As a world traveler it's always a blast coming home with a few gigabytes of digital proof of where you've been and the amazing sights you've seen. Today I'd like to teach youÂ a little trick you can use to put yourself in the picture; even when you're in a remote location. Nobody's around to help you. It's just you and the camera (Tripod, if you have one) and you can take a professional-quality photo.
I am not one who is really interested in photos of myself. I don't spend a lot of time shooting with the lens pointed in my direction but there are a lot of professional photographers who do. Sometimes, though, I get tired of looking at the same profile photo of myself on the dozens of sites I've joined and like to throw something different on them so people can see how well I've preserved myself. This particular shot of me in the camera store with a gazillion millimeter lens attached to my Pentax was made with the use of an assistant. The photo was taken with my Panasonic DMZ-FZ50. All you need is your camera's timer.
Rarely will you see me place my camera in the AUTO MODE but, there are a few times I will in order to set a baseline for how to properly expose my manual shot. Here's how it's done. Place your camera on a tripod, or something sturdy (Case of beer, fencepost, or a wall), anything which allows you focus on the point where you'll be standing. Use Manual Focus (Auto focus will work if you know how to lock the focus on your camera) and focus on the spot where you'll be posing. Set your camera timer to 10 seconds. Press the shutter button and you have plenty of time to get in position. Don't trip over your tripod legs, rushing to beat the clock. Don't even worry about fixing your hair or smiling; it's just a test shot, remember?
After the shutter clicks, go back and review the shot on your LCD screen. Pull up the details on the photo. Some cameras you simply press buttons or turn a wheel, others, you may need to press MENU but, all the EXIF DATA you'll need will appear. Shutter speed and aperture are what you want to pay attention to. Histograms are great tools for this, as well, if you know how to read them but, that's another long lesson in itself. Check the focus and framing of your 1st shot and reposition the camera and refocus, if necessary. Then decide how you want to adjust your aperture and shutter because it's time to switch to MANUAL MODE.
If your test shot looks way overexposed (Bleached and too bright) move your aperture to a higher setting (If in AUTO it was f/5.6, try f/7 or f/8). Overexposure you can also be corrected by shooting at a faster shutter speed. Say it was 1/640 in AUTO; you may want to try 1/800 or 1/1000 for your Manual shot. Take several shots and review each one, making adjustments as you go.
Remember this: When you go to a studio for a professional to take photos, they take 24 pictures just to get you two or three great shots and they've got controlled lighting and are supposed to know what they're doing! So, don't be ashamed if you have to take 36 or 48 shots in order to get a professional looking photo or two. Digital film is cheap; throw the bad ones away before anyone sees them.
Note: This post was made assuming no assistant was available. You can also do this using a helper. Let them stand in the position where the shot will be taken. Make all your adjustments and let them push the button on your remote or use a cable release. You will still need to make exposure adjustments based upon the different colors and shades of clothing worn, but it'll give you more than 10 seconds time for your final pose. Your camera, your technique and it's your photo. While you're mastering photography, you may be able to teach someone else something. At least offer them a shot so they don't go home feeling like a robot. Until next time, Happy Shooting!
A wildlife photographer living in Okinawa, Japan, Mike has been published in Apogee Photo Magazine, Boots N all, Brave New Traveler, Go Nomad, Matador Abroad and Trips, The Nihon Sun, Travel Thru History, The Okinawan , Wend Magazine and Photo Guide Japan. He has recently joined the ranks of travel writers, capturing Nature, Festivals, Castles and Cultural shots of the Ryukyu Islands to share with the world. More of his work may be seen at: http://www.mikesryukyugallery.com