Everybody who has a camera, even a tiny cell phone camera can do a self-portrait. Just hold it out far enough, if it has a lens that will focus close enough, and snap. The results may be soft and fuzzy because it really couldn't focus that close. Or it could be blurry because it didn't have enough light to overcome the natural body shake we all have.
The picture could be dim and the lighting, such as it is, could give everything a warm amber glow or a ghoulish green tone. All this and more can be seen on amateur model profiles throughout the Jurgita website.
Really, kids, is this the best you can do?
It is possible to do better, even with the most basic of camera equipment and a couple of simple steps in a photo-editing program, which we'll address in a later article.
The first thing to do is to run through the menu of your camera. I'm assuming that none of you will be using film. There will probably be a setting for picture quality and size. Select the largest size and the best quality.
You won't be able to take a jillion images while you are on this setting, but we want quality rather than quantity.
Next, find the flash controls and run through the options available for flash. If you are going to be shooting yourself in a mirror or by a very light wall, you will need to turn the flash off. But going through these controls will help you to understand your camera better. Check also if your menu allows for ISO changes or exposure controls. Review our other photography articles on the use of these controls.
The lovely thing about digital photography is that you can instantly review what you shoot and use that information to correct for the next shot. I suggest that you not delete your bad shots until you are satisfied with the results of your work. This allows you to review what you've done in the order in which you did it, so you can eliminate repeating your mistakes. You might also find it is easier to see the problems and catch one of those lucky accidental good images amid the dross if you download the whole series of shots to a computer and review the images on the big screen.
Go ahead, take a few shots of something, even yourself in a mirror, while trying the different flash settings and quality sizes.
You may have found how difficult it is to get something good in a mirror while holding the camera. If my own self-portrait doesn't convince you, there may be no hope.
Better to find a way to stabilize your camera using a tripod or something like a chair, stool, table, stack of books to get your camera to a level just above where your eyes will be when you get ready to do your shot.
Find a plain, but not stark white background or simple leafy green shrubbery. Put something to represent yourself about a meter in front of the background. It can be a step ladder, a long broom, a lamp, a melon on a stick, as long as it has a spot you can use as a framing and focusing point at the same level as your head will be when you pose. Then, using the viewfinder of the camera, with your lens extended to the telephoto setting (if available), move backward until you have eliminated all the background you can and the sides of the viewfinder frame just contain the object representing your head. Make sure you are using the vertical aspect, meaning for most of you that you hold the camera sideways.
Put the camera down at that spot. Bring your support items--Use tripod if possible, but other items, even another step ladder, will work. Replace your camera on the support using a bean bag or sand bag or a folded jacket to stabilize the camera (excepting the tripod, of course). Hopefully, you will have the camera just slightly higher that the object you are using as a target. Looking through the viewfinder or on the review screen adjust the camera angle until your target is centered.
Your camera may have come with a remote control or it may have a self-timer setting. With a remote control, you'll have a menu setting to tell the camera to receive the signal. You keep the remote in your hand and trigger it when you are ready to do the picture. Generally, you'll have to use the self-timer. It may have one or two delay settings, probably two and ten seconds. Choose the longer time.
Remove your target item so you can occupy the space it was in without delay. Go to you camera and, making sure everything is still in place, press the shutter button. Return to your posing spot, counting to yourself, "one thousand-one, one thousand-two...," because when you reach "one thousand-ten" the shutter is going to fire and you need to be composed and have your smile or your "model" look ready.
If you are in bright light or outdoors, the shutter will be very quick. Less light or indoors with lower light, the shutter may open for a longer period of time--to be sure, just hold that pose for a couple of more seconds.
Outdoors you should try to set everything up so the sun is behind the camera or, if it is in the shade, that you have the fill-flash setting selected on the camera.
Now, you can go review your shot. Is it too tight? Remember I had you select your camera's telephoto setting. You can use your zoom control to go slightly--very slightly--wider. Then repeat your shots until you have results that you think you can use.
Once you are used to this routine, you can set up many shots, including full length verticals and horizontals (if you will be reclining on the grass or a couch or bed). You can place a large mirror by the camera so you can see your own pose.
If you do this indoors, remember to avoid using the flash to prevent redeye and/or harsh shadows. Turn on all your lights in a room, move lamps to either side of the camera, change to UV or natural light bulbs, if possible and you'll get better results.
Don't be afraid to experiment. You could come up with results as good as mine from my student days.