Photography as Healing: Creating Empowering Self-Portraits | Idara Ekpoh | Skillshare

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Photography as Healing: Creating Empowering Self-Portraits

teacher avatar Idara Ekpoh, Photographer

Watch this class and thousands more

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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

10 Lessons (55m)
    • 1. Intro

    • 2. Your Project

    • 3. Vulnerability & Self-Portraiture

    • 4. From Technique to Storytelling

    • 5. Moodboard: Sourcing Inspiration

    • 6. Prep: Backdrop & Elements

    • 7. Setting Up: Lighting & Equipment

    • 8. Shooting Your Self-Portrait

    • 9. Editing Your Self-Portrait

    • 10. Conclusion

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About This Class

As photographers, we often forget to capture ourselves. We spend so much time capturing our clients, our families, and our friends, but how often do we turn our cameras on ourselves? Self-portraiture is a powerful tool that will allow you to unlock a new level of vulnerability in your work and self development as well. 

Within my 6 years of experience as a photographer, I have learned that incorporating emotion in your work can not only allow for you to create powerful art that can connect with your audience, but can also help with your healing journey as well. With my portrait project, "Self Portrait Sunday" I felt I was finally giving myself the opportunity to be seen and for my story and journey to be documented. It has transformed the way that I look at myself and through this class, I will teach you the tips that helped me grow in this space.

In this class, I'll cover how to go from being a technical photographer to becoming a visual storyteller and how vulnerability can be used as a tool to create powerful self-portraits.

You’ll learn how to:

  • Use vulnerability and emotion as a tool in your art
  • Source inspiration, prepare for, and shoot your own self-portrait 
  • And of course, how to bring your images to life through editing in Adobe Lightroom & Photoshop

This class is perfect for creatives that are looking for ways to present emotion and vulnerability in their work, and anyone who wants to become a better visual storyteller. All you need is a camera (yes, your phone will do!) and a little creativity and courage—see you in class! 



Meet Your Teacher

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Idara Ekpoh


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I am a photographer, creative director, and educator who creates captivating visual experiences through my dreamlike and cinematic portraits. My art is centered around storytelling, healing, and identity. 

As a first generation Nigerian-American woman, I have always been interested in the topic of identity, which drives me to not only use photography as a medium to tell my own story, but to bring visibility to the stories of those within my community. 

