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Here's a BTS for my First Contact self portrait for the #selfysundayproject a few days ago.

I guess the reflection of the alien was too subtle to be visible in the final image (yes there was one in there, too :-) ). So here's a behind the scenes to show that this is one of those that had less editing than it may have seemed.

The picture here is not the one that I used for final processing, but it's the only one that shows the complete setup with ...
* the rim of the salad bowl as the helmet of the space suit
* a piece of clear plastic foil serving as the helmets visor to catch the aliens reflection scotch taped to the salad bowl
* a halogen lamp with bendable chrome wires around my head (quite uncomfortable and burning some more of my already receding hair ... ;-)
* and the alien; many years ago it crash landed served as a decoration in a window of a mall; we saved it then and gave it a new home in our living room :-)

The hardest part was to get the alien to be visible in the reflection at all and still be recognizable as such; though I'm afraid I failed on that aspect.

I used Photoshop to add some star dust (actually water spray) and a planet from my interstellar series (which you can see here: )

The look that inspired the final image is loosely based on the look from this "2001: A Space Odyssey" movie poster:

The rest is the fun that is the Art of Self Portraiture - sitting in an uncomfortable pose with burning hot halogen lamps close to your skin and hair, without moving too much because the crop is already the way you want it, eyeballing the tethered laptop and hoping that the 34th shot will still have the correct focus.

Hope you enjoyed this little writeup. Let me know in the comments if you think I rather should have featured the alien in the picture itself or if you like the picture the way I ended up with.

#bts #behindthescenes #selfportrait
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hey guys, i was very honored to be interviewed by Mia McCormick from KelbyOne a few months back and they just released the video yesterday on their site. it is part of their Inspirational series of photographers and i was humbled to sit and talk in the same chair as so many of my photography idols have sat before, such as Joe McNalley, Glen Dewis, Jay Maisel, Joel Grimes, etc.

in this interview i talk a lot about self portraiture and my own personal reasoning for doing it and it also goes into the creative thought processes as well.

if you are not a Kelbyone subscriber, you can sign up for a free 24hr trial to the site to check things out. i highly recommend the site and personally have learned so much being a member there for so many years. so anyways check it out if you'd like and i'd love to hear your feedback on it



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a little BTS video of how i created the hang in there self portrait

if you have any questions feel free to ask

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The Faceless (Self) Portrait

Human beings depend rather heavily on cues from facial expressions to understand how someone is feeling or to give an idea of what they are thinking. Other types of body language inform quite a bit as well, however. Have you ever challenged yourself to take portraits that do not include the face, and see if you can get a message across with a faceless image? 

If you'd like to give it a shot with a self portrait before the end of the month, I encourage you to add your image to the monthly Self Portrait Challenge, here:

Here is a collection of some of the FSP's I've created over time. 

#selfportrait   #selfportraiture   #challenge   #faceless  
Faceless Self Portraiture
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Don’t Panic!

Self Portraiture Tutorial: Painted Faces

I am sure many of you have seen some of my bizarre self-portraits where I have painted my face to be anything from the iconic “Crying Girl” to the more famous video game villain “Kefka Pallazo”, but what you may not know is that it is easier than you think, so….


Now that you have the first step down, where do you go from here?
Well, you come up with a concept.  I find that creating boards on Pinterest are a great source for help.  If you follow this link (, you will find a board that I personally keep for thoughts and ideas.  Some ideas are simple and minimal while others speak to my more expert make-up-ista.  Go with what you are comfortable with....always.  Having images to use as an inspiration and reference are always a great starting point; when I create or sit down to conceptualize, I may look at hundreds of images to get an idea for how I would do something that fits my style.  Once I get my concept down, sometimes I will literally sketch it out on a make-up artist test sheet like the one found here:

After this phase, I move on to watching some videos if I am not familiar with a style for creating.  One thing that had been foreign to me when I began was blocking out eyebrows.  I searched the internet high and low for good techniques until I found a bunch of wonderful MUA (make-up artist) channels that had sound and documented results.  Here are a few links to some of my more favorite ‘extreme’ make-up artists who deal a lot in using paints to recreate nifty looks:

Ana Arthur:


Courtney Little:

Emma Pickles (Halloween Make-Up Tuts):

Pinkstylist (One of my absolute favorites):

I find that it can be difficult to create something with nothing.  It never hurts to see how others may do certain things if it may make it easier for you to get something accomplished.  I have shaved hours off of my make-up application time by using techniques that I learned from some of these amazing people.

