Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Super old self portraits

When I take pictures, I vastly prefer using natural light to flashes. Natural light meshes better with my style of photography. Which is to say, artificial lighting is stupid and I get impatient with it and it's ugly and I hate it, so there.

Really, I don't know what it is with my inability to conquer flash photography. Impatience has a lot to do with it. I don't want to bother with setting up more equipment than I have to and dragging it around with me wherever I go. I feel more inspired and improvisational when it's just a camera in my hands and I'm free to go do whatever I want or need to do. 

I worked briefly at a Sears Portrait Studio in 2006 and obviously that demanded the use of strobe lights. That's all well and good, but the camera itself was attached to a giant, cumbersome tripod-ish thing on wheels that was six feet tall and had a sliding arm to move up and down to change the height of your view. The camera was not removable. Which begs the question, if you can't hold a camera steady and frame it properly, why are you working in a photo studio? The answer to this question is studios like this will hire anyone off the streets and tell the people after the fact that their primary job is sales. But let's save the horrors of portrait studio work for another post and say I don't like being impeded by extra crap when my only focus is what the camera is focused on.

After high school, I took photography classes at the good old within-walking-distance community college. I had access to the studio and often took advantage of it despite clearly not knowing what the hell I was doing. I came across some negative scans from a self portrait shoot I did about seven years and two cup sizes ago and I still have feelings when I look at them that range from "I had fun when I did that" to "these are so fraking terrible."

You can't grow as a photographer, artist or human if you can't look back at what you've done and recognize the good and the bad and how you've changed to become the person you are today. What stands out to me the most with these are the lights were far too hard and I decided it would be a brilliant idea to use as many gels on the lights as possible. So, washed out photographs that are impossible to color correct  my favorite! I've probably thrown these through Photoshop four or five times over the years and can't get them to my liking. But this arduous process continues to teach me what to look out for (if there is a) next time.

All in all, this is a cool shot. Just me and my camera, twirling around to the Dead Milkmen. I bought this dress at a thrift shop for a couple bucks and it was perfect for my intentions: DRESS UP PHOTO PARTY! I like/get annoyed that my right shoulder looks like a bad Photoshop lasso cut. It's not. It's just velvety.

This picture irks me for so many reasons. It's washed out to hell, the colors were so ridiculously mixed that the only way to make it even somewhat viewable was to desaturate it and the lighting is so harsh that a more unflattering photograph of my face you'd be hard pressed to find. And what is that face I'm making? I feel like Migrant Mother and Scarlett O'Hara on crack mixed into one person. The pose is kinda cool though, and the slight motion of my left hand is neat. My hands look far bigger than they actually are, still trying to figure that one out. I'd be a far better guitar player for sure.

Another thing about this photo shoot is I don't think I made any adjustments to the lights during the hour and a half I had the studio. I didn't reposition the angles, didn't move the stands, didn't change the intensity of the lights, nothing. And really, I'm not being that hard on myself. This is one of my first studio experiences so it was really a matter of experimentation. That's how I learn the best. It seems like the set up I had worked better for photographs where I was closer to the camera. Still some weird colorization and my face is still washed out and casting hard shadows, but my skin tone doesn't make me look like Vladimir Lenin's corpse. That's important to me. Oh, and if you don't want to look at pictures of the naked body of a communist leader who died in 1924, I'd advise against clicking that link.

Actually, I think this picture's badass, all things considering.


  1. I actually love the way these came out. They seem very ethereal. Amazing colors.

  2. Dude these pics are amazing, they look all vintage and faded and I really like them! PURDY BECKLO!!

  3. I love the mood of the photos, its eerie and mysterious

  4. @Meg! Thanks, Meg. Like I said, the colors went through a few rounds of correction but I suppose that even though they didn't come out how I wanted to, it doesn't mean they're bad by any means. Appreciate it!

    @She is Sara You so gooood to me :)

    @Kallie, Happy Honey and Lark Haha, I didn't think of it that way, but now that you mention it...

  5. The last photo is my favorite and I concur - it is very badass.