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1. Intro: [MUSIC] When was the last time you took a photo of yourself? The last time you truly captured what you look like through your own eyes. Much more than just a selfie, self-portraiture allows you to explore your own identity, and this can ultimately lead to healing. You control your own narrative, and your images can be reflection of that. My name is Idara Ekpoh, and I am a photographer and creative director based in Phoenix, Arizona. I create captivating visual experiences through what I like to think of as being dreamlike, and cinematic portraits. My art is centered around storytelling, identity, and healing. Throughout my journey, I have learned that photography is much more than just a tool to take pretty pictures. It's a medium that can be used to tell our story. In this class, we'll be covering how to create self-portraits for healing, and how they can be utilized as a tool to reclaim your self-image. You'll learn how to go from focusing on technique to becoming a true storyteller, understand how you can use vulnerability and emotion as a tool in your art, source inspiration, prepare for it and shoot your own self-portrait, and of course, how to bring your images to life through editing in Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. These tools not only work great for self-portraiture, but really in any aspect of creating art that aims to evoke any emotion in your audience through storytelling. It's perfect for creatives that are looking for new ways to present vulnerability, and emotion in their work. The inspiration for this class is my recent projects, self-portrait Sunday. Every Sunday I would take a new self-portrait, which although very exciting, was an intimidating process. It really forced me to face my own insecurities, and the things that was the most vulnerable about. Self-portraiture has allowed me to explore my identity through visual storytelling, and has ultimately lead to healing in my life, I have become my own favorite muse. Regardless if you're beginner or already a professional, I ask again, when was the last time you took a photo of yourself? This class will give you a new perspective of the photographer holding the camera, you. 2. Your Project: [MUSIC] Today, we're going to learn about how to take vulnerable and powerful self-portraits. In the end, you'll be able to bring your own self-portrait to life. As photographers, we oftentimes forget to capture ourselves. We spend so much time capturing our clients, our families, and even our friends. But how often do we turn the camera on ourselves? Self-portraiture is a powerful tool that can allow you to unlock a level of vulnerability in your work and self-development as well. For this class, you'll need any camera that you want to utilize for your self-portrait. This can be a DSLR or even an iPhone. Then you're also going to need access to Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. Throughout this course, you'll be able to create your own self-portrait, you'll learn different techniques like how to create a mood board to source the inspiration for your shoot. Learn about how you can use vulnerability as a tool in your self-portrait and obviously how to bring it to life through your editing in Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. While you're learning, don't forget to post your project in the Project Gallery and post any questions you may have in the discussion section of the class. In the end, I hope that you're inspired to continue to capture yourself and tell your own story through self-portraits. Let's get started. [MUSIC] 3. Vulnerability & Self-Portraiture: [MUSIC] In this first lesson, we're going to talk about how you can present vulnerability and emotion in your work that will ultimately lead to healing. So what does it mean to be vulnerable with your self-portraits and ultimately in your photography? Well, when it comes to self-portraiture, just showing up and sitting down in front of the camera is an act of vulnerability itself. To be able to get the courage to sit down and capture yourself is vulnerability alone. Secondly, it's allowing yourself to tell your own story. I truly believe that we should be allowing our experiences to drive our art and there is vulnerability in telling your story and self-portraiture is just one aspect of how you can essentially do that. So this project really started off because I was looking for ways that I can remain creative from inside of my house. We're in this season of isolation. We can't go anywhere. I can't create with other people, so it really forced me to blur the lines of different roles. So I became not only the photographer, but I was the subject. I was the "model". I was the hairstylist, I was the creative director, the art director. I was even the makeup artist you all. [LAUGHTER] I was forcing myself to learn different ways to do my makeup and don't get me wrong like now, my makeup is to the t, but that whole process really forced me to find ways that I can just embody all of these different roles that come together to create powerful art. It was a way for me to be reminded that my art did not have to stop in the middle of a pandemic. That I can really embody all of these different roles. Really force myself to grow as a creative and to force myself to look at things from a different perspective. Like instead of just being the photographer now I'm focusing on as a model, how can I position myself? What facial expressions do I want to have? What ways do I want to pose? As a creative director focusing on the overall message and meaning behind the image, what elements am I including? What I didn't expect this project to do was force me to really look at my insecurities. As you guys can probably imagine, taking a self-portrait every single week is terrifying. I don't care what nobody tells you it is terrifying [LAUGHTER] to do that every single week, but it really forced me to look at the things that I'm insecure about and find ways that I can really capture it and remind myself that all of these things that I'm insecure about are essentially beautiful and so I had insecurities such as the texture of my hair, the hue of my skin, and also my facial features. These are things that I was insecure about growing up, that I took and I made the main components of each of my self-portraits. So essentially when I'm looking at my hair texture, I'm insecure about this, but what ways can I style my hair in ways that remind me that my kinky foresee hair is beautiful. What ways can I style it to convey a specific message of natural hair in black women? Focusing on the hue of my skin and making sure that I'm capturing my skin in a very beautiful and cinematic way, especially in my editing. Lastly, struggling with facial features. There's really no better way to get over that insecurity than forcing yourself to take a new self-portrait every single week. Where these are close-up self-portraits where I'm really forced to look at the shape of my nose, my facial features, my eyes, my ears. I remember growing up, I had a huge insecurity around my ears because people made me feel like, oh, they're too tiny. So I took a self-portrait with a side profile that just focused on the shape of my face and my ears and reminding myself that those are beautiful features that I have. So essentially all of these different insecurities I had, I allowed myself to really revisit those insecurities and remind myself that those are beautiful features that I have that also can create beautiful artists well. This project first challenged me to see myself in a different light. As a photographer, I'm oftentimes challenged with creating a safe space for my subjects to feel comfortable so I can capture them in the most authentic way, but then I realized I had never done that for myself. I had never created a space where I could feel comfortable and capture myself and who I truly am in a portrait. Secondly, it really allowed me to challenge myself