Self-Discovery Through Photography | Leafy Yeh | Skillshare

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Self-Discovery Through Photography

teacher avatar Leafy Yeh, Visual Artist

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

11 Lessons (13m)

    • 2. PHOTOWALK

    • 3. FOCUS


    • 5. YOUR TRACE

    • 6. YOUR SHADOW


    • 8. BE YOURSELF




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About This Class

This is a photography guide for us to learn about who we are. We are going to discover ourselves externally, be present with ourselves, and finally express ourselves creatively. Self-knowledge is essential to our decision making, to know our potentials, and have better relationships with others. Let's walk through this journey together.


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Meet Your Teacher

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Leafy Yeh

Visual Artist


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1. INTRODUCTION: Hello everyone. My name is Leafy. I am a photographer and digital artist based in Los Angeles. I'd been using photography to explore my identity and express myself. I created this self-discovery guide to help us learn more about who we are and look at ourselves differently. Self knowledge is important to our decision-making, to know our potentials and have better relationships with others. This guide has three sections. You can use a phone or camera, but the phone is good enough. We are going to learn about ourselves externally through photo walks, focus, personal objects, and find meanings in our photographs. We are going to be present with ourselves by photographing our traces, shadows, silhouettes, and self portraits. Finally, we will express two sides of ourselves with Photoshop or paper collage. I hope you can enjoy the process and have fun. Share your photos with discover yourself projects. 2. PHOTOWALK: In this exercise, we're going to discover ourselves externally through photo walks. Go out and shoot things you are drawn to, the first thing you see that strikes your attention. Follow your heart and pure instinct. A few tips before we go on a walk. Clean the back camera, turn on the photo grid, and always try different angles. Keep an open mind and take as many photos as possible. Go on a photo walk in two different areas, so there's diversity in your photos. Either it's the living neighborhoods or downtown, a different part of the city has its own beauty. Try to walk two different times of the day. The feelings are completely different in a day and the night. Make sure you're safe on a night walk. Let's slow down and be mindful to our surroundings. I hope these photo walks have inspire you some new ideas and new perspectives. 3. FOCUS: [MUSIC] In this exercise, we will focus on choosing one element to photograph from COLOR, TEXTURE, PATTERN, and SHAPE. Choose a COLOR that you like or important to you, and maybe think about why you're drawn to that COLOR. Yellow is important to me. It's the COLOR of the Sun and Positivity. If you choose the TEXTURE, I recommend you to slow down touch these TEXTURES, and just feel it. Maybe it feels rough or smooth. We're surrounded by PATTERNS. By only photographing the PATTERN, you will start seeing the symmetrical harmony in our daily life. Looking for a SHAPE is a fun exercise. Circle means the honors and infinity for me. What about you? What kind of shape do you like? You can CHOOSE 1 ELEMENT TO PHOTOGRAPH or simply do it all? I hope you start notice the beauty in our daily surroundings. 4. FIND MEANING: In this section, we'll go through all the photos and categorize them into albums. It's like music playlist. You're creating visual playlist with photos. You can categorize by objects. I photograph a lot of plants. They symbolize nature, life, growth, and strength for me. Maybe you photograph a lot of houses or cars or food and really just dig in why you photograph them. Next, you can categorize them by subject. One example here is light and shadow. It has so many extensive meanings for me, and the meanings of one subject is different for everyone. Maybe you take photos of negative space or reflection a lot. I highly recommend you to categorize your photos by feelings. Photos not only give you visual sensation, but also emotions. The small kindness from neighbors are warm, the light and shadow are warm. The memories are warm. Whenever you're down, you can look at these visual playlist. Maybe you will remember the feelings you had when you took these photos. We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are. I hope you have learned a little bit about yourself here. 5. YOUR TRACE: Let's start by photographing our traces. If we pay attention, we will start seeing all the traces we leave everywhere. It could be the footprints we leave on the beach. Or the way we eat food. Some people eat kiwi with a spoon, some peel the whole skin off, then slice it like a bread. Maybe it's the way we fold our clothes. I grew up voting my family's clothes this way. We'll leave lip print on the cup when we drink even without a lipstick. We leave traces everywhere on everything we touch. It could also be the trace you leave in the bed when you get up or the stain on your shoes. People in our life, the environment and culture we grew up in also leave traces in us. Observe your trace and learn about yourself. 