Road Train !!!!!!!!!!

by Russell McMahon

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One thing always comes to my mind: if I am a good photographer, I can't take my own photographs! Only other people can take my photograph.

Can anybody suggest the best way to take self photographs, and which camera is best for this?

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I'm not at all sure there is a "best" way—lots of people have come up with all kinds of interesting self-portrait methods, and you could very well come up with your own and call it "the best." So I'm not sure how I would begin to answer this question beside the standard: "get a tripod, pre-focus, turn on the self-timer…" –  keyofnight Sep 10 '13 at 6:31
    
possible duplicate of Tips for taking headshot self-portraits? –  keyofnight Sep 10 '13 at 7:57
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From a quick search on the internet it seems the preferred method for shooting a self-portrait is to hold your smartphone at arms length and make an idiotic "duck face" –  Nir Sep 10 '13 at 8:54
    
@nir - don't forget the hastily applied, cheap, "artsy" filters –  AJ Henderson Sep 10 '13 at 13:31

8 Answers 8

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Tripod and a timer or remote trigger. Setup the shot, set the focus point where you'll be standing, take your position and click off a bunch. You can also rig up a more complex setup where you can remote view the shot on a laptop or tablet (or even a smartphone) before taking the photo so that you can make adjustments remotely, but that's a bit more technically complicated to do.

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It deep-ends what you want to achieve.

STUDIO QUALITY:

"Good quality" "normal" photos can easily be obtained with a timer - having a display that allows you to check framing is a bonus. Using a remote shutter release helps heaps. There are after-market wireless releases available for most brands. This is often a "key fob" sized device that you can hide in your hand so it is not seen in the photo.
Using a short shutter delay is useful for self photos. You then don't have to hide your shutter pressing actions or "face". 2 seconds is usually enough. If your camera does not support this some after market wireless releases with built in timers.
A "fully articulated" display such as on the Sony A99 shown here allows you to compose the image from "in front of the lens". enter image description here

"FOR THE RECORD" PHOTOS

If you are interested in eg trip photography proof-of-life Kilroy-was-here just-for-fun type images then you can get "very reasonable results with a DSLR held at arms length. This takes some practice but if you add a local or 2 or 3 it can be great fun. I am right handed but a std DSLR usually works better reversed at arms length when held in the left hand.

  • "How to hold camera" example only. Focus is on camera in mirror. Mirror used here only to show holding arrangement.
    This is far easier and more secure than it appears. Note that dangling camera strap comes from over familiarity - loop it over your arm so that if you do drop the camera the strap will save it. ( (High ISO as flash & mirrors need extra care and this is a quick demo).

enter image description here

That this is what is being done is often obvious once you are aware it is being done, but many people look at the photos without realising.

It is extremely useful to have an articulating LCD that allows you to see the image that you are about to capture BUT you should not look at it as the photo is taken. Below, in image at left subject is looking at LCD above camera and eyes are obviously "not right". Subjects need to look at lens front as photo is taken. Two images at right show that "reasonable results" can be obtained. Aficionados will decry on-camera flash :-).

enter image description here

With multiple people in the image the photographer needs to be at far left (image right) OR the person at image right must be behind your arm. Not a problem but worth noting - eg see top left image below (lady on image right there and in lower left image is my long suffering wife). (Nobody wants to know, but: L2RT2B Malacca, Urumqi, Ningbo, Donguan, Polyfest, Xian, Malacca, Urumqi, Yogyakarta, Urumqi).

enter image description here


For extra points or in tight or specialist situations - such as hanging off the outside of a speeding train, you can use a short tripod (say 2 feet / 600 mm) with the camera pointing almost "down the legs" and then hold this at arms length and use a timer. eg set focus point, swing camera in, press shutter button, swing out/pose/hold tight to train - click, repeat as required. I find that a 2 second timer is OK for this - holding camera on tripod at arms length for 10 seconds is somewhat demanding.

Two second timer. Small tripod with legs fully compressed, held at arms length. Safety strap advised :-). [Malaysia]. Exposure & focus & white balance - terrible. Memories of occasion - priceless.

enter image description here

FWIW: Imgur stores these images at higher resolution than they are displayed. Windows/GargoyleMail right-click on image and select "Open image in new tab" opens a larger image than is displayed directly. Other OS / Client combinations will presumably do similarly. In this case full accessible image is 2164 x 1410 (compared to about in this case 790 x 515 on my just over HD LCD).

