Saturday, July 3, 2010

Shooting a Self-Portrait

I decided it was time to create a new photo of myself for use as an avatar on various photo forums and for social networking sites. But too many photographers use a standard studio portrait of themselves, or a photo of them holding a camera. I wanted something different.

The concept for this photo got its start with an old manual typewriter sitting in my basement. I wanted to use it as a prop for some vintage photos. Since I'm an "old school" (or is it "old skool"?) photographer, I decided to have some fun with that theme and go with the idea of an old-time (1940's or 1950's) news photographer.

Unfortunately I no longer have my cameras that would be appropriate for that era (a 4x5 view camera or a twin-lens roll film camera), so the best I could come up with was my first Nikon film SLR. It is a 1983 motordrive-equipped Nikon FM2. I guess it says something about the current camera state-of-the-art that a manual-focus film camera is "vintage".

I decided to try shooting this in my garage, just to see how well that would work. Unfortunately we have a detached garage and it isn't air conditioned! I used the blue side of my collapsible chromakey backdrop, which I prefer to the green side. The table is a plain plastic folding table (I didn't feel like trying to lug a vintage desk into my garage!).

I wanted strong dramatic lighting, so my main light was my SB-600 flash clamped to one of the ceiling rafters. My SB-800 was bounced off a silver umbrella to the right of the camera. This was at a fairly low angle, so there would be enough light under the brim of the hat.

Originally this was going to be a true self-portrait, and I was going to use an infrared remote to trigger the camera. Since it was summer and he is off school, I decided to let my Junior Assistant-in-Training trigger the camera. Unfortunately his attention span is only slightly longer than a full-power flash, so we only worked with the one setup.

Since this is supposed to be a vintage shot, a B&W conversion was the obvious choice. I went with a more contrasty conversion to get the effect I wanted. I'm pleased with the end result, but I may revisit the concept to try some alternate angles.

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