Creative Self Portrait Photography: Going Beyond the Selfie | Lindsay Crandall | Skillshare

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Creative Self Portrait Photography: Going Beyond the Selfie

teacher avatar Lindsay Crandall, word lover • light chaser • daydreamer

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

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Your Assignment: The Faceless Self Portrait


    • 3.

      Your Assignment: Photos to Recreate


    • 4.

      Finding Inspiration


    • 5.

      Shooting from Above


    • 6.

      Including Two Hands


    • 7.

      Turning Away from the Camera


    • 8.

      Creativity, Lighting, and Editing


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About This Class

Join photographer Lindsay Crandall as she shows you how she approaches creative self portraits and beautiful, ordinary moments. In this twenty minute class, you will learn how to create a story through your photography, the importance of light and shadows, and how to shoot self portraits with your smartphone. With inspiration and insight, Lindsay gives you a peek into how she works and why she believes we should all be capturing the beauty that lies within each of us. 


Class Outline

  • Creative self-portraiture. Lindsay works with creative self-portraiture to explore light and composition to better relate to her subjects and to push her photography to the next level. In this class, you’ll learn about Lindsay’s approach to creating professional portraits, and you will develop your work along with hers!
  • Creating a self-portrait. You will create three fun, easy, faceless self-portraits as you move through Lindsay’s class. The first will be taken from a bird’s eye view, the second will incorporate your hands, and the third will showcase your head, but not your facial expression. With these three assignments, you’ll learn to tell your story with body language, details, and props. Because photography lighting techniques are so important to practice, you’ll also be asked to take your portrait using a single source of direct, natural light. At the end of the class, you’ll be encouraged to upload your work for Lindsay’s review, feedback, and insight into your creative process.
  • Using references and inspiration. Lindsay will share examples of studio portraits and other images that she has created to encourage your photography before you begin to shoot. She will walk you through what makes each image effective, and will touch on how to see color, background, and lighting for photography inspiration. Before encouraging you to create your own self-portraits, Lindsay will recreate three examples to give you a sense of how she approaches her work playfully and without pressure.
  • Honing observational skills. You’ll hone your artistic eye as Lindsay discusses the ways that she pays attention to light, shadows, and beautiful everyday moments. She will explore how photography has changed her self-perception, and encouraged her to accept her flaws and idiosyncrasies.
  • Working with iPhone cameras. You won’t need a professional camera or studio lighting setup to enjoy Lindsay’s class. She’ll teach you how to take beautiful photographs using only natural light, household items, and a simple camera phone. Even if you have very little photography experience, with the help of Lindsay’s class, you’ll be on your way to creating more beautiful, artistic images in no time!
  • Developing an artistic process. Lindsay discusses the way that she approaches every shoot, how she styles scenes to tell different stories, and the angles she relies on to create compelling compositions. You’ll learn how she keeps her artistic process simple and efficient, and the tricks she depends on to give her photographs more life.
  • Relying on timers and technology. You’ll learn Lindsay’s tips for working with your camera phone’s timer, useful timer mobile applications, and her suggestions for portable tripods to depend on when you set up your photographs. She will also touch on ways to keep your self-portraits relaxed, including different ways to position your body to get a natural-looking result.
  • Lighting and editing. Lindsay will talk you through the considerations she makes when she is taking self-portraits, including the secret shooting techniques that she uses to for keep her image processing work easier and more efficient. She will touch on the editing software that she relies on, including mobile applications, to keep your work polished and professional-looking.

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Lindsay Crandall

word lover • light chaser • daydreamer


Lindsay Crandall is a photographer and writer living in Upstate New York, with her husband and two kids. More often than not, you'll find her with a book or camera in her hand (and sometimes a glass of red wine). She is a collector of moments, a lover of light, a daydreamer, and a goal setter.

Learn more about her on her blog or follow her on Instagram.