Okay, so you have the concept and the techniques…

Now what?

You need supplies.

This may seem like an impossible thing, but it really isn’t.  you can use any quick make-up kit that they sell at the store, you can use allergy-tested paints (I have used acrylics on my face before) and even black light pigments if they do not irritate your skin.  The key is to do what you feel comfortable with and on your own budget.

Some of my looks have been at a price of fewer than 5 dollars to create like my ‘Living Doll’ series.  The key is to remember that you don’t have to spend a million dollars to create something awesome; you may just need a cool idea and a clever execution.  My favorite products come from Snazaroo (some palettes and individual colors are 5-20 bucks and they last forever since they are water-based) and Ben Nye (Good stuff, but on the pricier side).

Finally, the application.  

The most important things I can tell you about this are all from trial and error, failures and recoveries, and most importantly, experience:

1. Test your applications in advance if you are worried about messing up.  If you are doing details, practice them a few days prior without all the other make-up on so that way you get the muscle memory down for the technique.
2. Plan out the steps to application.  Having a game plan for even the simplest make-ups will make a huge difference.
3. Take your time.  It isn’t a race and you should always give yourself enough time to get the make-up done and time to shoot.
4. Never underestimate the power of some really good detail brushes.
5. Remember that a make-up does not have to be complex to be great.  Some of my more fun looks where only a handful of colors and materials.
6. Don’t fret if something goes wrong.  Take a big, deep breath, collect your thoughts, and remember that everything will be alright.  Sometimes a quick wipe of make-up remover or skilled touch-up will save a look if you give yourself a chance to work through it.

Once you get the application complete, you are ready to be in front of your lens.  Be sure to pick a costume or scene that heightens your look.  This can be done with location or even Photoshop compositing.  Also, if you notice any issues with the make-up once you are editing, which I have done before, simply clean it up with your program of choice or use the flaw to the advantage of the image.

Here is a video to my own work on the character Kefka:  and the album below has some of my favorite ‘painted faces’ from my body of work.

Most importantly…

Remember to have fun with this challenge and all other challenges!

Enjoy! ♥
Painted Faces Tutorial Concepts
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i'm falling for you

here is the BTS post for the shot i posted earlier for this moth's self portrait challenge. if you have any questions feel free to ask


falling BTS

here is the breakdown for the action shot of my falling that i did for this week's +Selfy Sunday project

i knew i wanted a high vantage point and the roof was an obvious choice as it played into the concept of the shot and being able to show some of the roof line helped sell the final piece. first i adjusted my tripod to accommodate the angle and then pulled out the telescoping arm so that i could hang the camera over the edge of the house. for a bit of added security i strapped a couple sand bags to the tripod, although in reality if the tripod went i think the sandbags would have just followed it to the ground.

next my remote trigger/camera settings. first i set the camera to continuous or "burst" mode which means it will fire continuously until either the buffer in the camera fills up or you take your finger off the trigger (which ever comes first.) then on my remote (which is wired) i set the long exposure setting to two seconds which means that my camera's trigger will be pressed continuously for two seconds and since it is in bust mode, will fire continuously for two seconds...more than enough time to jump off a ladder. as a last step, i set the remote to delay that action for 5 seconds so that i had time to get adjusted before my jumps. before i got down off the roof i snapped a few shots of the ground with nothing there so that i could later use it for my final composite.

now i'm crazy, but i am not so crazy that i would jump flat onto concrete on my back so i took advantage of the fact that we just got my daughter a new mattress and that her old one was stashed in my garage. so i set that up behind the ladder and then set to the task of falling off of it. i hit the remote start, counted to five and jumped...and jumped...and jumped...and jumped. when i thought that i had enough jumps to choose from i tore everything down and then went inside for some final compositing in photoshop and then final adjustments in Lightroom.

if you click through this gallery you can see the camera setup as well as the compositing shots and even a shot post fall when i hit the mattress

all in all i am very happy with the shot but there are some things i would have done differently.

