unconventional self portraits

Picking up your camera, shooting, and challenging yourself is the best way to improve your photography.  The Creativity Exercises within the Clickin Moms photography forum are a great source for finding new ways to challenge yourself.  On the first Monday of every month the wonderful Sarah Wilkerson posts a new tutorial and challenges our members to shoot with the exercise in mind.  While the exercises are ongoing, at the end of each month we choose a few images as the ‘Editors’ Choice’ and share them here with you on the blog.  How fun is that?!  Today we are sharing January’s exercise with you below!

creativity exercise | the unconventional self portrait

unconventional self portraits photo
*image by Sarah Wilkerson ‘SarahWilkerson’

In 2011, I wrote a tutorial for the CMblog that challenged you get on the other side of your camera (Because You Were There, Too: 13 Tips for Family Self Portraits). In the tutorial, we explored techniques and tips for better self portraits, how to involve your children, and more; since then, the article has been read by over 85,000 people, pinned over 49,000 times, and we at Clickin Moms have used it to challenge our members to do a monthly self portrait on the board throughout 2012 (we invite you to join us again for the monthly challenge in 2013!).

Now that you have the basics down, let’s kick off the new year with some refreshingly unconventional self portraits. One of my favorite tips from the original piece was the following:

Get a New Perspective: Set the tripod up low (kid height) so that full body shots don’t completely include the adults. Or set things up so that you’re shooting from behind. Or pull way back and get a ton of context and just let be as your family prepares breakfast in the morning or plays together in the backyard. Get creative. You don’t all have to be smiling and facing the camera.”

Here are some more unconventional ideas:

1) Off with your head: Zoom in tight and shoot just below the jawline. Feature the curve of your neck, the delicacy of the collarbone, even the femininity of the décolletage. Try bringing your hands into the frame as well, if you wish.

2) Capture the extremities: Speaking of the hands, how about making them the focus of the self portrait? Hands can reveal something about age and experience and could also be shown holding (or reaching for) something of personal value. Alternatively, can you photograph your feet? Do your shoes or your toes tell the viewer something about you? Does the ground you stand (or items on the floor) on signify something about your environment?

3) Not your average mirror pic: Instead of the mirror-at-shoulder-height half body shot (or the mirror-in-front-of-your-face selfie), angle your camera downward or upward and shoot a reflection that excludes the camera from the frame. Also, avoid making eye contact with your reflection. Either look away or look into the reflection of the lens itself.

4) Get out of focus: One of the most difficult parts of taking a self portrait (especially if you are the only one in the frame) is achieving tack sharp focus. Perhaps nearly as difficult is defocusing beautifully, but it can be a wonderful way to achieve a dreamy, ambiguous effect. One of my favorite self portraits to date involves this technique. Set your focus to manual and see how different focus settings establish different creative effects.

5) Facial details: What’s your best (or most distinctive) feature? Fantastic eyelashes? A memorable smile? A perfectly sculpted nose? A scar that tells a story? Self-shooting in macro can be particularly challenging – but also incredibly rewarding when you nail it … take the challenge, and capture yourself in the details.

6) Incorporate movement: Bringing motion (frozen movement or motion blur) into the frame can establish unexpected visual interest. Two of my all-time favorite self portraits come from CMpros Jennifer Jones and Anne Scherrer, both of whom used the motion of hair and head to bring unparalleled dynamism into the frame. How else can you incorporate motion? Let your fingers fly across piano keys, reawaken the ballet dancer of your past, run up the stairs, or simply jump….

7) The absence of you: Can you sum up who you are (or a significant aspect of yourself) without being physically present in the frame at all? Is there a spatial sanctuary in your home or yard that is very personal to you – somewhere that you can take a few moments for meditation, introspection, or escape? Does your desk, your vanity, your closet, or your kitchen represent you? Is there a collection of sentimental items, books, or some other objects that you could gather to convey something of yourself to an outside viewer? Think about what’s important to you – the values, personal characteristics, experiences, interests, and obligations that sum up who you are. How can you portray that?

editors’ choice!

unconventional self portraits photo

Congratulations to the ladies below whose photographs were selected as this month’s Editors’ Choices!

