Discovering Self-Portraits


Learning to photograph myself has been difficult thus far, but at long last I've come to accept that it's as simple as just letting go.

By the time 3:00 hit, I had my bags packed. I clocked out, ran out the doors and darted across the street to the bus that was getting ready to take off. The cold weather has finally come around in Arizona, and with it came grey, overcast days. I knew that I had precious little time left to take pictures in my favorite spot, and I fully intended to use it.

I’d been thinking about this for days, but the idea had been in my head for weeks now. I’ve been snapping pictures of my friends, family, coworkers and strangers for quite some time now. I love taking candid pictures to capture the true personalities of the people in my life; When they let their guards down, I raise my camera and prepare to document their quirks and charms. Despite my obsession with photographing people, I’ve rarely tried to capture myself. I’ve shot into mirrors before, but my face would always be obstructed by the camera and lens. The exception is, of course, the Lubitel 166, but in every instance of self-portraiture I’m squinting to see the image in the waist level finder. My camera face is anything but appealing, and thus those images will never see the internet. NEVER.

And that brings us to the biggest problem; I’m so self-conscious that I refuse to let myself be photographed. I’m the type to “untag” myself in photos if they don’t capture me at the best angles, in my best moments. I know, vanity… It’s a fatal flaw. The point is that I’ve never found satisfaction with photographing myself. And yet, in my endless hours of browsing galleries on Lomography and Flickr, I can’t help but find inspiration and awe in the images of those who had successfully executed self-portraits without the use of mirrors.

And so, I decided to try it. I began to brainstorm; I considered locations, cameras, lenses. I was certain that I wanted control of both aperture and shutter speed, and that I wanted the precision of good glass. The Lubitel 166U was a solid choice, but I ended up with the Canon AE-1 for this session instead; After all, I had some new Redscale XR to test, and I’d read some rave reviews about shooting at low ISO settings. (Note: I should have used my 50mm 1.8, as that’s a typical portrait lens. Still, I opted for the 28mm 2.8 because I wanted to include more of the tree/fence as part of the image).

By the time I got off the bus and into my apartment, I had everything planned out. I reached my location and started setting up. And then, the fateful moment; How to proceed? Do I pose? Do I smile? Do I face the camera? Do I avoid it? Will the lab techs laugh at me if these don’t come out okay? Will they laugh at me for taking pictures of myself in the first place? With hundreds of concerns and time slipping away quickly, I knew what I had to do.

I turned on the self timer, hit the shutter button… And I just let go. Wind, run, pose, click, repeat. I knew full well that I wouldn’t like all of the images. In fact, there was the possibility that I wouldn’t like even one. The thing is, I can control every aspect of the image, except for myself. There are no settings, no adjustments that can improve what I am. Knowing that, I was able to get over myself.

The Redscale XR performed wonderfully; The tones that can be achieved are wonderful, with a hint of vintage and a touch of style. While these may never find it to Facebook, I can genuinely say that I’m happy with the results. It’s definitely me in the images, and I learned a lot from this first run! I didn’t always beat the 10-second timer to my intended position; In some cases, I couldn’t get to my seat on the tree, or couldn’t find the footing that I needed. Knowing I was out of time, I just did whatever came naturally. The old me would have cringed, but that’s not the case anymore. I’m not planning on taking more pictures of myself anytime soon, but at least I’m comfortable with it now. The next round will be much better!

Have you ever felt the way I did? Have you been scared to appear in your own images, been worried about the results? Maybe, but perhaps not. More importantly, have you ever attempted self-portraits? I recommend giving it a try sometime! I think it may be more valuable knowledge than I once realized… Understanding how to place myself will really help photograph others, too, especially if I ever want less-spontaneous photographs of my friends and family. Half of learning is experimentation, you know?

Want to take pictures of yourself? It’s easier than it seems… All you have to do is forget everything. All you have to do is let go. Oh, and have fun with it!

I’ve included some of the shots I took of myself, as well as some other tests from the same shoot.

written by j_rad on 2011-05-20 in #lifestyle


  1. sthomas68
    sthomas68 ·

    That's a nice vintage bike lol...

  2. renenob
    renenob ·

    Great photos!

  3. mikahsupageek
    mikahsupageek ·

    Great photos =)

More Interesting Articles

  • How Street Photography is Forcing My Eyes Open

    written by plasticpopsicle on 2014-03-14 in #lifestyle
    How Street Photography is Forcing My Eyes Open

    While I have been making attempts to do some street photography in the past two years, I must confess that I've let my introverted side take over countless times, resulting in half-baked (and sometimes half-hearted) snaps. However, once I started letting go of my inhibitions and just immerse myself in the task and experience, I found that street photography forcing my eyes open on so many things.

  • My Lomo’Instant Quick Tips

    written by tomas_bates on 2014-11-12 in #gear #tipster
    My Lomo’Instant Quick Tips

    I backed the Kickstarter project for the Lomo’Instant earlier this year and was thrilled to receive it last week. I love how the camera naturally encourages you to experiment with its different features, whether it’s through flashing your multiple exposures with different colors or trying different creative techniques after your shots has been ejected. Here are a few tips from what I’ve discovered from playing with the camera so far (and a couple of tips I want to try out in future)!