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1. Introduction: Hi. My name is Lindsay Crandall. I'm a photographer in upstate New York. I do portrait photography and I also love to instill one. I loved taking creative self portraits. I think that it's really fun and interesting to turn the camera around at myself, and it gives me so much to learn in terms of relating to my subjects that I take photographs of that I can really exercise some empathy for people who are on the other side of the camera, and I'm usually behind it. It also gives me a chance to learn some things about light and composition and posing that I think are interesting and push me into the next place with time to time. I feel like taking creative self portraits are really important, and one thing that I really loved is faceless portraits. I take a lot of faceless portraits when I am shooting people. I feel like they're really interesting because they're all about the details. They just be a picture of the hand or of shoulder. It gives you more of the essence of who the person is instead of giving you the whole picture. You can't really rely on facial expressions. You have to consider more about body language and creating a story when you can't rely on what the person space is like. I just think that that's really used. In this class we're going to be talking about creative self portraits and focusing on taking some faceless self portraits, and I'm going to walk you through the process of how I create that, a little bit of how I work. We're going to take pictures with iPhone, and so you're already getting ready to upload those pictures to your social media, or you could just use this as an opportunity to create and explore and play a little bit and learn a couple of things. Every time I take your self portraits, I always learn something. I always seek out something else that I can learn and explore. Should be a fun time, and I'm really excited to get started. 2. Your Assignment: The Faceless Self Portrait: Your assignment for this class is going to be to take faceless self portrait. I chose faceless self portraits because I really do love exploring the details of what makes up a person and the parts of the whole. Really the details offer more of the story, the essence, the mood that you're trying to evoke. We're really going to focus on details and finding those details, and choosing what you want to include, since you will be able to rely on things like your facial expression. I also want you to focus on story. Your picture should really be telling some sort of a story that doesn't have to be anything complicated, it could be very simple. Having a cup of coffee or reading a book. A lot of times I'll use props when I do my creative self portraits, I feel like props really add to the story and that's not required but I do suggest that maybe you consider some things that you might want to add to the story. Another thing I want you to focus on is light, and really utilizing natural light. That's going to mean turning off all the artificial lights that are in your house and making sure that your camera flash is turned off and you want to look for natural light and a nice big window will do. You want that nice soft light that comes through, something that's really flattering and not harsh. What you need for this class is a camera. I'm going to be shooting with my iPhone, you could use whatever you have at hand, DSLR, point-and-shoot, or smartphone just as long as you can digitally upload the project so that I can see what you've created. I do want you to pick a word or two that's going to help describe and set the scene for your photograph. I've included on the PDF, that's in the class, some suggestions of words, but you really need to think about whether you want your photo to be more moody, or if you want it to be more playful, more joyful, or more quiet and serene. You need to pick a word or two that's going to help guide the photographs that you're going to take. But really the most important thing here is to have fun and try to relax. This shouldn't take a whole lot of time, really what I want you to focus on is having a good time and just try to have some fun, take some beautiful photographs. 3. Your Assignment: Photos to Recreate: So in this class we're going to be creating three different faceless self-portraits and I do have some parameters for how we're going to go about doing that. I have some examples of photos that I've already taken that we're going to look at just to give us an idea of what we're going to be doing as we create our self-portraits. In the first one, you can see that this is a shot from above and I'm holding onto the coffee cups. So you see my hand and that's all that it is but it's really about the story of sitting at the table. It's about the difference between the white background and the colors that are on the petals. So you really get the sense of color that's coming through this photograph and there's a lot going on in terms of the light and dark. You see that from the left-hand side, the light sources coming through very softly but as we go towards the right-hand side, there's much more of a shadow and what we're going to be doing in the first photograph is taking a photo from above just the same as this one is. So it could be sitting at a table, it could be standing but it's going to be with you holding the camera up above and taking a picture at what's below. 