Self Portrait Shoot 1 Review.

After thinking about my experience with anxiety, the symptoms I experience as well as the coping mechanisms I have, I was able to begin compiling ideas for images I wanted to make to reflect these. This was definitely important for me to do as with already being on a tight schedule, I didn’t want to lose more time by trying to think of ideas on the spot. I decided the first shots I would attempt would be some ideas I’d thought of in the studio. Following the discovery of work by Craig Cutler and having a ‘concept’ image which shows his sketch/pre-visualisation of the image beforehand, I decided to attempt something along the same lines. Despite my poor drawing skills, it still helped me consider possible angles, positions and lighting beforehand to also help save time whilst doing my shoot.


With a busy studio constantly being booked nearing the end of the university year, I was lucky but disappointed to only be able to book a 1hr 45 minute slot. Not only this, but the person using the studio beforehand was late returning the keys which ate into my time – regardless of this, I was still prepared knowing what I wanted to do and just needed to get on with it. This was slowed down a little more by needing to get some help with the backdrop in the studio but once this was sorted, I was able to get stuck in.

I was a little apprehensive of whether this shoot would actually work as these images were going to be self portraits. This meant having to set the shot up beforehand with my partner Ben, getting the lighting suitable, then swapping around and positioning myself in exactly the same place. It also meant that I had to rely on Ben to make sure the camera was in focus and keep the shot framed as identical as possible to how I had composed it with him in the shot. I also had to come out of place a lot to keep checking how the images were coming out and making suitable adjustments. Much to my surprise, this actually worked out a lot better than I thought and feel I have come out with some suitable images. I also had a tripod with me which I haven’t always thought of using when in the studio, and this helped immensely with keeping the composition and positioning the same.





There were a couple of issues I encountered during the shoot. One of the images I wanted to capture was with myself in the frame but also needing Ben’s hands on my shoulders to represent the ‘trapped’ feeling of anxiety, the weight it holds on your shoulders. Not only did I think Ben would be able to hide behind me in the frame, but I couldn’t find how to set the self timer on the Canon 5D Mark II. Conscious of time, I decided to move on to a different shot and revisit this next time, rather than waste more time worrying how to do it. I have since found online that it involves pressing the AF-Drive button and turning the dial to the appropriate countdown. Another issue I had due to time constraints was the use of the macro lens. As it wouldn’t be myself taking the picture, I was unsure of how Ben would find using the macro lens and didn’t know if there was enough time for him to get to grips with it. Therefore, I decided just to have a quick experiment and take some shots with the lens already on the camera. I can either reshoot these outside the studio sometime or try again when I get the studio next as I think the lighting will work better.

Despite this, I felt there were more positives to appreciate than negatives. I have always been very nervous using the studio, worrying whether things will go wrong or worrying about damaging the equipment but excluding the initial hiccups, the images were actually coming out how I wanted. I have often found myself pre-visualising how I want images to look, particularly with studio lighting but not being able to achieve them. However following my research of ‘Conceptual Still Life Photography’ by Michael O’Connor and remembering not to limit myself, I made use of the reflectors in the studio to help enhance my images. For example, in the first shot I was trying to achieve with half the face in shadow, I used the black side of the barn door to absorb the light, whilst facing the studio light away from Ben rather than towards him. I will definitely be more confident in using these in the future.

Following the shoot and whilst I still had access to the macro lens, I experimented outside the studio with the shots I had previously tried of the close ups of my hair and nails digging into the skin. This meant I was working with very basic indoor lighting which I didn’t think would be very interesting compared to studio lighting but I still wanted to try it.


The hair shot was a little harder, as obviously Ben does not have long hair so I couldn’t ‘pre-frame’ the shot and test the lighting as well as being the first time he would be using the macro lens. I did try to turn the camera on myself, but as I often find myself working a little harder to get the focus right when using the macro lens, trying to achieve it whilst not even being able to look through the viewfinder was simply impossible. So with the use of my pre-visualised sketches and the photographs we had already tried in the studio, I guided Ben the best I could to take the image I wanted. I initially thought this was quite successful, however once I properly reviewed the images I realised a lot of them were quite out of focus. In comparison to the ones took in the studio, I am undecided which ones I prefer in reference to the hair however I think the second lot of images of the ‘nails’ look better as the macro really defines the indentations on the skin. If I have the opportunity it may be worth going back in the studio to be able to reshoot these second load of images, with the macro lens and dramatic studio lighting but due to time constraints this may not be possible. If not, I am pleased with the images I have and can use Photoshop to alter the brightness and contrast to make it more interesting.

Although I only managed to get 6 potential final shots, this was still a good starting points for the next few images I intend to shoot. Pre-visualising my images and sketching them before hand was extremely helpful for myself but also for Ben as it showed him what I was trying to achieve, therefore I will certainly be making a couple of sketches before my next shoots. Also, although I was apprehensive about working with somebody else to help aid the creation of my images and how it would work out, I felt it was successful and will not have to worry about this next time. Now I have shot these beginning images, it is helping me begin visualising what images I can begin putting together. From the studio shoot, there is an image of me standing in the middle alone and following this, I took a selection of images of hands reaching out from the sides. I intend to merge all of these together to represent anxiety trapping and engulfing me with no escape. This may work well with the image I picked out of the daunting tree branches which also give that sense of being trapped, whilst the arms running parallel to the entwining branches. Similarly, the close up images of hair or hands where the textures are interestingly defined, this might run well next to the macro images I have of decaying leaves. This will be considered further in the selection process and it will also be important to receive some feedback on this.


~ by victoriasimkissphotography on April 24, 2015.

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