• i would have used a extension ladder instead of a folding ladder because it would have added an extra visual element drawing the eye into the center of the shot and added to the vertigo feeling. and it would have helped give more perspective on the height i was at when i was falling.

• i would have extended out my legs more. i thought i was doing this but since i was not shooting tethered i was not seeing exactly my form on my falls

• i would have shot tethered (see previous reason)

• i would have had some tools or a bucket of paint and a paint brush in my hands to give even more sense of helplessness during the fall and to make more sense as to why i was on the ladder in the first place

well, there you have it, if you have any questions feel free to ask


falling - BTS
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Silhouette Self Portraiture

Sometimes you can say just as much with the suggestion of a thing as you can with all of the detail. This is true of silhouette photography - a genre that can be alarmingly beautiful and expressive. If you've never shot silhouettes, you may be wondering how to achieve this look. It's fairly simple to get the basics down, and from there, you can let your creativity run wild.

The most important thing to remember is that your subject (the thing you want forming the silhouette, in the case of self portraiture, you) should not be lit from the front (we want to obscure most of the detail) and there should be a significant light source in the background (this is what creates an outline, or silhouette). There are many ways to obtain this kind of setting, from studio lighting to sunlight - I find that sunsets provide an amazing backdrop for silhouettes. Play around with it to see what you can achieve.

Once you've identified a subject and have a way to backlight them, expose the image for the light behind, rather than the subject (or anything in the foreground). This way, your subject will be very dark, creating an outline with little detail from the front. Voila! This is the basic formula for silhouette photography.

A few things to remember:
*create distinct, clean shapes with your silhouette subject(s)
*try to reduce excessive clutter or multiple other confusing shapes in the image unless they add to the "story" you want it to tell
*avoid foreground lighting
*identify or set up a significant source of back lighting
*no one formula for camera settings is perfect - the strength of your light will dictate what you'll need, so experiment
*don't forget to pay careful attention to scene setting and composition, as with all photos, once you get the technique down
*for self portrait silhouette photography, you will find the following tools incredibly helpful: remote/intervalometer, tripod

Of course, rules are meant to be broken, and you can play around with the basic setup and then go beyond it, tweaking things in so many ways to create different kinds of photos.

You can also adjust lighting on the subject to create "near-silhouette" images - some details of the subject are lit and visible, while others are dark.

Check out the images in the attached album; the photo captions have some additional information. Let me know if you have any questions!

also on my website at:
#selfportrait   #silhouette   #photography  
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"Larger than Life Personality" in your Self-Portraits

The Beginnings
When I first got my dSRL and started taking photos I quickly realized two things:  1. That I had a lot to learn about my camera (my first 10 photos on Manual turned out completely black), and 2.  although I enjoyed shooting almost anything, I really liked photographing portraits.  So at that time I was faced with a dilemma.  How can you shoot portraits, practice and learn  while having no skills?  The answer was Self-Portraiture. 

That’s how I began shooting self-portraits.  It allowed the perfect conditions to practice my skills; learn the characteristics of my camera; analyze and study light and practice my expressions. Successful portraits take patience and require planning.  When having a model or a subject to shoot, time is of the essential.  Also, proving that you master your skills, is very important to be able to make your customer at ease and comfortable to get the best portrait possible. 

How to build Confidence?
Practicing continually your craft is the best way to perfect your abilities and gain confidence and expertise in what you do. It works exactly the same way with photography.  When you gain this confidence and strength that’s when your personality, ideas and charisma start showing up in your photos.  When you are able to guide yourself to create your vision in your final product, then you can easily guide others to achieve the same results.  That’s when you can make photos than are larger than life itself. Remember this: Your hardest/most difficult self-portrait is always your first one

Moods and Photography
It is important to remember and recognize that your mood interferes with your creative process.  Keep this in mind at all times.  At the beginning of your journey, creating a happy photo will require a happy mood.  Creating an emotive/sad photo will require a down mood.  Don’t be disappointed if at the beginning you can’t recreate a specific mood if you are not feeling it at the time.  With practice you will later be able to develop the skills to travel back in memory lane and take a photo to reflect a mood associated with a specific memory caught in time. 
That’s exactly what I did with my latest project the 5 Stages of Grief.  Where I took 5 different photos to represent each stage, processed them exactly the same way, used the same lighting conditions and using nothing but self-portraiture and expressions to identify each stage.  It was a difficult to express each stage appropriately/convincingly; but being able to navigate to each and every one of those specific times in my mind, times I had already experienced, made it possible to recreate convincingly. 
You can find more about that project on my stream and also in the Art of Self Portraiture Community. 