as a creative as well, like I mentioned before. Now having the title of a model or creative director, art director, all of these different elements, all of these different titles that now I possess, it really challenged me to focus on different ways to view my art than just the view of a photographer. It also forced me to try different ideas that I may have been too scared to do with other people. When you look at self-portraits, you really are the only person there, so any ideas that you have that you want to bring in life, you are in full control of it. So I was allowing myself to try different things, and to try things that I hadn't done previously in my art to grow as a creative and at the end the day, if I didn't like it, nobody needed to see it. It was just for me at the end of the day. Then lastly, the project really forced me to become comfortable with myself and my own flaws. We all have flaws as human beings and I think that self-portraiture really allows you to take those things that you consider flaws and turn them into art and there's beauty in art and there's beauty in telling your own stories and there's beauty in allowing your experiences to be told through a photo and through a portrait. So we'll go through some different examples of my self-portraits. The first one I ever took in this series was called At Home Bored and I remember I struggled with the self-portrait because I was in general struggling with quarantine. We are adapting to this new way of life and I was struggling with maintaining a routine. So I forced myself to take a self-portrait because I wanted to feel beautiful. In the midst of quarantine, I'm waking up and going to sleep in the same pajamas. Like I'm not really taking any time or energy to get myself ready because I'm not going anywhere. So I really forced myself to get dressed, do my makeup, and really sit down in front of the camera and to capture myself in that moment. My second most vulnerable self-portrait I would say is my portrait called A Black Woman. I remember this one being really really difficult for me because I have never or at this time I had never taken a picture with my natural hair on my Instagram and I mean, my natural hair in the full texture of an afro. So I forced myself to pick up my hair, wear it in an afro and it was a way for me to be reminded of the story of my hair and reminded of the beauty behind it as well. Purpose of that self-portrait was for me to show myself as a black woman and in my truest form with my natural hair and in its true texture, in an afro and really being able to capture that and show the beauty in my natural form. Lastly, Crown is one of my favorite self-portraits. I remember again with the story of wanting to take the insecurity I have with my hair and really create something beautiful. I wanted to create a hairstyle and show how my natural hair is beautiful and all the different shapes and forms that it can take. I remember wanting to add the flowers as a element because, I don't know, it was as if I was blossoming in that moment and as if I was taking full control and ownership of this hair that I have and just loving it in its so many different forms. So I want to give you guys different tips on how you can take self-portraits. The first one is that you really want to make sure that you're creating an environment that allows you to feel safe and to feel comfortable to take your self-portrait in the first place. Like I mentioned before, as photographers, we do this for our subjects. We do this for our clients. We want to make sure they feel at ease, so that way you can capture their truest and authentic selves. You want to make sure that you do that for yourself as well. I don't know if you guys watch Insecure. Issa does this thing where she goes into the bathroom and she talks to herself in the mirror and so I essentially would do that same thing every week when taking my self-portrait. I am my biggest hype woman. So I go into the bathroom, look in the mirror, I gas myself up, I say girl you're beautiful, you're this you're that, and that allows me to feel good and confident and ready to take that self-portrait. Next play your favorite music. A huge part of creating an environment that you're comfortable and for me is also incorporating music. So put on your favorite playlist or whatever music makes you feel the most comfortable and happy, and then play that so that way you can feel comfortable when taking your self-portrait. Then lastly, have fun. This is, at the end of the day just for you and so allow yourself to be free and to truly capture yourself in that moment. In the next lesson, we'll talk about how to incorporate visual storytelling to create a powerful self-portrait. I'll see you all there. [MUSIC] 4. From Technique to Storytelling: [MUSIC] Anyone can pick up a camera and take a pretty photo but it takes more to take a photo that tells a story. This is called visual storytelling. You're probably wondering what does it actually mean to take a technically good photo versus a photo that tells a story? Well, the first thing is that you want to make sure that you actually know the story that you want to tell, and then secondly, you want to be able to find ways that you're going to communicate that story through how you plan for your shoots. In this lesson, we'll discuss the ways that you can communicate your story through visual stories telling. First off, how do you determine what story you want to tell? Like I've mentioned in the last lesson, I think you do that through letting your surroundings and your own experiences speak through your art. Think about your own personal experiences or even the experiences of those around you and determine what story you want to tell through a photograph. When you know what story you want to tell, you can now communicate that story through the use of different elements such as your clothing and style choices, you can also focus on the location and your set design and even utilizing color in a way to tell your story. To give you a better understanding of how this works, we're going to go through a couple of different examples of my work and we'll talk about the different elements that I brought together in my images to really help tell that powerful story. In each of these photos, you'll see that there was a level of intentionality with how I wanted to tell each of these stories. In my photo series brother, I really wanted to focus on how I could humanize the black male body and highlighting the intimacy of the black male bond. I really wanted to make sure that I focused on my posing within this photo set and making sure that they showed some bonding or togetherness between the men that were included in the shoot. My next image is from a series that I called homecoming. This one is so dear to my heart. I had traveled back home to Nigeria, I think this was the first time I traveled back home as an adult. I had been as a kid but being back as an adult and being able to have my camera and truly capture the vibrancy of my culture. When I go back to when I took this photo, I remember seeing how quickly everything was moving. You have all the vehicles and the Kekes that are moving quickly in the streets and you have people that are trying to cross the roads etc. In the moment they felt there was a sense of chaos with how quickly the cars are moving and people trying to cross the streets but at the same time everything was very, very uniform and I wanted to make sure I tried to capture that. In this image you'll see that there's a sense of chaos because you have all of these cars at one that are driving and trying to pick up their passengers but everything is still so uniform, you have each car that's lined up in a uniform fashion there that just makes it more powerful and just seem like everything is working together as it's meant to work. Another thing I wanted to make sure I focused on was color. In the image, you'll see that there is the orange vehicles, which is a great vibrant orange that