NB - if participating in potentially dangerous acts to acquire your holiday photos, be sure to not lead others astray. The camera at above left is looking in the direction of travel. This is "safe enough" if you do not fall off AND if you avoid trackside obstacles. The young woman who saw me "playing" and came and joined in was oblivious to such dangers and I had to forcefully emphasise how easy it would be to die.

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Nice Vegitales in the background. :) –  AJ Henderson Sep 10 '13 at 13:24
    
I prefer the bearded versions. –  Stan Sep 10 '13 at 19:38
    
@Stan - Beards happen. My general tendency is to affect approximate cleanshavenness but being self employed and not usually client-facing day to day shaving tends to be a sometime thing. Above a certain pain/removal time threshold the beard tends to get locked in. When in tourist mode (eg at end of overseas business trips) shaving tends to get zero time-slices and beard size may be an indicator of time in this mode. Or not. –  Russell McMahon Sep 11 '13 at 0:36
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Get a beard trimmer for yourself instead of a razor to maintain that consistent irreverent look you strive for. –  Stan Sep 11 '13 at 1:52
    
@Stan - Evidently you did not believe my actually truthful explanation above. On the occasions where I do "strive" for bearded affectation I've found that a #4 comb on the hair clipper for the hair and a #1 comb for the beard gives best visual clue to what people are liable to be in for if they deal with me. As above, longer beard than that "just happens". I dislike beards comfort wise and when in regular client interface mode am liable to be clean shaven. FWIW "Old Grey Guy" –  Russell McMahon Sep 11 '13 at 12:20

There is one thing called shutter release, many great photographer in the history use it to shot their own portrait.

Or you can just shot it with your mobile phones. Don't you think I‘ts great that some other takes a photo of you?That would make you know how are you in others eyes.

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Although your first point is a solution, having someone else take your photo for you is not always possible, as you may be alone etc. And I think that a phone's camera is probably not high enough quality for many applications. –  damned truths Sep 10 '13 at 8:48

A camera with flip screen is great for casual selfies.

If your camera does not have a flip screen but does have live view, rather than the obvious "point to the mirror" you can always point the camera directly at you and peek the LCD screen reflected in the mirror.

Another interesting option (if your camera supports it) is using the camera in tethered mode and check the framing and shoot from a computer or a tablet.

But I think the best way is to teach a friend how to make nice portraits and let them take your picture.

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The best way to take self photographs is a) shooting a video and no photo (with timer) b) using a display that can be swiveled so you can monitor what you are shooting b) selecting the best still from the video.

The quality is limited to full HD (or 4K with some advanced cams or smartphones like the Note 3 and others). But this might be enough for your needs. The chances to get a good shot are much higher when you can relax while the video rolls. Try different angles and poses.

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Whether you're using your camera or smartphone, you don't want to have it in the frame. Instead, hold it away from you at shoulder level and twist your body toward it, pushing your opposite shoulder toward the camera. Then crop the arm that's holding the camera out of the pic.

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Advice for the rest of your life

Don't

Hire a professional. Be you and let a pro concentrate on capturing your personality and how you project yourself. I consider myself a pretty good portrait photographer, yet, my favourite photos of "me" were shot by colleagues. Mine now look contrived and disappointing.

I think the advice also applies to hiring a lawyer. It's not a do-it-yourself project. As the saying goes, Whoever acts as their own lawyer, has a fool for a client.

Maintenance is fine for me; but, I still visit my dentist.

You see where I'm going with this. Treat yourself!

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I think this self-portrait of Stan Rogers is very good. So I wanted to place a link here to contradict your statement. ;) –  Esa Paulasto Sep 10 '13 at 6:53
    
@Stan while I don't quite think this deserves a vote down, it contradicts the entire idea of a self portrait. You know you better than any other photographer, pro or otherwise ever will. You know what about yourself you want to show and are in a unique position to make the artistic choices to capture yourself the way YOU want. Sure, it is technically a trickier operation, but it is totally doable to take a nice portrait of yourself. It may not be for the beginner or faint of heart (at least capturing high quality self portraits), but it is still quite easily doable with experience. –  AJ Henderson Sep 10 '13 at 13:26
    
@Stan - note, if you add to your answer that if you are a beginner, then you will get better results with a professional, ok, but you should still go on to offer advice on how to do it once someone has sufficient experience as well since that's what the question is asking. –  AJ Henderson Sep 10 '13 at 13:28
    
@AJHenderson I understand your comment and from your comment, you understand mine. Thank you for the course correction. –  Stan Sep 10 '13 at 19:33

Use a mirror, so you can have a self-portrait as a photographer and show your favorite camera.

Painters have used this trick for ages.

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