Use your Flash
One of the setups I use for some of my photos is a two light setup.  I have 2 softboxes, with two Nikon speedlights.  Each one at one side at my body and at approximately at a 2 to 3 feet from me.   The background can be black or white (a black or white sheet) approximately 4 – 5 feet behind me; and the camera is 1 – 2 feet in front of me.  I would use the camera built-in flash if I need some fill, but don’t use it always.  This setup will create incredible light that will change dramatically if you move the softboxes further away or closer into your body.  It also makes a difference if the softboxes are gridded or not.  Try it yourself and choose the settings that you like the most.  I used that specific diagram for all the photos in the 5 Stages of grief.  

But don’t Forget Natural Light
Do not limit yourself to only shoot photos with speedlights or flash units.  When I first started shooting I did not have neither flashes and much less softboxes.  Each and every photo I took was using natural light because I did not like the way my photos looked when using the built in camera flash.  
One of my favorite photos ever was also one of my first photos ever taken, and it was all natural light coming from a door and illuminated by the evening sun.  I called it Half me. 

Use the lights from windows, doors and even bulbs.  Remember it is your personality and expression that will be predominant and successful in your self-portrait or regular portrait, that’s what you need to own and dominate. 

The More You Know
The more you practice and the more you learn, the easier it gets.  At the beginning I needed to take hundreds of photos to find at least one I really liked.  With practice, you gain experience; and with experience you get confidence.  When all of them build together the process of getting your desired result becomes shorter.  No more hundreds of shots.   Also, before you go into a shoot have an idea of what you are looking for... a desired result, angle, look, expression.  But at the same time, and this is very important, try new angles, new expressions and new poses. I cant tell you how many times I started out with one pose and expression in mind and ended up liking a completely different pose and expression while still executing the same idea.

Getting the shot is part of the battle, but post-processing is the fine tuning of your image. Learn and use the tools that are already out there for you to make your image more meaningful.  I use Lightroom a lot for my post processing and prefer photoshop for heavier lifting (composites and masking).   My favorite filters or plugins are Nik Softare and Alien Skin.

In The End
Using self-portraiture to help express your feelings is a very rewarding thing.  It may seem overwhelming and challenging at the beginning, but very fulfilling in the end.  Just stick to it, like every other thing it is just a process. And when you get down with the process everything else is just second nature. If you ever feel like you need any help or ideas, feel free to contact any of the moderators of The Art of Self Portraiture, we will be always happy to help you out.

If you have any questions about this tutorial, feel free to contact me!
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behind the curtain

i m reshaing this post i made awhile ago that contains a pretty comprehensive list of BTS posts on how i do most of my selfies. if you have any questions feel free to ask


a room with a view

this post is for the wonderful scavengers this round of the  _ +Chrysta Rae photography scavenger hunt_ and anyone else that might be interested.

here is a list of all the BTS tutorials i added to Mark's room on the community page as well as many i didn't share there. since the community will vanish next week, this will be a permalink to the posts i made throughout the hunt. of course the comments from the community will be gone, but these are the original posts i made outside of the community so the information will still be accessible.

as always if you have any questions feel free to ask as i am here to help the best i can.

here are the links:

regret BTS

COWstume BTS

bubble BTS

strawberry BTS

hamlet BTS

freeze motion BTS

falling BTS

breakfast BTS

water BTS

rust BTS

spawn BTS

drop BTS

inspiration BTS

cell phone shooting BTS

campfire BTS

gold BTS

mummy BTS

if there are any others i have left out of that you would like to see feel free to ask and i will add them to the list. also if you notice any of them link back to the community posts let me know so i can assign the proper link from my profile page to them

photo is relevant as this mass of chaos is where i create most of my work :)


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