When stuck at home, a portrait shooter turns the lens back on themselves.
Anyone who knows me knows that I love a good self-portrait. It's how I got my start in photography and even now it's how I like to try new ideas and techniques before bringing anyone into the studio. This particular photo came to fruition at midnight thanks to a late-night burst of inspiration.
For this shoot I used my trust Fuji X-T3 and 56mm f/1.2 at f/8. For lighting I used a Cactus RF60x speed light in a large parabolic softbox, along with a large five-sided bounce. This is a very common gear setup for my portraits, just a single soft source of light — sometimes with a bounce. You can do a lot with just one light so that is often all I use. I used the Fujifilm Camera App on my phone to both preview my composition and trigger the camera.
The setup for this shoot was simple. I was sure to get the lighting where I wanted before I put paint on my face because I didn't want to cover my light in the stuff. I set up the soft box on camera right, extremely close to me and forward just a little. I pointed it almost at ninety degrees, with it just off axis enough to give a little bit of light on the background so it wasn't just black, I wanted to position the light so that I could get some Rembrandt lighting going on. I set up my bounce, also very close to me, just to keep the tiniest bit of detail in the shadows. Not a lot, but just enough it wasn't straight black.
I then applied the paint to my face, nothing fancy, and took a whole bunch of photos. I played with different apertures but I loved this one shot so much it was my easiest experience culling I've had in a long time.
First off, let's look at the before and after of the image's post production. I'm extremely proud of the color toning and post production of this image if I'm totally honest. It's just the right amount of warm in my opinion.
Post production on this portrait was simple. I opened the image in capture one and warmed it up, played around with some curves, and sharpened it using the "Soft Image Sharpening 2" preset, which is by far my favorite preset of all time. For the color toning I used a mix of curves, the color balance tool in Capture One, and the color temperature slider resulting in the image blow.
As you can see, it's a little too warm, flat, and lacking details in the background, So it was time to open up Photoshop and get to work!
In Photoshop, it was quite simple. I cleaned up the skin a little bit did some work in the curves panel to make the skin even warmer and the shadows even cooler, and then cleaned up a few pimples and skin inconsistencies that jumped out at me. Next I did some dodging and burning before cutting myself out of the background and putting some texture there.
The way I add texture to my backdrops in studio portraits is simple. I download free textures from around the internet, and apply it to the background with the screen blend mode, I remove all of the saturation, adjust the opacity to taste, and voila! A beautiful textured background with minimal effort! I also often blur it a little bit to help give the illusion of depth/bokeh. Lastly I created a circular gradient from white to black and used the overlay blend mode to give a very subtle spotlight effect on the backdrop. I saved this back into capture one where I cropped it, did a little bit mre sharpening, and began some color selections.
I found that the skin was too saturated, and the red paint wasn't saturated enough so I used the color editor tool to select my skin tone and desaturate it a little, followed by the red paint and saturated it a little more, giving me a nice balanced image.
As you can see, it is very easy to create a unique and eye-catching self portrait without a lot of gear. Just a simple lens, a speed light, and something eye-catching to really make the photo stand out. Have you ever done a self-portrait? I'd love to see them in the comments below!