive to make. Have you ever read the perfect book at the perfect time? That’s what happened here. I was in the very beginning stages of thinking that I *might* need more sisterhood and support from other women in my life.
Jens book had me in tears within the first ten minutes, which is only slightly dangerous when driving. First, she reads the audiobook, which is my favorite. I always prefer to hear the author read their own words, because they know exactly how to put across the meaning of what they’ve written.
Second, Jen feels like the best girlfriend you never had. I wanted to camp on her porch by the end of the book and that’s saying a lot for this introvert.
Third, she is a couple life stages past me, and reading about her life and challenges and relationships enabled me to look into a future that in many ways I could choose to build for myself. She gave me a map to building deep, fulfilling relationships, and showed me a picture of what that can look like. It took a lot for that to sink in through the “safer alone” mantra I had been living for years.
When I was done with the book, I needed more. So I looked up her “for the love” podcast.
Friends. Jen has a gift (and / or a talented team) for picking amazing guests. She interviews all kinds of people for all kinds of reasons, but at this point in my life, I was looking for women. She was just starting a series called “for the love of girlfriends” which had ways to develop those deep relationships as a central theme. I ate it up. I reference multiple women I found through Jen’s podcast in my book (coming next year!) because she just has such fantastic conversations, and picks such insightful guests doing really powerful work.
Through her podcast I’ve discovered:
Shasta Nelson and her book, “Frientimacy”
Latasha Morrison and her program, “Be The Bridge”
Rachel Held Evans and her book, “Inspired”
Jo Saxton and her book, “The Dream of You” as well as her podcast, which is also one of my favorites, “Lead Stories Podcast”
Nichole Nordeman and her album, “Every Mile Mattered”
Sara Cunningham and her “Free Mom Hugs” movement
Austin Channing Brown and her book, “I’m Still Here”
Becca Stevens and her business & ministry, Thistle Farms
Here’s the powerful thing about discovering a lot of powerful women. You realize that you can be one of them. When you hear enough stories of grit, determination, and yes, moxie, you start realizing that you can do YOUR thing, whatever that is for you.
So check out Jen Hatmakers book (available on amazon and at libraries!) “Of Mess and Moxie” and her podcast “For the Love”. But I’m warning you, it might be life changing.
I have joked recently that the fact I’m a photographer for hire is my best kept secret. I’ve never been good at self promotion. This year, I decided I was going to get back in touch with my inner creative, and what a ride it’s been.
I imagined getting in touch with my inner creative to be like Merida in Brave chasing willow the wisps; in a word:
The reality has not been ethereal, unless you consider ethereal sleepless nights and distracted days, constantly jotting and plotting ideas. I am telling myself that after years of barely giving my Creative a passing glance, she is making up for lost time, but there’s also a possibility that this is just life now.
I made the decision that I would post daily to Instagram in June. I had written some posts and felt I needed specific imagery for them, and did a last minute shout out on facebook to see who could make it to the beach for a photoshoot.
The perfect group showed up for me, and the results were magical. You see them all over my website and branding, because I can’t imagine a more perfect visual to accompany messages of sisterhood and empowerment.
When I thought about engaging creatively, I thought maybe I would write more, or do some projects around the house. I really didn’t think that it would revive my photography, but it has.
I also didn't count on the impact getting together this group of women would have. We ALL were empowered. We all left feeling like we had a stronger support system and connection. We all left feeling less alone in our femininity. We practiced and embodied taking up space. We practiced and embodied not smiling for someone else. We got dirty, we played, and we had such a wonderful time. In the end, I have these photos all over because they fit. But also because they inspire me, and every time I look at them I think of my badass friends showing up with less than 24hrs notice just because I asked them to.
The scary thing about the roles and stories we are handed as women is how ingrained they are. When we actively flip that script, and move in ways we are told to never move, and pose in ways we are taught not to pose, we practice reclamation.
Fair warning: if you ask to awaken your inner creative, be prepared. You might just end up chasing the moon.
Megan is a writer and creator from Wallingford, CT. She is passionate about empowering women to step into the full power and identity they were created to embrace and claim.