is a perfect contrast with the blue skies and that shows that there's a complementary color relationship that's going on between the two colors there. Then I have my self-portrait called heaven said. Now, this self-portrait, I really wanted to focus on making myself look like an angel coming down from the clouds and so I utilize polyfill to mimic the look of clouds, I had the backdrop that was blue with the clouds on there as well and then I really focused on in my editing making sure that the photo really literally angelic and soft as well. What was your favorite component of these images? What elements do you think that you want to be intentional about and incorporating into your art? I think that one of my favorite elements to use is colors. Colors can really evoke a specific emotion in your audience and if you want to get technical, that's through the use of color theory. There are certain color relationships that are meant to work really well together that can really bring a sense of vibrancy and life to your image. Essentially, colors have meaning. Colors allow you to feel a certain thing, for example, yellow is a color that's associated with happiness and cheerfulness and then you have the color red that's associated with love and passion but at the same time, it's also associated with pain and anger. Color can essentially be utilized in your image to help communicate that story that you're wanting to tell. I'll show you guys some different examples of color relationships in my art. There are four different color relationships and those include complementary, analogous, triadic, and monochromatic. When you're intentional about planning for your shoots, you're able to create photos that tell stories. What story do you want to sell and in what ways can you use elements such as your clothing, your set design, your color in the photo? How can you use those elements to really help bring your image to life? To help you flesh out the ideas that you have for the story that you want to tell, in the next lesson, we're going to be talking about sourcing inspiration and once you combine what you learned in that lesson with this lesson, you are going to be on track to becoming a true visual storyteller [MUSIC]. 5. Moodboard: Sourcing Inspiration: [MUSIC] Now that you know what story you want to tell, you need to source the inspiration that will help you bring it to life. As a visual learner myself, it really helps me to take the ideas that I have in my head and put it on a piece of paper or a document or something of that sort. I like to use mood boards as a technique to communicate the ideas behind the shoot that I'm working on. A way for me to take all of my ideas and put them into one place. I create mood boards, whether I'm working with myself for a self-portrait or I'm working for a team. It's a really great way to make sure that everyone involved really understands all of the different elements that you want to focus on to help bring your image to life. Here are some different components that I really love to make sure that I incorporate into my mood board. The first one is color. Like we mentioned in the last lesson, you want to pick out a color scheme or a color palette and make sure that you add that to your mood board. That way you're constantly reminded of the color palette that you have, and you can also find really cool ways to take your color palette and have it show up in your photos. Whether that is in the outfit selection, the make-up, the hair, the location, or set design, you can really take your color scheme and be reminded of where you want to incorporate that color throughout your image. The next thing is poses. Now, I now understand from the perspective of being a model in my self-portraits that posing is difficult. You want to do yourself a favor and find different poses that you like and add them to your mood board, that way you can utilize them for art direction later on in your shoot. Then lastly, you want to be able to find any photos that are going to be able to serve as inspiration for your shoot and add them to your mood board as well. Before we dig into how to create a mood board, I want to mention that all of this is just sourcing inspiration. You do not want to copy anything, you want to be able to utilize it as inspiration to create your own art. There's a number of different places that you can source your inspiration from for your mood boards. The first place is Pinterest. I know you already know about Pinterest, so I want to remind you to head over to Pinterest to utilize that for your mood boards. There are so many different images on Pinterest and the one thing that I love is that you can quickly go to the search engine, type in whatever you're searching for, and then all of these different inspiration and photos are going to pop up. The second source of inspiration for me comes from music and film. When I think of some of my favorite songs and favorite movies, oftentimes there's inspiration that I can pull from those to add into my photos. Another place that you can source inspiration is just from your surroundings. One of my self-portrait is called Purple Rain. I remember the colors in that self-portrait was literally inspired by the sky. [LAUGHTER] I remember I was outside walking and we had these cotton candy skies outside and I remember being like, I love the purple, the pink, and the blue and I want to take those colors and incorporate into a self-portrait. Your surroundings can really help to inspire the color or the feel that you have for your self-portraits as well. I had used the colors that were in my color palette for things such as my hair. I saw the purple sky and I wanted to incorporate purple on my hair or pink in the blazer that I had on. I had blue in the backdrop that I utilized and so I took the idea that came from my surrounding, from me looking in the sky and seeing these colors to now applying it to different elements in my self-portrait to help everything come to life. Another component that you want to make sure that you're incorporating into your mood board and when planning for your shoot is the styling. That styling with your clothes, your hair, your makeup, and really focusing on what ways you can plan for those different elements to add to the story that you're telling. For the self-portrait that I'll be creating for this course, I'm going to go ahead and show you all what I came up with. Now we're going to go ahead and create our mood board. This is one of my favorite things to do, and I usually utilize two main platforms to get my inspiration. First, we're looking at Pinterest. This is really great to just find really, any images that can inspire you to get an idea of what it is that you might be able to create. Pinterest is the first platform. Now, the second platform is Instagram. This is really great because Instagram has the feature of saving things to a board. You can save inspiration photos that you see in your timeline to a certain place and then be able to reference back to them when you're ready to put your mood board together. Those are my two main platforms for getting my inspiration. Today, we're going to go ahead and utilize Pinterest. I'm going to go ahead and search for rhinestone freckles. I think I really want to have some way that I utilize rhinestones, and so I really like to find images that inspire me. This is one of them. I'm really just going to keep looking down on the Search page and seeing what other images mimic the placement of the right that I want us to mimic freckles, and be able to see what other images really give me that inspiration of what I may be looking for. This really just takes some time, just to search through images. This is another image I like, so I'm gonna save it to my self-portrait Sunday board. That way I can already gather images that I like into one easy space. Then I'm going to go ahead and search for flowers. I don't really have a specific idea for this now that we're going into the springtime, spring slash