Tuesday, June 1, 2010

P4C: Arm's Length Self Portrait

As I write today about self portrait taken from arm's length you'll notice that I'm contradicting some of the points I made in the last Photography4Cachers post. Without an LCD capable of facing the lens it can be very challenging to get a good image especially at close range. The technique of holding your camera out as far in front of yourself as possible is very useful when caching alone or without a good location for a support. In brief, here's what you'll be doing for a good arm's length self portrait:
  • Zoom out (on most compact cameras you'll need to zoom out as far as possible),
  • check behind you (that will be the background in your photo and make sure the sun won't be back there),
  • hold camera at arm’s length,
  • look into the lens,
  • position the camera at or above your eyes,
  • gently press the shutter release,
  • check and re-shoot if you're not happy with the results.
Despite the advice in the last post to avoid wide angle focal lengths for portraits, there's not much choice under these conditions. There's not much distance between your head and the camera, so wide shots can't be avoided. The bonus though is that shaking is harder to detect in images captured with wide angle focal length and your far less stable with your hand stretched out. It also will allow for more of the background to make it in behind your head for a better sense of where you are. The wide will still tend to give you an apparent big head, but by keeping the camera's position high you're more likely to enlarge the eyes rather other features like your nose or nostrils. As much as I want to see your photo, I really don't want to look up your nose.

The hardest part is figuring out where the camera is pointed without that LCD to frame the shot. What has worked the best for me on most cameras is to look straight down the lens, then tilt the camera down just slightly. I'll still have to remember where I was looking when I check the photo and retake it a couple of times, but it's a great spot to start. This is where the compact digital camera has really helped -- imagine if you couldn't check your photo in the field? Take advantage of that though, and once you find a position that works try to remember where that was so you can replicate it next time.

Text and images in this post are copyright 2010 by Darryl Wattenberg, all rights reserved.

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