9 Tips For Better Self Portraits for Men

Self portraits are hard. They are a real challenge. Staying relaxed while looking at the lighting, thinking about the pose, while looking at the results while holding the reflector while worrying about how good the backdrop looks.

Too many things!

Today I threw on my favourite pieces of clothing (The suit is my own creation- a multi-layered piece hand-stitched from two suits. It comes with a full-length skirt.) and hit the studio.

9 Tips For Better Self Portraits for Men with Don Urban Photography.

So here are my nine tips for better self portraits!

9 Tips For Better Self Portraits for Men with Don Urban Photography.
9 Tips For Better Self Portraits for Men with Don Urban Photography.

1.Use the Autofocus Feature

Yes, use the most basic feature on the camera. I messed up a stack of shots because I pre-focused, but moved out of position, leading to out of focus shots and wasted time.

9 Tips For Better Self Portraits for Men with Don Urban Photography.
9 Tips For Better Self Portraits for Men with Don Urban Photography.

2.Don’t Use the Same Angles and Expressions

Shake things up. Laugh, sneer, pull faces. For a start it will loosen you up for the better shots. Sometimes though, they end up being the best shots

9 Tips For Better Self Portraits for Men with Don Urban Photography.
9 Tips For Better Self Portraits for Men with Don Urban Photography.

3.Forget Perfection

What is perfection anyway? Your skin may not look perfect, you don’t have twenty lights or the ‘perfect’ backdrop. Work with what you have got. With these photos, I just used a black fabric backdrop. Keep it simple.

9 Tips For Better Self Portraits for Men with Don Urban Photography.
9 Tips For Better Self Portraits for Men with Don Urban Photography.

4.Forget Judgment

There are always going to be haters on social media. There are also going to be fans. If we all worried about being judged, nobody would do anything. Most of the time, people are just looking at themselves anyway. They are too worried about how they look to worry about you. Forget haters.

Love yourself. Be bold. Be brave. Be yourself.

9 Tips For Better Self Portraits for Men with Don Urban Photography.
9 Tips For Better Self Portraits for Men with Don Urban Photography.

5.Ask for Help

My partner will laugh at this one! I battle and struggle with self portraits, and then she says. “Need a hand?” And I can relax about holding the remote shutter or trying to balance the reflector. I also get feedback like: “Sit up straight, one shoulder is lower than the other, you look like you are constipated. As that the look you are going for?”

Self portraits don’t have to be done alone.

9 Tips For Better Self Portraits for Men with Don Urban Photography.
9 Tips For Better Self Portraits for Men with Don Urban Photography.

6.Don’t Shoot For Hours

Set aside an hour or two. Set a timer if you have too. The striving for the perfect shot will have you running in circles and in front of the camera for way too long- longer than is comfortable, and it will show on your face.

When you are tired you will look it. Don’t burn yourself out.

9 Tips For Better Self Portraits for Men with Don Urban Photography.
9 Tips For Better Self Portraits for Men with Don Urban Photography.

7.Use a Tripod

There is no way you can hold a camera, or a phone, for a hundred shots or so. Also, you are going to have a big head, big nose and out of proportion face from having the camera at arm’s length. Selfies never look good. Self-portraits are the way to go.

After a camera and a lens, the tripod should be your first purchase. Get a good one, not one from Kmart or wherever. Get one as an investment in your photography.

9 Tips For Better Self Portraits for Men with Don Urban Photography.
9 Tips For Better Self Portraits for Men with Don Urban Photography.

8.Use Artificial Light

You can’t control many things in this world, but setting up proper lighting is one thing you can do. Set up like a serious shoot. If you are outside, the sun will move, the sun will go behind clouds, exposure will change. Minimise pain and suffering by shooting indoors.

9 Tips For Better Self Portraits for Men with Don Urban Photography.
9 Tips For Better Self Portraits for Men with Don Urban Photography.

9.Don’t Pose All the Time

Be free. Don’t stand there looking at the camera all day. Some of my favourite shots were when I moved. I like movement in my shots so these were my favourites.

Laughing or those off-guard moments generally end up being the best shots.

9 Tips For Better Self Portraits for Men with Don Urban Photography.
9 Tips For Better Self Portraits for Men with Don Urban Photography.

10.BONUS TIP

Shoot tethered if you can. If you can plug your camera into your computer running Adobe Lightroom, you can see all the photos with having to get up and look at the photos in the camera. This will make it easy to get instant feedback about your position, your pose and lighting.

Conclusion

I hope these tips will be of help next time you are planning a self portrait session. If you have any tips to add to the list, I would love to hear them!

