Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Challenges of Self-Portraiture

Here's a rare, fast-motion look at all the images (raw and unprocessed) I shot for my Cupid's Eros shoot - all 192 of them!

I complain about this from time to time, but self-portrait photography really brings its share of challenges and frustrations. And I know that all photography has challenges and frustrations, but self-portrait photography has some unique ones. All those tropes about doing portrait photography - the cameraman snapping away while the model tries out various poses, with constant feedback between the two - it doesn't work that way when the photographer is also the model. It's a lot more difficult. To see what the model is doing, you have to walk behind the camera and look at the shots you've taken. And then, to make adjustments to the pose, you have to be able to duplicate the pose perfectly first, in the exact same position you were at before. There's no "move your elbow a little bit to the left." It's tough.

Inevitably, there's a lot of trial-and-error. You can't just hold the camera up to your eye, and see whether the shot is working before you even click the shutter. What might take an experienced photographer a small handful of shots to get (or less!), I could easily end up with over a hundred shots of, just trying to perfect all the little details of the pose, hoping that, the more images I take, the better chance I'll have that in one of them all the important elements will align. For example, I won't happen to blink at just the wrong second, and it will be in focus - that's another thing that's uniquely difficult to micromanage when your subject can't be in frame at the same moment you're looking through the viewfinder. Even if I were to stand in front of the camera and get the focus just right, there's no guarantee that I'll be standing in exactly that spot the next time I get in front of the camera.

And this shot was doubly difficult, because it's not easy to maintain an erection without constant stimulation, while you're focusing on other things; and I wanted to get the angle of the arrow and the erection aligned, without being able to tell while I was posing how they looked from the point of view of the camera. I've tried setting mirrors up behind the camera (when it's convenient to do so), and that helps, but the picture on the camera screen never looks exactly like what I see in the mirror, because the angles are always just a little different, no matter how hard I try to line them up. I would pay good money for a camera add-on that provides a fairly large screen that can be pointed towards the model and displays exactly what the camera is seeing (something of a Live View extension screen). Do they make anything like that?

Another concern I have that is a result of the challenges of self-portrait photography is the way it tends to emphasize the modeling aspect over the photography aspect. Not that I don't appreciate all the experience I've gained as a model, but I actually set out on this voyage hoping to become a photographer. But often times I get so caught up in making the pose work, that I don't spend as much time adjusting or experimenting with the angle or the lighting. Once I find something that works, I tend to lock it in, because I don't want to change it and then have to take another hundred images or so getting the pose to work. I suppose it's not impossible for one to prioritize the photography aspect instead, creating great technical photos with only so-so modeling. I don't honestly know which of the two would be better. But another limitation of self-portrait photography is that, unless you're always shooting reflections in the mirror (which is an even bigger limitation), you can't take handheld shots. You always have to set the camera on a tripod. So there's less variety in angles, and you can't switch up the perspective on the fly so easily.

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