6. YOUR SHADOW: Your shadow is the dark side of yourself. While we're chasing the light, let's slow down and embrace your shadow. I learned about this power posts from TED Talk, "Your body language may shape who you are", by Amy Cuddy, about how posture can boost feelings of confidence. Here I was trying to blend in with the tree shadows and be part of the branches. Get creative and don't be afraid to be weird. Jumping is always a fun pose. Give it a try. This is the moment that you will ever have this particular shadow. Next moment, it will be different. Be present for ourselves. 7. YOUR SILHOUETTE: Photographing silhouette is one of the most creative photography technique. By hiding yourself in the darkness, your silhouette creates a mysterious and unique story. The secret of creating a silhouette is shooting against a source of light. A few tips before we start. First: use a tripod. Second: turn on the camera timer or remote control. Then tap and hold to lock the focus on the light. I shot this at noon. The sun is right above me, so we are going to shoot with a low angle. Let's get creative. If your silhouette is not obvious enough, here is a quick editing tip to enhance the photograph by increasing the highlight and decrease the shadow. The beauty of sunset and sunrise have inspired people for centuries. Enjoy this beautiful moment. You can also photograph your silhouette at night. I used a computer as my light source with the abstract background videos on YouTube. You can photograph in front of any light, even a small flashlight. I hope you had fun in this section and enjoyed every moment of it. 8. BE YOURSELF: After all these exercises, let's be present and photograph ourselves. Photograph yourself in a comfortable environment. I recommend you to start by photographing yourself in nature. If you feel more open there. If you are self-conscious like me, we can start by being far away from the camera. It took me a while to get comfortable in front of the camera, then get a little bit closer. Having a camera helps us to be really aware of ourselves, and then much closer, Just be yourself. It's okay to not be so serious all the time. Sometimes being stupid can be very healing. Maybe photographing yourself at home feels the most comfortable for you. Let's start with a full body shot. Remember the tips we have learned from our previous exercises. Always try different angles, high and low angles. They're super fun and creative. You get to see yourself from unusual perspectives. Let's sit in front of the camera and take some head shots. Face yourself towards the window to get the best lighting for your headshots. Don't forget to photograph some detail shots of you body. I hope you are more aware of your existence and learn to observe yourself more objectively. 9. EXPRESS YOURSELF BRIGHT: In this section, we're going to express two sides of ourselves creatively through Photoshop or paper collage. I want to start with expressing the positive powerful and bright side of me. I love the contrail from the photo walk. Yellow from the focus section, the dragon drawing from a personal objects and the power pose from the nature self portraits. Dragon is a powerful, lucky, and kind symbol in Chinese culture. I am adding the yellow color to the dragon to create a positive message and the contrast. I'm also adding the contrail in the sky. For me, contrail is the trace of humankind's flying dream. It also has the meaning of going upwards. If you don't know how to use Photoshop, you can create a traditional paper collage by printing the photographs and cut them out. You can schedule a Photoshop section with me if you want any help on your photo collage art or learn more tutorials on Now let's express the other side of ourselves. 10. EXPRESS YOURSELF DARK: I have a bright side and also a dark side. You can download stock images, but we can also create these materials on our own. Let's rip and crumple some papers. Photograph your materials on a contrasting background so it's easier to cut out in Photoshop. Whenever I feel dark inside or really anxious, there are thousands of thoughts going through my head and I just want to rip myself apart. I want to use the torn paper edge to create a split visual, and the crumble papers to express the crazy inner thoughts. Sometimes, you don't know what you want until you have explored in Photoshop. I actually like this blue tone from the paper photographs, so I'm going to leave it as it is to express this blue feeling. If you feel like something is missing, you can always go back and re-shoot. Having a dark side is not a bad thing. Without the shadow, there's no light. I have to learn to accept this part of me. We all have different sides. It's up to you what side you choose to express. 11. FINAL THOUGHT: I hope you have discovered yourself a little bit more through this photography journey, and have more trust and compassion for yourself. I want to leave you with a quote from Maya Angelou, "Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it." This has been an honest journey. Remember to always stay true to yourself.