20130624Selfportrait-001

I decided to change my profile pic I use on wordpress, twitter, tumblr,…. everywhere. For some years it has been a picture of me in a red weather jacket, lying on an icelandic beach and hiding behind my D300s. I thought it was time to come out of the shadow… well not completely, see above. I wanted to make an interesting self-portrait and not another shot of myself in the mirror holding the camera… you might know this type of picture.

One of the biggest problems when taking your own picture is that you can’t look through the viewfinder, because you are in front of the lens obviously. I overcame this obstacle by tethering the D300s. Tethering means that you connect your camera with a cable to the computer and use a program to trigger the camera. Adobe Lightroom offers this functionality. I used my D300s with the 24-70mm lens, at 58 mm, 1/200 sec, ISO 200 and f10. I chose that aperture because I wanted only my face on the picture with everything else being dark. The flash highlights my face, the rest of the room is black. Note that I shot this image not in my studio but in my office room. With normal lighting conditions you would see a comfy chair and some other furniture in the background, but f10 suppresses the ambient light and only the photons coming from the flash are visible.

The self-portrait above was taken using the following setup (I always wanted to explain something on a napkin, so here we go):

20130628Setup_on_a_napkin001

Since my handwriting is a catastrophe (I actually had to redo my homework many times in elementary school but it didn’t help…) I am deciphering the scribble for you: computer, tethered camera, SB-700 + Lumiquest Softbox, me on chair, holding mouse and light stand, mouse.

I put the camera on a tripod and angled it a little downwards. This forced me to look upwards at the camera, which is merciful on the double chin. With the right hand I held the mouse on my right knee, with the left hand I held the light stand with an SB-700 and a Lumiquest Softbox III attached. The drawing is distorted. My left arm is actually not twice the length of my right arm (side note: Now that you have seen my drawing skills you know why I photograph and not paint). The Speedlight loomed very close over my face, just out of frame. Obviously you can’t place the light stand on the camera axis to achieve symmetrical lighting, so I tilted the light stand to have the speedlight centered over my face.

Sitting like that I took the first picture, after a few seconds the image showed up in Lightroom. Then I had to adjust my position and the position of the flash many times until I found the desired framing and lighting. I took 86 images that evening until I had the image above with which I am now happy.

It was very unusual for me to be before the camera. Most of the shots I had to redo because I did not like the expression I was making. You get a glimpse at what skills professional models or actors have. On most of the pictures I either looked angry, smirky, goofy or hyped up cool. That was not what I was looking for. The final result shows what I think to be a relatively neutral, but friendly expression. I like it, do you ?

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