  • Portugal. The Man Petzval Concert Shoot by Matthias Hombauer

    written by zonderbar on 2014-06-27 in #people #lomoamigos
    Portugal. The Man Petzval Concert Shoot by Matthias Hombauer

    The New Petzval Art Lens is the perfect portrait lens. But have you ever wondered how it performs in difficult situations with low light and unpredictable movements, such as a concert? Viennese rockstar photographer Matthias Hombauer proves that such a challenge can be surpassed with exceptional results. In Linz, Austria he met the American rock band Portugal. The Man and shot excellent black and white photos! Check out the gallery below and let Matthias teach you how to work with the lens during concerts.

  • Shop News

    Instant Scanning, Instant Sharing

    Instant Scanning, Instant Sharing

    The Smartphone Film Scanner offers Lomographers and analog lovers a quick, easy and portable way to scan 35mm films. Simply turn on the Smartphone Film Scanner back-light, insert your film, take a photo of it using your Smartphone and use your phone's camera or the specially-developed App (iPhone and Android versions available) to edit and share.

  • Pee Film Soak By Brigette Bloom

    written by chooolss on 2014-08-07 in #gear #tipster
    Pee Film Soak By Brigette Bloom

    Photographer Brigette Bloom's series "Float On" and her rather unusual film soak recipe has been making the rounds in the Internet recently. But just in case you haven't seen it yet, Brigette has given us the green light to republish her recipe right here in the magazine's Tipster section! As she has so rightly put it, "Let’s all support each other and spread the creative energy!" Check out Brigette's tipster right after the cut!

  • Perfect Combination: Yashica Electro 35 GSN & Kodak BW400 CN

    written by roxyvonschlotterstein on 2014-03-17 in #lifestyle
    Perfect Combination: Yashica Electro 35 GSN & Kodak BW400 CN

    Let it be known: this pairing has to do with love at first click, at the first roll of film, at the first prints. My newest toy, the Yashica Electro 35 GSN, combined with my favorite black and white film, Kodak BW400 CN: this is definitely going to be a long-lasting love.

  • Renowned photographer Steve McCurry dishes out tips on packing for trips

    written by chooolss on 2014-04-25 in #lifestyle
    Renowned photographer Steve McCurry dishes out tips on packing for trips

    We may be far from being the jetsetting professional photographers that Steve McCurry and David Alan Harvey already are, but we sure can still learn a thing or two from this video when it comes to packing our photography gear for our own trips!

  • Shop News

    Build your own analog SLR Camera!

    Build your own analog SLR Camera!

    With a list of fine accessories it´s not only fun to build but also great to shoot with! Check out the enhanced, flash compatible version now!

  • Most Popular Photos Uploaded in 2014

    written by icequeenubia on 2014-12-27 in #news
    Most Popular Photos Uploaded in 2014

    Hundreds of thousands of photographs have been shared in the community for the past twelve months and we cannot help but commend those that really stood out and captured everyone's attention. Let's take a look back at this great year through this selection of landscapes and portraits that make up the most popular photos of 2014.

  • Midweek Music Video: Days by The Drums

    written by cheeo on 2014-06-18 in #lifestyle
    Midweek Music Video: Days by The Drums

    As far as mystery thrillers of recent pasts go, The Drums certainly hits the right spots with the dark and old TV effects with this music video for "Days." But don't let that scare you -- allow yourself to be entertained by the trippy, youthful sound of this Brooklyn-based band.

  • Film Experiments: In The Dark - The True Analogue Experiment

    written by mikekumagai on 2014-08-05 in #gear #tipster
    Film Experiments: In The Dark - The True Analogue Experiment

    Throwing chemicals, fire, and scratching emulsion are just a few ways of experimenting with film. But there's another process that completely destroys it (or, if you're lucky, creates something amazing), that is as spastic as a drunken man staggering his way home after a night at the pub - literally. And it all comes down to darkness.

  • Shop News

    Try the LomoLAB Development Service!

    Try the LomoLAB Development Service!

    Whatever kind of film development you're after, you'll find it here! Now you can confidently shoot from the hip without having to worry where to develop those film rolls!

  • Friday, Feed and Friends

    written by recurving on 2015-02-27 in #world #news
    Friday, Feed and Friends

    Today we've put two beloved features online again: the feed and your friends. How does it work? You follow other photographers here and every photo they share is then shown in your feed. That's it.

  • Joe Rosenthal Reveals the Story Behind 'Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima'

    written by Julien Matabuena on 2015-02-27 in #world #lifestyle
    Joe Rosenthal Reveals the Story Behind 'Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima'

    No less than the acclaimed photographer himself talks about his iconic, prizewinning photograph in this archival video by the Associated Press.

  • Chtiman is our LomoHome of the Day!

    written by Eunice Abique on 2015-02-27 in #world #news
    Chtiman is our LomoHome of the Day!

    From everyone here in Lomography, congratulations to chtiman for winning Home of the Day!