If this all seems to hard, and you are in Sydney. Contact me for some cool portraits. I shoot models, actors and entrepreneurs.

Best wishes until next time,

Don

9 Tips For Better Self Portraits for Men with Don Urban Photography.
9 Tips For Better Self Portraits for Men with Don Urban Photography.

First Roll On Instax Mini 70 Instant Film Camera

Recently shot my first roll of film on my new instax Mini 70 instant film camera by FujiFilm. It’s been a long time since I was excited by a new camera, but this one is so much fun.

My dad had a Polaroid camera back in the 70’s, and I always loved playing with it (film must have been cheaper back then!) Watching the image appear slowly was/is magical.

The camera gives a unique softness, which is highly flattering. It was also great to be able to give my model a few shot on the day, which is really cool.

It also creates an original piece of art- never to be created again-just like a real film camera. These scans are not the greatest, the images are a little crisper in real life.

Hannah Mitsovski shot an INSTAX Mini 70.
Hannah Mitsovski shot an INSTAX Mini 70.
Hannah Mitsovski shot an INSTAX Mini 70.
Hannah Mitsovski shot an INSTAX Mini 70.
Hannah Mitsovski shot an INSTAX Mini 70.
Hannah Mitsovski shot an INSTAX Mini 70.
Hannah Mitsovski shot an INSTAX Mini 70.

I won’t go into to much technical details, but it has several modes including Landscape, Macro, High Key and Selfie Mode and Timer Mode. Built in flash (which in this model you cannot turn off, but will not fire in bright light) which can be srt to Fill In Light.

Film is not super-expensive- around $1.00 per shot, a little more for monochrome. It does not give super-sharp images, but they are really nice, business card sized photos.

There is nothing to really dislike about it. Yes, there are some better models with multiple shots (double exposure and an option to turn off the flash- the INSTAX Mini 90. But I bought this cheap off eBay, just to see if I liked using it.

It takes me back to the 70’s, and for that, I love this little yellow camera.

Do you have one? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Best wishes until next time,

Don

What is a Headshot?

With so many people needing headshots, especially actors, I thought it would be a great idea to explain what exactly they are, and are not.

When you think of headshots, you generally think of actors. Fair enough. All actors need headshots. But they are not just for actors. They could be used for your business profile too if you are writer. Think Linkedin for example, your about page.

One of the most important tools for an actor is going to be their headshot. A headshot should be a clear representation of who you are. Tough and rugged or cute and girl-next-door: your headshot should be you. You are not playing a role in the headshot. The headshot should say. “This is me.”

Jessica, actor.

In the past, in the dark ages before digital, all headshots were shot on film, black and white and in portrait (vertical) orientation. How times have changed! Now, you are likely to see the opposite: Landscape (horizontal) orientation and in colour. And it makes sense: televisions are becoming wider, less of a ‘box’. Headshots have become more cinematic. Casting directors can see how they look on screen in a horizontal orientation. I have heard some people talk of a resistance to this trend too. Some like the ‘traditional’ look.

Jessica, actor.

So which is better? Well, that comes down to personal preference. I know, that is not the answer you were looking for. Landscape seems certainly seems be very popular. Personally, at least for now, I prefer portrait orientation.

So what is a headshot? Pretty much what the name suggests- a shot of a person’s head. Tightly cropped. Eyes front and centre. Head on! Smiling or not. Bold and in your face.

A three-quarter shot is just not going to cut it. They are more for corporate and real estate shots. But that is just my opinion. Older headshots were more three-quarter, but not so now.

Jude, actor and model.

Studio or outdoor, on location? Again a matter of taste. Sometimes a simple location can add to the shot. But it cannot dominate. It really should be out of focus, otherwise it will be distracting.

Simple white or grey backgrounds work best. At least that is what I feel. Keep it simple is a good mantra. Looking for something more advanced, flashier, creative- that’s a portrait.

If you are looking to get a headshot, and are in Sydney, I may be your person. Get in touch.

Portrait Photography Techniques

The Challenge of an uncomfortable portrait sitter

Last week, as a bit of a challenge from a friend, I photographed a self-confessed hater of sitting for portraits, my ex-girlfriend Sharyn. Although she is very striking, she is not that comfortable in front of the camera. So, challenge accepted, she came over to have her portrait taken.

We parted ways over 30 years ago, but have been friends since reconnecting around 10 years ago. I wanted her to look stunning. I wanted her to want to hang one of these images in her family home. To post them on social media. To be really happy with them.

Generally speaking, people want to look good in their portrait. Not many people want to be portrayed in a bad light, or for the image to be unflattering. I’m sure there are exceptions to this rule, but for the life of me I can’t recall any reason why.