summertime, I really want to incorporate flowers. I'm trying to find some poses that might help for how I can sit and pose a flowers. I like this shot because the flowers are close to her chest, so trying to see if I can find some inspiration photos of things like that, or maybe the flowers framing my subject or in the sense, me framing my face. I just keep searching for any images that might stand out to me, that way I can save them to my self-portrait board. This one I really like because you can see that she's looking through the flowers so I think that I can do something cool with that. Now, If you go back to my Self-Portrait Sunday board, this is where I've saved some of those images and I'm not actually going to make the mood board in this platform. What I'm going to do is I actually want to save all of these images to my computer. Right now what you're seeing me doing, I'm just clicking on each photo and saving them to my Downloads, that way I can then pull them later when I put my full board together. The platform that I'm currently using to make my mood board is Milanote. I love this because it really allows you to quickly import images. It gives you text boxes where you can easily just type whatever it is you might be wanting to type and just being able to make quick notes, but you don't have to use this platform. You can use this, you can use Canva. You can literally go and open up Microsoft Word and put some pictures together. You don't really have to utilize a specific platform. I just like the way this one works. If you look here, these are some images I already had on my board that I pulled from Instagram actually, of some poses that I might want to incorporate into my shoot. You'll see that here I'm importing also the other photos that you all just saw me pull from Pinterest. That way I can have all my images sitting in one place. I usually try to have some images of poses that I like. I also try to see if there's a specific make-up look that I want, so the photo with the freckles, I know I want that look. I have two photos that gave me that idea, as well as the flowers and some two different poses that I can do if I want a wider shot. I'm not sure if I want more of a wide shot or a portrait shot. Essentially, this is what my mood board is looking like. I'm going to go ahead and export this, that way I have an actual image of what this looks like, that way I can have it saved to my computer and be able to reference back to it when I'm ready to shoot. This is what my mood board looks like. Like I mentioned before, I just really went to pull some photo poses that really inspired me for this shoot. I really want to do something that feels really good for the spring and summertime, so that's why I decided to go with the colors pink and green. They just came to mind. There's really no reason behind that. They look really beautiful together and remind me of spring and Easter colors and those pastels. I think those are the two colors that I'm going to decide to utilize for my shoot. You'll also see I have some notes here that maybe the backdrop can be either pink, then my dress can maybe be green. Those are just some ideas that I have. I haven't really at this point gone through my closet. I'm just thinking of a dress that I might be able to wear, which I know is green and I can pair it with the pink backdrop. Then I also love to incorporate tulle and so I might go ahead and go shopping and look for some pink tulle or some blush color tulle that I can utilize in the photo. Of course, as you can see, reoccurring theme in these photos is flowers. I just love incorporating flowers into my images. There's just a sense of growth, blossoming. That theme that I think is present in a lot of my work, so I want to incorporate that into this self-portrait as well. I do know my hairstyle, I made a note of that, is going to be up. I don't want my hair blocking my face, especially if I'm going to have the flowers around my face some way. I don't want my hair to block, so I'll wear my hair in a bun. Then I'm also going to utilize the adhesive rhinestones to mimic freckles. I just think it looks so cute. There's really no reason for why I'm doing that outside of it just looking good. Now that I have some notes for my self-portrait, I now have an idea of the elements that I want to source and I now have some images that can be utilized as a reference for when I'm shooting. Knowing again, I'm going to have those rhinestones on my face. I really just want my eyes peeking through and then the flowers surrounding my face as well like I'm blossoming into a new season essentially. That's the idea and theme that I'm going to go with with this self-portrait. How did you find the inspiration for your photo? Try these different techniques out so you can find ways to communicate the vision that you have for the story that you want to tell. Now that you have your mood board, you can effectively communicate the vision that you have for your shoot. I want to encourage you to print it out or to have it stored somewhere digitally that you can easily access when you are later preparing and shooting your self-portrait. Make sure to share your mood board in the Project Gallery that way myself, as well as the rest of the class, can get a sneak peek into what you are planning for your shoot. [MUSIC] 6. Prep: Backdrop & Elements: [MUSIC] By this point in this class, you should have a clear understanding of the story that you want to tell and even have a mood board that helps to communicate that story. In this lesson, we're going to talk about how I like to source elements that I incorporate in my photos. The first thing that I usually start off with is by determining the location or even a backdrop that I'm going to be utilizing for myself portrait. I love to do this by a number of different ways. The first thing is that if I am utilizing a backdrop, I usually love to use fabric backdrops. You guys, I don't know what it is about fabrics, but there's a level of just texture and dimension that it adds to your photo opposed to just using a plain, seamless backdrop. That's my preference. But if you prefer to use a seamless backdrop, go ahead and use that as well. If you're looking to utilize fabric for your backdrop, I want to encourage you to go to your local fabric store. I personally love to go to the Jo-Ann fabric store. There are so many different fabrics that they have there that I love to choose from. Also, of course, I'm keeping in mind the mood board that I have when looking for fabrics, whether that's a specific color or texture that I want to make sure that I'm incorporating but you want to go ahead and go to a local fabric store so that way you can source your backdrop. In the second case, if you're not shooting at home, I want to encourage you to get in your car and drive around your neighborhood, drive around your city to find a location that really speaks to the idea and the vision that you have for your photo. Looking back at my mood board, you all remember that my main colors are going to be pink and green as far as pink being my backdrop, and green being my outfit. I'm going to decide to go ahead and show you all the pink backdrop I utilize. I just ended up going with this blush color backdrop from Jo-Ann's. Now that you have your backdrop or maybe your location in mind, the next thing is to focus on styling. Now, this can be as easy as going into your closet and picking out an outfit that you may already have for your portrait. You can use this as an excuse to go the mall, do some online shopping to find an outfit that you want to incorporate into your self portrait. This is the look that we're going to be shooting today. As you can see, I'm in the green. I think it's a nice color contrast with the pink that I'll be shooting against. You'll see that there. It's just a green turtle neck dress that I got from Zara. This is what I'm shooting. I also did my makeup. [LAUGHTER] I did my makeup. Essentially, what you guys saw in some of the inspiration