Tara Dragert ‘absolutetara’:

unconventional self portraits photo

Laura Welborn ‘laurawelborn’:

unconventional self portraits photo

Mandy Haber ‘mandyhaber’:

unconventional self portraits photo

Heather L ‘bellamontana’:

unconventional self portraits photo

Lisa Kitto ‘lisakitto’:

unconventional self portraits photo

Sarah Harrigan ‘SarahHarrigan’:

unconventional self portraits photo

Gretchen Willis ‘GretchenW’:

unconventional self portraits photo

Lisa Marsh ‘lisamarsh’:

unconventional self portraits photo

Jo Lien ‘JoLien’:

unconventional self portraits photo

Melissa Everett ‘blessedmommy3′:

unconventional self portraits photo

Tiffany Walensky ‘twalensky’:

unconventional self portraits photo

Angela ‘angbrad03′:

unconventional self portraits photo

Keely Owendoff ‘keelyo’:

unconventional self portraits photo

Lacey Butler ‘reltubl’:

unconventional self portraits photo

Sarah Mazza ‘sarahmazza’:

unconventional self portraits photo

Carol Swaitkewich ‘carolswait’:

unconventional self portraits photo

JoAnna Reynolds ‘jreynolds119′:

unconventional self portraits photo

Erin Roth ‘ejmay01′:

unconventional self portraits photo

Carrie Yuan ‘carriey’:

unconventional self portraits photo

Kori Hiser ‘Kori’:

unconventional self portraits photo

Beth ‘manicphotograph’:

unconventional self portraits photo

Kimie Pruessner ‘kimiemich’:

unconventional self portraits photo

Corinne Tristram ‘aussiet’:

unconventional self portraits photo

Alexis ‘yellowbrick’:

unconventional self portraits photo

Parikha Mehta ‘parikha’:

unconventional self portraits photo

Heather Pich ‘bart’:

unconventional self portraits photo

Heidi Golz ‘HeidiGolz’:

unconventional self portraits photo

Dina Farmer ‘dinafarmer’:

unconventional self portraits photo

Tammy ‘tammyw’:

unconventional self portraits photo

Courtney Kirkland ‘mrsckirkland’:

unconventional self portraits photo

Czarina Nocon ‘czarina’:

unconventional self portraits photo

Nikki Rainey ‘ncnc00′:

unconventional self portraits photo

Thank you to everyone who participated in the exercise!  We love seeing all the beautiful imagery!

Do you want to participate in the next Creativity Exercise?  Visit the forum here where Sarah has challenged us with the theme “Body Language“.  Don’t have a membership to Clickin Moms yet?  Head on over here to sign up!  You can still participate in this ‘Unconventional Self Portrait’ challenge by either visiting the forum here or sharing with us in the comments below.  We’d love to see your work!

Read previous creativity exercise tutorials for photographers.


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54 Responses to “unconventional self portraits”

  1. Kel Ward
    Feb 08 2013 at 1:21 pm #

    Wow. These are all absolutely beautiful beyond words. Oozing with creativity, too! Well done, ladies.

  2. Feb 08 2013 at 1:25 pm #

    These are gorgeous and inspirational! :)

  3. Feb 08 2013 at 1:29 pm #

    WOW. these are amazing!!! SOO much creativity.

  4. Feb 08 2013 at 1:30 pm #

    Incredible images!

  5. Feb 08 2013 at 1:31 pm #

    Beautiful self portraits and perspectives from all of these ladies – thank you for sharing and for all of the great creativity exercises that can be found on CM!

  6. Feb 08 2013 at 1:31 pm #

    wow! not only does clickinmoms have the most talented women, it has the most beautiful too!!

  7. Tracy Bradbury
    Feb 08 2013 at 1:32 pm #

    Wow, what incredible photos – so inspiring <3

  8. Feb 08 2013 at 1:32 pm #

    This was my favorite Creativity Exercise to date — thank you so much to everyone who contributed and for putting yourselves out there so honestly, creatively, and beautifully.

  9. Feb 08 2013 at 1:33 pm #

    Absolutely phenomenal!

  10. JenM
    Feb 08 2013 at 1:33 pm #

    Incredibly gorgeous shots!!!! Loved them all!

  11. Mabel
    Feb 08 2013 at 1:35 pm #

    Awesome job everyone! Such creativity.

  12. Feb 08 2013 at 1:36 pm #

    great job these are amazing!

  13. Feb 08 2013 at 1:41 pm #

    Awesome, incredible, beautiful & gorgeous! And so creative! Love them ALL!!