She HATES having her photo taken. Her son, Jude, graces my front page. He loves having his photo taken. So when she joked about me photographing her, I said I would make her look great, and more importantly, feel comfortable doing so.

I started off using a flash with a softbox, in a Beauty Portrait style setup- with flash above and directly in front of the sitter, with a reflector under their chin to fill the shadows. But I was not getting what I wanted so I switched to 100% natural light.

Luckily I am blessed with gorgeous light in most of my house. All these images were taken in different rooms of my house and studio. Work with what you have got. Look for where the light is good in your home.

MAking Someone feel good in front of the camera

So, here are some thing I learnt about shooting someone who hates the camera:

  1. Drink champagne. (Okay, this was her trick!) I am not endorsing the consumption of alcohol, but a little drink while chatting beforehand and half way through the shoot can work wonders for a nervous sitter. If you know them, okay. I would never suggest this with someone I don’t know. (A little bit creepy)
  2. Talk to them through the whole process. I show my sitters how I want them to stand, or what to do with their hand. “Sit with your legs up like this, and your hand resting here.” Explain the lighting, the poses, how you want them to sit, what to think about. Yes, how to think. “Think about being confident, brave.”
  3. Give constant feedback. “You are looking great.” “You look gorgeous.” “These photos are going to look so nice.” You have to mean it, otherwise you are lying. “I like that pose, yes, that looks great.” They can’t see what you are seeing, so you have to tell them.
  4. Show them. Pause every now and then and show them the preview screen. I generally shoot hand-held, so it’s easy to show them how they are looking. Pick the good one to show them…not the one where you caught them off guard and they are pulling a face. They will generally (and hopefully) say “Wow, that looks good!” Which is the signal to keep going.
  5. Ask them. Ask how they are doing, are they okay. “You are looking more comfortable now, are you feeling it?
  6. Laugh. I always try and keep every shoot light and fun. In between these photos were were laughing and joking around. (There were some of those too, I just didn’t include them here)
Nikon D750 w/ Nikon 50mm 1.8 lens. 1/60 sec @ f/4 ISO 320 Natural light, no reflector.
Nikon D750 w/ Nikon 50mm 1.8 lens. 1/60 sec @ f/4 ISO 320 Natural light, no reflector.
Nikon D750 w/ Nikon 50mm 1.8 lens. 1/8 sec @ f/5 ISO 320 Natural light, reflector under chin.
Nikon D750 w/ Nikon 50mm 1.8 lens. 1/8 sec @ f/5 ISO 320 Natural light, reflector under chin.
Nikon D750 w/ Nikon 50mm 1.8 lens. 1/8 sec @ f/5 ISO 320 Natural window light.
Nikon D750 w/ Nikon 50mm 1.8 lens. 1/8 sec @ f/5 ISO 320 Natural window light.
Nikon D750 w/ Nikon 50mm 1.8 lens. 1/125 sec @ f/4 ISO 500 Natural window light, no reflector.
Nikon D750 w/ Nikon 50mm 1.8 lens. 1/125 sec @ f/4 ISO 500 Natural window light, no reflector.

I hope that has been useful in shooting portraits where the sitter isn’t so comfortable in front of the camera.

Until next time, best wishes,

Don

self portrait: the reality of photographing a photographer

Oh boy! Self portrait time. I really needed to update my about page with a better portrait. The last one was a year old and really wasn’t that good. For a photographer, I take the worst selfies and even worse studio portraits. Maybe they are okay, but I always look so serious because I am concentrating to hard. So I asked my girlfriend to take some.

I still consider them self-portraits as I set the camera up, did the lighting, hair and styling and was clear about what I wanted. All she had to do was press the button. The button! The one on the top of the camera. No, the other one on top of the camera!

We finally succeeded in getting some good shots and having a laugh (after the shot, after buying her lunch, while having a drink, an hour later, after I praised her patience and told her I loved her photos).

Self portrait time. Don Urban Photography portrait session. Inner West, Sydney
“The button! The shutter button!”
Self portrait time. Don Urban Photography portrait session. Inner West, Sydney
“It’s called auto-focus!”
Self portrait time. Don Urban Photography portrait session. Inner West, Sydney
“Don’t tell me to smile.”
Self portrait time. Don Urban Photography portrait session. Inner West, Sydney
“Should have done it myself.”
Self portrait time. Don Urban Photography portrait session. Inner West, Sydney
“I can fix it in Photoshop, honest.”
Self portrait time. Don Urban Photography portrait session. Inner West, Sydney
“Last shot before I start crying.” (This was really the last shot of the session and my favourite)

Best wishes until next time,

Don