Thursday, January 7, 2016

Weekly Challenge: Self Portrait

It turns out that retirement does not cure procrastination, so I've decided to inject a little discipline into my photography this year. The 52 Week Photography Challenge, courtesy of Dogwood Photography, is an approach that seems useful as well as fun. There are three categories: Portrait, Landscape, and Artistic Impression. Each week presents a variation on one of the categories. Week One is "Portrait: Self Portrait - Start things off right with a 'selfie'! Explore the self-timer setting on your camera."

I've dabbled in this before (see this posting) but I certainly don't feel proficient. Today I set up next to the window for some indirect light and started shooting. I learned a lot.

First lesson: it's very hard to focus when you don't have a subject. Using a 105mm focal length makes for very shallow depth of field. At six feet and f/8, it's 4 inches (per the easy-to-use, free depth-of-field calculator at the Apple App store called TrueDoF-Intro). And I couldn't figure out how to use autofocus without a finger on the shutter release. So it was shoot, look at the image, adjust the focus, shoot again...pretty tedious.

Try to Stay Focused
It occurred to me that a cable release would help. Alas, my old cable release with the mini-phono plug doesn't fit my Nikon, which naturally has it's OWN connector. So I ordered a fairly cheap wireless remote that works on infrared. Did me no good in this session, though.

Next lesson: It's easy to forget basic details like background. And unruly hair, and blemishes, and so on. You can fix some of them in post, but it's better to get it right the first time.

Watch Background to Avoid Funny Hats

I liked the side lighting from the window, but without flash the shutter speeds are very slow even at ISO 1600. I needed to add a lot of noise reduction in post. If I were a serious portraitist I would have flashes. Waiting for the self-timer to trigger also leads to blinking.

Tired of Waiting for Self Timer
Speaking of exposure, I thought (looking at the camera display) that the lit side of my face was much too hot, so I adjusted the exposure down about 2.7 EV. But in post-processing it was clear that I overcompensated. Lesson: don't trust the camera monitor for exposure decisions. Some folks use histograms and little blinking tools to alert them to over/under exposure.  I guess I should join them. 

In the end I had two candidate images. They differ in aperture, f/10 versus f/8. I prefer the f/8 because it blurs the background a bit more and the light is a little better. Okay, one week down and 51 to go.

F/8, softer background

F/10, slightly sharper background

No comments:

Post a Comment