How to take a self portrait with a DSLR Camera…after 5 takes.

For two consecutive days I have tried and failed miserably at taking a decent photo of myself. I went into this task as I usually do. Over-zealous and over-confident. I can do anything remember…? Well I can if I stick with it. Yesterday I set up a shoot in my bedroom. I had planned to use my wireless camera remote only.
Thinking I had this one in the bag, I got my make-up done, straightened my hair (which takes me about an hour!) and then got dressed. (you can’t see my attire however I was wearing clothes!)

Camera was on manual and set to auto-focus. HA! How much fun did I have, waiting for this lens to focus on my eyes…? NONE! I’m so used to technology that I over-estimated my camera’s abilities. Anyway, I sat there for an hour or so snapping away, checking every few minutes if my pictures came out OK. As expected (and I can just imagine all of you laughing at my ignorance right now… ;o)) the pictures came out HORRIFICALLY! but I kept going for at least another half hour before I thought to set my camera to manual focus. I didn’t research self portrait techniques, I just dove straight in. Trial and error.

For the next 3 shoots throughout the day I did the same. I focused on the top of the chair I was leaning against, I even moved the chair forward, auto-focused where my head was going to be, then moved the chair backwards a bit. NADA! Nothing seemed to work. I went to bed last night baffled by my inability to figure it out by myself and spent quite a few minutes pondering about how I was going to get this to work. I live with a few girls and any one of them could have helped me to focus but I wanted to be able to take a self portrait completely solo.

This morning I woke up, fresh as a daisy and ready to take the bull by it’s horns. I tried once more but by that time I had done a bit of research and found a few articles online outlining ways of taking a self portrait. I tried tying a piece of string to my tripod and pulling it towards where I was going to sit. I tried a long scarf and also attached it to my tripod and that didn’t work either. I placed the wireless remote on top of the scarf, near to the top of the chair and then focused on it, leaving enough distance just in case I moved a tad forward or backward but still to no avail. Eventually I just placed a bottle of Evian water on the chair where my coccyx was going to be and figured that if I sit -up-straight the distance between me and my lens should be the same. STILL to no avail. By this time I was highly offended by my inability to get something so simple done. I had limited resources but it was part of the challenge.

Finally on my 5th attempt, after doing the research, I finally decided I was going to focus on my window pane and where I would normally lean against the chair I turned it sideways. That way I literally had my back against the wall and leaned my head against the window. I figured it would be a long shot but when I got up to zoom in on my eyes and realized that they were in focus, I nearly did cartwheels!! It worked!!
I realize that this is not a failsafe way of taking self portraits, it won’t necessarily work for everybody, but it worked for me and I was so pleased with the results.

I’ll be trying this again sometime, somewhere with more space to play around with and possibly get someone to hold the reflector up for me instead of leaning it against my tripod. I might also use a soft box instead of my bed lamp but for this impromptu challenge I worked with ordinary things I could find in my bedroom and it worked. Finally!


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