4. Finding Inspiration: I love the Dorothea Lange quote where she says "A camera is a tool for learning to see without a camera." I feel like learning photography has really taught me to be observant and really to see what's going on around me. It has made made so in love with lights and really looking for lights, and shadows, and how I can push that a little bit further. It also made me think very differently about just ordinary beautiful moments. Something so simple like a cup of tea or just a quiet moment can really be beautiful and it's very easily overlooked. I feel like taking a photograph that really teaches me to pay attention. I also feel like photography has taught me to see myself differently and I really do love taking self portraits. I'm able to see myself in a completely different way and I feel like it's really great. It's great to be able to see myself for who I really am and to accept my flaws and to accept my beauty. I feel like it just makes such a huge difference in my life. I feel like now we all are walking around with these little phones and they have cameras on them and it gives us an opportunity to be more observant. It gives us an opportunity to see something and to create beauty and to capture the beauty that's around us. I think that's such a wonderful gift. 5. Shooting from Above: As you can see, I've already set up my scene, and I'm doing this right in my dining room. I've taken the table from the middle of the room and pushed it up against the door. I also made sure that this curtain panel is still closed because I want to make sure that we have one strong light source. This is making sure that there's no light coming from the other door since these are French doors. This is really great, it's a nice strong light source, but soft. As you can see, it's much brighter on this side of the table, and then we work our way into more and more shadow as we get away from the window, which is something that I think is going to create some interest in the actual scene as we go about taking these photographs. For your assignment, I asked you to choose a word or words that are going to help set the mood and the tone for your photographs. The word that I've chosen is, peaceful, and the story is really about a quiet time having a cup of tea, just a couple moments of peace. You need to make sure that you think about what word you are going to choose and how that's going to influence your setup. When I shoot with my iPhone, I like to use the in-house camera, and I always put it on square because then it's really easy to get a sense of how things are going to look especially because I like to upload directly to Instagram, which is in a square format already, then I don't have to do any cropping or anything afterwards. I ended up moving the flowers out of the way because the height difference between what's already on the table and the flowers, it wasn't really making sense for the story. I try to make sure that I'm looking at the scene from up above and how it actually looks because it does look different in that camera, and it already looks different in the phone than it does on the actual table. A lot of times things will need to be moved around a little bit. What I do find happens when I'm creating a scene is that things tend to need to be a little bit tighter. I'll just slide everything a little bit closer together. Like I said before, I want to try to make sure that the tea cup is really going to be a perfect circle. I don't mind that there's a little bit more distortion that happens like over on the teapot or on these little guys that are right here, but I want make sure that this is going to be a circle. Just looking at this, I think this looks pretty good. What I want to do is get the exposure where I want it to be. It already looks pretty well exposed, the brights aren't too bright, the darks aren't too dark, so I'm just going to tap on the middle and hold it to make sure that it locks. If you hold it for three seconds, the exposure and the focus will both lock for you. That way, you don't have to keep worrying about it changing. What I'm going to do is I'm going to sit down because there is a big difference when you're holding onto a coffee cup or a tea cup between how your hand looks when you're standing and how it looks when you're sitting. Now that I have my focus setup and I know where I'm going to put my hand, I'm going to try to keep the phone up here and again parallel with the table, and I'm going to just hold onto the cup, and take my shot. There we have it. Our first shot up above. 6. Including Two Hands: The next photo that we're going to take is going to include both of your hands, and that's going to require you to use the timer on your cellphone. If you have an iPhone 5 or newer, you should be able to use the timer that's in the in-house camera. But if for some reason you don't like that or you have an older phone, you can always use the timer cam app and that can give you up to 30 seconds of timer. Today, we're just going to use the in-house camera and the self timer that's already in there. We're also going to be using this GorillaPod, which is a little tripod for your cell phone. These are really great because you can do all sorts of things, repositioning the legs or wrapping them around things. It's a really handy little thing to have. What I'm going to do is, I'm going to get my phone right in here and I'm going to set it up with the rear-facing camera. So the photo that I want to take is of my hands on the cup and I want to make sure that both of my hands are going to be in the photo. I am also okay with the bottom of my face being in the photograph, but I definitely don't want my eyes. I'm just going to