photos, I really wanted to have this crystal freckle look. I did that. Then I also just put my hair in a bun just so it's not in the way. Then I have these pearl earrings on. I would have preferred to have crystal earrings, but I couldn't find any, so we're going to go with the pearls. You just really want to make sure you use what you have if you don't want to purchase anything. The last element that you want to make sure that you are incorporating into your photo is any kind of props. Props are really great because they can really add to the overall message and feeling of your image. Whether that is you incorporating flowers or maybe there's a specific type of prop that really helps to convey that message further. Some different examples of props can be flowers, or they can be boxes, or maybe anything else that you feel that you may have laying around your house that you want to incorporate into your photo. When you're sourcing for props as well, that you want to make sure that whatever you're incorporating into your photo is adding to the photo and not distracting your audience. If you find that a prop is more so distracting than beneficial for your image, remove it, you don't need it, that is okay. Just make sure that if you're adding props, that it's only adding and it's not taking away from the overall message of your photo. As you all can remember, the main prop in our photos is going to be these flowers. I ended up again going to Jo-Ann's and really looking at the floral section to see what I wanted to pick up and ended up going with this pink blush tone flowers because I thought they would really match the spring vibe that we're going for. That's really going to show us that blossoming theme that we have in our image. I want to give you all an example of what this can look like. We're going to look at one of my self portraits called tea time. This self portrait was inspired by the Netflix series called Bridgerton. I literally binge watch this series you all and probably a day. I remember again, seeing when you think about film and different aspects of inspiration, you can really pull from those things and add them to your photo. When you look at this photo, some of the different elements I sourced was the backdrop. I really wanted the flowers to be incorporated into the photo. I also took this tiara that I had. I won prom queen back in high school, so I still had the tiara laying around the house. I utilize that to give me that sense of royalty. I remember while watching Bridgerton, they always had these gloves on. I also went to Amazon and I just purchased $5 gloves that quickly came to my house the next day that I can use in my shoot. Then lastly, it's called tea time. What is British royalty without tea? I made sure that I went into my mom's cupboard and I grabbed a teacup that I could also incorporate into the photo. Then all of these different elements from the gloves to my tiara, to the backdrop, and even the teacup that I was holding, came together to help tell that story of royalty again. That seems to be really present in a lot of my artwork. But I really wanted to make sure that again, because the self portrait was inspired by Bridgerton I wanted to make sure that the themes from that show were very clear in the image as well. Now that you have your inspiration, it is time to prepare for your shoot. Go ahead and head over to the store. You want to go ahead and look around your house to see what elements you might have that you want to incorporate into your self portrait, and I'll see you-all in the next lesson. [MUSIC] 7. Setting Up: Lighting & Equipment: [MUSIC] In order to set yourself up for success when shooting yourself portrait, you want to make sure that you are shooting in the best environment and with the best setup as well. There are two different components that you need to make sure are in order before shooting yourself portrait. Those two things include your lighting and your equipment. For lighting, I love to use natural light. Y'all, the sun is free. If I'm shooting inside of my house, I try to face an open window or some open lighting that's coming into my house. That way I have even lighting going all across my face and body for myself portrait. If you're not shooting inside your house and maybe you're shooting outside or maybe in the garage, you just want to make sure that you are facing the lighting in a direction that is giving you that even lighting all across your body. If you don't have any access to sunlight for whatever reason or maybe you're shooting later on the day, you can incorporate studio lighting, soft boxes, or whatever else that you might have access to to provide that lighting for your image. You want to make sure that your lighting is even if that's the look you're going for, if you're going for more of a harsh lighting or whatever the case might be, you can play around with the sun, play around with the different lighting equipment that you might have to give you that different look for your image. The second thing is equipment. For myself portraits, I will show the equipment that I use, but you do not need to use the same equipment. I usually like to shoot on my Canon 60, or I also utilize my Canon EOS R if I want to utilize that camera instead. If you don't have a Canon camera or a camera of that sort that you want to use, you can also use your phone. I have taken plenty of self portraits on my iPhone and I find that to be a very easy and convenient piece of equipment. Utilize the phone that you carry around in your pocket as well. The next thing is that you want to make sure that you have a tripod. Whether you are using a phone or a DSLR, you want to make sure that your camera is steady and sitting on your tripod perfectly well so that it's sitting in place for your image. The next thing would be a remote. I love to use this Amazon Basics remote that I got from maybe $9. You can utilize that or find any remote that works best for you. This is great. That way, the remote would go ahead and trigger the shutter button for you so you don't have to go back and forth between where you're sitting for your portrait and your camera. Then lastly, you want to make sure you have a backdrop stand, especially if you're using a backdrop like fabric or seamless paper, you just want to make sure that you have something that will hold that fabric perfectly for your photo. Here I am just setting up for myself portrait, as I mentioned before, one one piece of equipment that I like to use is this backdrop stand. Now, it's not the best or the prettiest, but it gets the job done. I got it from Amazon. It was quite inexpensive. You can head over to Amazon to find some backdrop stand options. With my backdrop stand, you'll notice that there are two clips on there. That's some other equipment that I like to use as well. It came with the stand. That way, you can go ahead and clip your fabric onto that stand properly. That way it'll hold your fabric together and so you don't have to worry about, especially when you're using fabric, you don't have to worry about it sliding off of the backdrop stand. Yeah, that's the setup that I had for this portrait. That's the lighting and the equipment that I like to utilize for myself portraits. It doesn't have to be extensive. It can be very simple. I remember for the longest time, I did not have a tripod, so I would utilize literally a stack of books and put my camera on the stack of books and I would shoot that way, so then just utilize whatever it is that you have. In general, don't get caught up on the equipment that you do or you do not have. Your equipment doesn't make a good photo, you make the good photo. Focus on that when you prepare for shooting yourself portrait. [MUSIC] 8. Shooting Your Self-Portrait: [MUSIC] Now you're ready to shoot your self portrait. Once you have sourced all of your elements, you've gotten your inspiration, everything is in order. You're ready to sit down, get in front of the camera and take your portrait. Before you