I don’t take a lot of photos by myself. Most of the time I’m fortunate enough to have my little sister, one of my best friends, or my boyfriend there to snap photos for me. But sometimes, I go all out and the tripod comes with me.
Today I’m going to be sharing the workflow behind how I plan all my photoshoots and also how I shoot some of them by myself. Like the ones in this post today!
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I am always scouting locations. Anytime I’m driving somewhere, walking to work, or out on a run I’m looking at places through a photographer’s lens. Something I fine-tuned during my days gallivanting across Europe.
Sometimes I’m just looking for the basics: good lighting, and a basic Insta backdrop. Usually this implies shade or a white background. Maybe lots of flowers, a cute door, or just outside seating.
Over the past few months though, I like to think I’ve become more creative with how I shoot shots and how I want them framed. This in turn affects me picking locations. Think branches to hold, or a light post to lean off of, stairs to be moody on.
But my favorite obsession: the ugly location challenge. I obsessed over this last year when it went viral with Kelsey Maggart and have been so inspired ever since.
For instance, the location of this shoot? Some random field on top of a hill straddling NKU and an interstate. I would drive or run by all the time during the spring semester and think, “Wow those flowers would be a great backdrop.” So after work one Friday, I packed up my stuff and walked over to do a photoshoot.
Choosing the Outfit
Sometimes I plan an outfit around the location, sometimes around a prop, but a lot of the time it’s the outfit. Especially if I’m going for a specific vibe or doing a shoot for an outfit post. For this shoot, I was basing it all around the linen pants I got from GoodWill and the intention of a new profile photo and an ultimate “summer queen” vibe, if you will.
I ended up going barefoot and donning an off the shoulder top to keep up the carefree vibe I was hoping to achieve. It’s little details like this that no one thinks of while looking at a photo, that the stylist/photographer thinks about right away. It can be fun to wear outfits that give off a different vibe than your location, but that’s just not my style.
Annnnnd here comes the hard part. You have you location scouted, outfit donned, camera set up and now no idea how to pose except throwing up a peace sign. Been there. Done that.
For posing I have two tricks I use every time I take photos:
- Make yourself laugh. Taking photos in public, by yourself, is so laughable and ridiculous to some. So laugh about how crazy the situation you are in is. Fake laughing always leads to real laughing in my case.
- Triangle. Triangle. Triangle. I’m not sure why, but having triangle “shapes” in a photo helps draw people’s eyes. Aka why girls always do the leg pop and hand on their hip. Experiment with bent legs, crossed arms, cheeks on hands, and raised arms in your hair or at your neck.
Here I can find three triangles. The first is my left bent knee, the second is formed with my arm on my face with my hair parallel as the two long sides, and a third can technically be my right bent knee.
Adding “patterns” makes the picture more visually stimulating than just straight lines or a big blob.
For instance, I think this photo is definitely cute. The lighting is great. Same background as all the other photos, but the pose just isn’t as appealing. I just look like a giant L, and while that’s not necessarily a bad thing, I just don’t find it drawing my eye as much as some of the other photos.
Self-Portraits with my Nikon App
Finally on to how I actually shoot photos of myself and by myself!
My equipment for shooting by myself is very minimal: tripod, camera, and my phone. I have a Nikon camera so I have the Luxury of using the Nikon Wireless Mobile Utility app. The app basically just turns my phone into a wireless remote to set off the shutter, set up a timer, preview the viewfinder, and look and download all the photos on my camera.
Basically, the app is a life saver.
The only downfall to shooting by yourself is how many camera adjustments you have to do. Having a real person behind the camera you never notice how much the camera actually moves to get shot after shot. Either taking steps, leaning back, tilting a bit, bending down, going up on tippy toes, etc etc. If you want to mimic any of that with a tripod? You have to get up and move the camera, go back and check the framing, and repeat until it looks good. Something that usually takes a second now can take a whole minute.
This whole process turned me off from shooting my own photos at first. But I’ve learned to became more patient if I really want photos and no one else to shoot them for me.
Plus, there’s the issue of hiding your phone. Sometimes it’s hard. Especially when I need to hands for a pose and can’t just throw my phone on the ground after I instigate the self-timer.