  14. Feb 08 2013 at 2:02 pm #

    Wow wow wow!! I am speechless!! These are amazing!!!!!!!

  15. Feb 08 2013 at 2:02 pm #

    there is so much beauty + power here!!! just, wow.

  16. Ashley
    Feb 08 2013 at 2:05 pm #

    Such beautiful images!

  17. Feb 08 2013 at 2:17 pm #

    These are so stunning!

  18. Feb 08 2013 at 2:18 pm #

    Tammy, you got it girl! Funny and full of life . Just how life should be. Tragic comedies. I just loved it! As my litlle girl says ” Fantasticular” . Its hair new combine word…:)

  19. Feb 08 2013 at 2:26 pm #

    beautiful images! once again, i consider myself incredibly lucky to be surrounded (virtually) by such amazing women! you all continue to inspire me on a daily basis!

  20. Feb 08 2013 at 2:38 pm #

    Absolutely beautiful.

  21. Feb 08 2013 at 2:38 pm #

    What an amazing group of images. Beautiful ladies! :)

  22. Feb 08 2013 at 3:03 pm #

    Beautiful images!! Beautiful mamas too :)

  23. Feb 08 2013 at 3:08 pm #

    Stunning!! This might be my favorite grouping of images thus far. Absolutely love each and every image. <3

  24. elaina mortali
    Feb 08 2013 at 3:37 pm #

    so in love with these all!!!! amazing ladies! thank you for sharing.

  25. Nichole
    Feb 08 2013 at 4:32 pm #

    These were really amazing to see! and I loved this challenge. It got me to actually start to try some self portraits so thanks so much.

  26. Jess H
    Feb 08 2013 at 4:33 pm #

    Love, love, love ALL of these! So many talented and amazing ladies on CM! <3

  27. Feb 08 2013 at 5:11 pm #

    Wow! Congratulations ladies amazing images

  28. Feb 08 2013 at 5:46 pm #

    These are all so beautiful and amazing!! Great work ladies! <3

  29. Kristin Dokoza
    Feb 08 2013 at 7:44 pm #

    Just gorgeous images!

  30. Feb 08 2013 at 11:32 pm #

    So many moving and beautiful images!!

  31. Feb 09 2013 at 1:28 am #

    Beautiful images ladies! Amazing!

  32. Feb 09 2013 at 2:41 am #

    Incredibly incredibly beautiful.

  33. Feb 09 2013 at 8:24 am #

    I’m amazed by the creativity here!! Beautiful, beautiful work ladies! <3

  34. Feb 09 2013 at 9:52 am #

    love all of these! Great creativity with all of them!Beautiful ladies!

  35. Feb 09 2013 at 4:49 pm #

    Wow! What a fabulous, creative collection of shots! Well done, ladies!

  36. Feb 10 2013 at 10:58 am #

    These had me in tears. Such beautiful images and beautiful women.

  37. Feb 10 2013 at 12:40 pm #

    I loved, loved, loved this exercise! The pictures and stories behind each were so amazing. Congrats to all of those chosen! I don’t envy those who had to narrow down the choices. Great job Clickin Moms!

  38. Feb 10 2013 at 12:46 pm #

    Such amazing talent and creativity here! Gorgeous work by our CM members!

  39. Meredith R.
    Feb 11 2013 at 12:55 pm #

    I don’t know how I missed some those! All incredibly beautiful and what a fantastic exercise.

  40. Feb 12 2013 at 5:20 am #

    WOW – You have totally inspired me to take a self-portrait – something I have never done before! Some truly gorgeous and creative images here.

  41. Feb 13 2013 at 9:46 am #

    these are wonderful! It is sooooo hard to get on the other side of the camera! I just may have been inspired to give it a try. Thank you

  42. Feb 13 2013 at 11:18 am #

    what beautiful women are featured here in these images… i am inspired by your creativity and the way you expressed yourselves through your self-portraits.

  43. Mara
    Feb 17 2013 at 9:36 am #

    These are truly art – every single one! I am truly in awe at the talent, creativity, and raw honesty of the women featured here!

  44. Mar 04 2013 at 10:33 am #

    Lovelies, all ~ inspiriing

  45. Mar 04 2013 at 10:53 am #

    oh my gosh these are amazing selfies WOW! i could have never pulled those off!

  46. Karen
    Mar 11 2014 at 4:57 pm #

    These are amazing!


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