start shooting there are a few things that I want you all to keep in mind. The first thing is to make sure that you have enough space to shoot with. If you're shooting outside, that might not be an issue, but if you're shooting inside your house, just make sure you have enough space for your backdrop, your backdrop stand, as well as wherever your camera is placed. Once you figure it out that you have enough space, you want to make sure that your backdrop is in order. Make sure that it is sitting securely on your backdrop stand, or if you don't have a stand, just make sure that you hang up your backdrop on a wall or whatever it might work best for your portrait. Then you also want to make sure that your camera is secure as well. If you're using a tripod, make sure that it's staying properly. If you're using a stack of books as well, just make sure that your camera is secured. We do not want any broken equipment. For your camera, if it's sitting on a tripod, you can really play around with the perspective of the shot as well. You can focus on having a straight on if you would like, or you can shoot from higher or maybe a lower angle as well. Just to give you a different perspective for your photo. You just want to make sure again that your camera is secure in whatever setup it's sitting in. Lastly, make sure that you have your remote handy and ready to go. We're going to go ahead and do now. I'm going to show you all some BTS of the self portrait that I shot for this course. The first thing that I always try to make sure that I do when I'm shooting, is that I'm shooting in open space. You can see here and please ignore the little pasta bag there. But you can see here this is a pretty open space that I'm shooting in. It's just our upstairs loft. You want to make sure you have enough space to be able to shoot in. That's just going to really make sure that you have enough space for your photo. Then that is what we have, and then you also see here that we are shooting with a large open window. This is really great because well the window isn't open. But a large window, I'm going to open these panels up in a bit to get some more light. But you want to have a large window if you're shooting inside just to have some natural light for your photos. I don't use any kind of studio lighting just because I just don't have any. This is what I usually go to and do for my photo shoots. All right, guys. This is what the setup is going to look like for today. I'm going to flip the screen over. Having the screen is actually really great because you really get to see what you're shooting, which is really great for self portrait. I have my f-stop at 2.2. I might actually increase that, sorry for the focus. I might actually increase that because I do want to make sure I see all my elements. Then I have my ISO if you can see there at 500. That is what that looks like. That's kind of the angle I also want to shoot at. I really like this downward angle. I'll go over there in that open spot there. To give you all a bit more perspective on my settings. There are three main elements, you have your shutter speed which I usually keep on 125. F-stop, I'm going to probably put that around 2.8 or between two and 2.82. Then you also have your ISO. Now this is the biggest setting. You want to make sure that it's low enough or high enough to make sure your image is lit properly. As you can see there, I can see the backdrop, I can see the grass. Then again you mess around with that ISO to get it to the right setting for your lighting. Here I'm shooting myself portrait. Now the key to this is just to shoot as many poses as you can. It can tend to feel a bit silly. I definitely try to take some breaks in between and really just encourage myself throughout the process. I also do look at the images as I'm going through as well. But really the key is just to get as many different poses as I can to have some variety in my images. As you all can see here, there are a number of different poses I have. I have somewhere I looked away. I have some where I had more of the flowers as the focal point in the image and I do like the blurriness in this shot. One when I was looking directly into the camera. Again, just really trying to have a variety of different poses and looks that I can then refer back to when I'm picking my favorite photo. Now we're ready to go ahead and take your self portrait. But before you get started, I want to remind you that this is all for fun. There is no need to have any kind of stress or bad energy around the self portrait. Play some music, whatever makes you feel loose and good, okay? Make sure you go in the bathroom. Give yourself a whole mirror hype session if you need to, do whatever it takes to make sure that you show up as your best self for this self portrait. [MUSIC] 9. Editing Your Self-Portrait: [MUSIC] Now that you've finished shooting your self-portrait, it is time to edit. Let me tell you all, this is my favorite part of the entire process because I really get to be creative and see what ways I can really bring my image to life. In my editing, I'll be utilizing both Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop to give you all a quick view of what I'd like to do when editing my self-portraits. If you don't already have these applications, go ahead and head over to Adobe Creative Cloud. That way you can go ahead and get all the access to both lightroom and photoshop. Now that I have my self-portrait, I really love this image because it's so angelic already. One thing we're going to focus on is editing in lightroom. We're going to focus on two specific areas. The first one being the Basics tab. This is really great for focusing on the overall exposure of your image. It's great to focus on the exposure contrast in certain areas to make sure that the lighting is correct. Then the second area is focusing on the Color Wheels, which I really love this for overall color grading for my images in Lightroom. This is really great for adding colors to your shadows, mid-tones, and highlights. I think what I really love about this is that it really helps to make my images seem more dreamlike and cinematic. When I say that, that just means that I'm focusing on the tones that I add to the image in order to add more depth to my photo. If I wanted something that added more drama, I could add more colors into my shadows or midterms highlights like I mentioned before or sometimes I like things that are a little bit lighter airy and so I'll focus on my highlights and how I can add maybe a blue or a green tones and make things feel a little bit lighter. This is a really great tool to utilize in Lightroom so that you can focus on how you can really impact the overall tone and feel of your image. Then the other tool that we're going to utilize, it's going to be in Photoshop and this is called Selective Color. I find this to be really great also when it comes to color grading, just because you can target specific colors in your photo. If I wanted to look at the red, I could focus on changing the cyans, the magenta, the yellows, all of those colors specifically in the reds. You can really play around with the tooling and get some really cool effects in your photo. Now we are in Lightroom and I'm going to be showing you how we're going to edit this image. One thing I'd love to do is obviously focus on the Basics tab. This is really great to figure out the overall lighting for the image. I don't have a science to this, I just mess with each slider until I get a look that I like, mainly focusing on exposure contrast, and then anything else is just adding at that point. I also go down to the tone curve to also mess around and get some looks for my overall exposure as well. Then we'll be going over some different sections as well in Lightroom. I'm going to go back to exposure, maybe lower it a bit and we'll look at what a before and after of this image looks like. You can already see the slight evidence. You can already see the slight edits that we're starting