Photography

Photography Tutorial: Creating a Set for a Self-Portrait Shoot

Photographer and writer Danny Bittencourt shares tips for creating the perfect set and tackling the technical and conceptual challenges posed by a self-portrait shoot

Self-portraiture is an art form that is full of meaning; it is a way to transform your emotions and motivations into powerful, intimate and mysterious stories. You set the tone of the photograph and are in charge from start to finish.

To make an impact, apart from emotion, a self-portrait requires a well-planned set, which incorporates different elements. Danny Bittencourt (@dannybbittencourt), a photographer and writer, shows us how to create the perfect set and tackle the technical and conceptual challenges posed by a self-portrait shoot. Discover more below:

1. Plan your set thinking about color and lighting

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Start thinking about all of the elements that you want to include in your image. If you’re going for a minimalist aesthetic, for example, choose colors, lights, and props that fit your vision. If you want something darker, think about how you will control the light during the shoot. Remember that you can use textures and objects to make your image more unique.

2. Use natural lighting

Prioritize using the light the flows through your window. To soften this light, use a diffuser or, if you don’t have one, a sheet, voil curtain, or thin fabric will also work. This will help you to create softer shadows.

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Place a black fabric against the wall opposite your light source to help create shadows and contrasts.

3. Find the best moment to take your photo

If you’re going to use natural light, you need to think about what time of day you’ll take your photos. This will affect the tone of your image. The best moments to shoot using daylight are either in the morning or at the end of the day, when light is softer. Midday light is stronger, which can create a very particular effect. The decision is yours.

4. Set up your camera and tripod

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For this step, it’s recommended that you choose equipment that’s not overcomplicated and overwhelming to use. Using a simple tripod and camera will mean you pay attention to what’s really important: taking photographs. Keeping your process as simple as possible is an excellent strategy for focusing all your energy on the effects and movements you want to create.

5. Use resources and equipment that you already have

Work with what you already have at hand, from there, get creative. This is a good exercise for developing your own visual language and discovering that, whatever equipment you use, it is the look and feel of the self-portrait that makes the difference.

6. Choose a neutral color for your fabric

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When preparing your set, think about where the movement that you want to capture will occur. This will help you decide where to position objects in your photo. If you want to jump, for example, leave enough space to do this safely.

8. Prepare the camera before starting to take photos

This step is very important because it is the moment in which you address any technical queries and adjust details. Configure your camera according to your objective so that you get the end result you're striving for–don’t forget you won’t actually be behind the camera when the shutter clicks. Don’t panic, you can always make adjustments during the process if you consider it necessary.

The settings used to create the image produced in this tutorial are: shutter speed 250, ISO 4000, aperture f.16 and a wide angle. Some details can be refined when editing in post-production.

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Have you enjoyed these tips? Learn how to use self-portraiture as a form of artistic expression and to create photographs that make an impact in Danny Bittencourt’s course, Fine Art Self-Portrait Photography.

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