reposition this using the rear-facing camera that's on the front of the phone to figure out exactly where I need to position this. Basically, what I'm going for is having the cup be directly in the center of the photograph. Again, you can see the middle of my body here, you can seen a little bit of the background. I would suggest that you think about your background and if that contributes to your story or not. Usually, a very simple background, even if you have to move things around, makes for better photographs. Don't feel like this has to be an accurate representation of real life in your home or wherever you're shooting. If you need to move things out of the way, you definitely should do that. Now that I have a sense of what I want the photograph to look like, I'm going to turn the camera around and have it used the rear-facing and then I'm going to set the timer and come back over here and sit down and take my photograph. Now that I have my teacup where I want it to be and I have a sense of what the photographs can look like, I'm just going to tap on that to bring the exposure down and I'm going to lock it. There we go. I'm going to turn on the timer for 10 seconds so that I have time to get around to the other side of the table and go ahead and press that. One thing that you want to be mindful of is what your body looks like in this photograph because there's going to be so much more of your body. You want to make sure your shoulders are relaxed and that your chin is relaxed. I tend to tense up in the chin when I'm feeling frustrated or stressed out. So just try to remember those things and I'm sure you'll end up with a beautiful photograph. 7. Turning Away from the Camera: For the third photo that we're going to take, we want to include the head but not the face. This is going to be a lot more of the body, and we're going to recreate the picture of me sitting at the table looking out the window. What I want to do here with this is setup my scene. Again, I'm going to bring the flowers back so that it doesn't I feel like looking from the side. The height doesn't matter so much in that it might add a little bit more texture to the story. I'm just going to set this up a little bit, so it looks natural if I was actually having some tea. I have the GorillaPod setup over here with my camera, I can come over here and just take a look at how that looks, if there's anything that I need to adjust. It looks pretty dark, but that's okay. I like the light and the dark, but I'm just going to tap around and take a look at where I think the exposure is best, because the lighter that the photograph is, the more you lose detail in the windows. Which can be a nice effect, instead of how I have it exposed now, you can see the house behind my house. What I want to do is just tap around to figure out where I want to continue to have those lights and shadows, but where I want to lose a little bit more of the detail in the actual windows. I'm just going to tap right here, and that's focusing on the teacup. Which again is going to be where my hands are, and where I'm actually going to be sitting, and I like where the focus is with that. This time I'm going to end up putting it on 10 seconds, and I'm going to go ahead. Everything looks good, I'm going to push the button, sit down. Take a look, and everything looks great. A couple of things to keep in mind when you're taking this photograph, especially if you're going to shoot into the light it's going to create a lot of lights and darks. You want to make sure that you get a good exposure somewhere in the middle, but you don't want to lose your darks especially. I love photos that have a lot of really deep shadows. Again, just make sure that your posture is more relaxed. Sometimes it can take a little guess and check where you're running back and forth from the camera to the scene, but just try to be mindful to relax your body. Sometimes you can end up running back and forth from the camera to the scene, doing a couple different takes. You don't want to tense up, you want to make sure that your body is nice and relaxed just to create that mood in your story. Be mindful of that and have fun. 8. Creativity, Lighting, and Editing: So now that you've had an opportunity to see a little bit about how I create my self portraits and how I work, you're ready to go take your own creative self portraits. I know that can be a little daunting and maybe a little uncomfortable to turn the camera around on yourself but I think it's definitely worthwhile and it will teach you a lot about thinking outside of the box and thinking about story, thinking about light. I really want to encourage you to think about the light and to really have a strong light source, something that's soft and beautiful, but where you can really direct and channel the light and where it's going, and I would encourage you as you take your photographs to go darker because when you are doing your post-processing, if you're going to edit your pictures, it's much easier to bring up the exposure than it is to pull it back down so you can always vamp it up a little bit. If you use VSCO Cam or any other editing software on your phone, you can pull that exposure up and you can play around with it a little bit but it's much easier with a darker photograph. Again, the most important thing here is to have fun and to experiment and to not feel so self-conscious. Just relax, make sure your body's relaxed, think creatively and I can't wait to see what you come up with and see the projects that you share on Skillshare. Thanks so much.