to make. I'm going to lower that exposure because it's a bit overexposed. This is what we have currently. Then I'm going to make my way down to the Color Wheels that I talked about before. This is really great to add colors to your highlights, mid-tones, and shadows. Again, I don't have a system to this. One thing I always love to do with the highlights as you can see I'm doing now, I love to add a green or a blue tone to my highlights. It just helps to make the photo look a little bit more dreamlike. Then I usually go into my mid-tones and add maybe a yellow, orange, a reddish color. That's what I'm doing currently, just to see what color I feel fits best with this image. But you just really play around with these three wheels just to get an idea of what you really like but you also want to be mindful of the skin tones. As I'm messing around with these highlights and as well as my mid-tones you are seeing my skin tone is changing. We'll fix that when we go into photoshop because I don't want to look too red, orange, or yellow. I want to make sure I still look the same complexion that I have in real life. Now we're going to export our photo and go into photoshop and this is where we will continue our color grading. I always make a duplication of my layers. What I'm going to do first is some skin editing. This is a technique called frequency separation, but it's just a way to clean up some blemishes or things like that that I might have my face to give me a more clean look. Again, I don't do too much, just something slight just to make sure that my overall skin looks smooth and clean. That is essentially what I'm doing here. I had a little pimple that I wanted to make sure that I got out. That is frequency separation and then we're going to go into the color grading. I love to use selective color and image before you can pick a color and mess with certain enclosed within that color. As I mess with the sliders, you can see how it's adding and removing that color in my photo. I can add science, I can remove the science and the reds. I can add magenta, remove the magenta from the reds, yellows, black, etc. Again, no science to this, I just mess around with this until I get something that I like but I'm mainly looking at my skin tone. When you look at skin, there are three main colors which are yellow, oranges, and reds. You'll see I'm going to make my way over to the yellows that way I can get my skin complexion to a specific spot that I really like and that I feel is true to my real life. That is what I'm currently doing now. It's just messing with those sliders there. I think I'm getting close to what I want. I think when I go into another section it might help with the overall look, but I think this looks good currently. Then the other thing I want to point out, I am doing these on different layers just so that I can be able to see the before and after of each change I'm making in these colors. Next, we're going to go ahead and go down to our whites. This is going to impact the color and the whites, aka, also known as the highlights. This really helps to make my images look very dreamlike like I mentioned before. I like to add yellows as well as some blues into my whites to make it look that way. Then we're going to go ahead and do the same with the blacks. Blacks is focusing on the shadows. You can add colors into your shadows to see how it impacts the overall look of your image. What I'm also doing here is reducing the opacity and the fill so that way it's not so in your face I wanted to be a little bit more subtle. That is great now the before and after of what we've done in photoshop. Then I'm just going to go ahead and merge some of these layers and do some cleanup. I realized I have some residue in my hair, I think it was from my gel that I use. I want to clean that up. I don't want you to see that in the final image. I'm just going to use my clone stamp tool to go ahead and clean out some of that in my hair. Then one more area that I want to add on here is Color Lookup. When you utilize Color Lookup, there are a number of different presets that you can add to your photo and just see how they impact your photo. I added this Moonlight, which I like to add at times, no reason for it. I just liked the way it looks and you can select these different blending modes to see what you like the most. I like Pin Light and I'm just going to lower the opacity and the fill of that. That way again, it is not too blue like it was before. It's just adding to my photo, not taking you away from it. Now we're back in lightroom and the image that we edited in photoshop was going to import itself back into here so that we can see the before and after of this image. You'll see in the before here what we actually started with as well as the after of what we did in both lightroom and photoshop. I feel like this is really light, airy, and vintage as well, which tends to be a little bit of a vibe that I go with and some of my photos. That's what the before and after of this image looks. Again, referring back to my mood board, I have the freckles on my face which I utilize that had said for any stones for. I also wanted the flowers somewhere up and close to my face and really the focus being on my eyes. I really liked that with the idea of blossoming into a new season. Again, utilizing the colors of green and pink as they work really well. I hope you guys enjoyed this tutorial and I also hope that you were able to bring your own image to life as well. Go ahead and post yourself portrait in the project gallery. That way I can check it out as well as the rest of the class. [MUSIC] 10. Conclusion: [MUSIC] Congratulations, you have made it to the end. I am so proud of you all for making your way throughout this course. We learned about how vulnerability can add to your images and how you can go from being just a technical photographer to a visual storyteller. We learned how to create mood boards and gather inspiration and really place everything into one space so we can be really, really prepared for a shoot and be able to communicate the vision that we have for a shoot as well. I showed you all how I like to take my self portraits as well as how I like to bring my images to life through my editing in Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. Now, if there's one thing that I want you all to take away from this class is that presenting vulnerability and emotion in your artwork is going to help you lead to healing. When I look at my journey as a photographer and my journey through healing, essentially, self-portraiture has played a huge role in that. Like I mentioned before, I was able to take my insecurities and place them as the main components of my portraits and really forced myself to look at these things that I was insecure about and really see the beauty behind them. Now that you all have completed the class, there are a couple of things that I want you to do before you head out. The first thing is to make sure that you post your self portrait in the project gallery y'all. I want to make sure that I see yourself portrait and I went the rest of the class to get the opportunity to see them as well. If you enjoyed this class, go ahead and leave a review, share it with a friend, and make sure you go ahead and give me a follow on Skillshare so you can be notified of my next videos. Then lastly, head over to Instagram. Give me a follow on Instagram @Ohyeahitsidy. That way you can engage with some of my work. If you decide to post yourself portrait on Instagram, go ahead and use the #IdyTaughtMe, that way I can engage with their photo, share it with my audience, and I just would love to see you all over there in Instagram world. Until next time, keep practicing and shooting self portraits. Remember that this is a time for you to have that self-discovery and to really present yourself in your art. I truly hope that this class has inspired you to capture yourself and to find new ways to be vulnerable in your art. I'll see you all soon. [MUSIC]