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Thread: how to make self portraits? help!

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Edinburgh, Scotland

    how to make self portraits? help!

    I'm wondering if anyone has any advice, or experience on this: how to make self-portraits using a field camera with a little more precision than guess work and months of trial and error.

    Over the past couple of years, I've made a lot of self portraits. It's not just an ego thing (honest) it's more that I'm the most likely person around when I want to make photographs, and experiment with new ideas. With pinhole it's pretty straightforward: I can set up, then wander into frame and even if the shutter's open a little that will just vanish in an exposure of several minutes, and, like magic everything is in focus. Many hundreds of sheets of film mean I know pretty much what my favourite pinhole camera sees, and how it eats light, so I'm happy composing a shot without any viewfinder or ground glass.

    But now I'm playing with lenses, everything has become far more complicated. I could, of course, just stop down to f64 but I'd rather not.

    The picture attached is sort of a semi-self: I had a lot of help from my beloved. i.e. I set things up and, with him sitting, got things composed and focused, and then switched seats with him. He then gave me directions until I was back in the right place so my eye was sharp (and, given that this was the first time he'd really looked at an image on gg, the whole left-a-bit-right-a-bit process was, um, long-winded) and, while trying not to move at all, I then talked him through the process until the exposure was made. I think we did pretty well, as a team, but I'd rather work alone and not stretch his patience much further.

    What I'm trying to work out is how on earth I can do this on my own. The knotted string trick works for checking the point of sharp focus, but I can't figure out a way to get to that point without being in two places at once. Short of cloning, am I missing something really obvious? Any brainwaves?

    (details on this one: toyo 45cf, with a wollensak raptar 101mm, wide open at f4.5, for about half a second in window light on FP4+.)

  2. #2

    Join Date
    May 2006
    Westminster, MD

    Re: how to make self portraits? help!

    When I grow up, I want to be a photographer.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Feb 2005

    Re: how to make self portraits? help!

    I focus on a stuffed animal, then switch places and trigger the shutter with an air-release.

  4. #4
    All metric sizes to 24x30 Ole Tjugen's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2002

    Re: how to make self portraits? help!

    Long pneumatic bulb release. I think mine is 5m.

    Or make sure you have a lens in a Compur MXV shutter - the "V" is a self timer.

  5. #5

    Join Date
    May 2001

    Re: how to make self portraits? help!

    Same as Ole plus I use sometime a heavy tripod as a head position holder ( but you do not see it in the picture) like they did it in old portaitstudios.
    An much easier aproach is to take the picture of you in a mirror!
    Have fun and use Polas as testshoot!
    Armin Seeholzer

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    nuevo mexico

    Re: how to make self portraits? help!

    Kate has a lot of work on flicker.

    She is an amazing photographer!!!

  7. #7
    Donald Qualls's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    North Carolina

    Re: how to make self portraits? help!

    Another option (that may not work for you, Katie -- because it probably takes you a bit longer than the average person to get from arm's reach of the lens to a seated position where the big teddy bear was) is a self timer. Even if the lens hasn't got one built into the shutter, you can buy them that screw into the cable release socket. I've got one, and it works pretty well for doing ST shots with cameras that aren't originally equipped with an ST, or for those 50-70 year old shutters where you really don't (or shouldn't) trust the ST to actually buzz down and trip the shutter, as opposed to stopping halfway and locking the whole damned thing up, challenging you to break or bend something inside as you try to "help" the ST along...

    You can find these on eBay with great regularity; the best known name is Autoknips, but there are many others that are effectively identical, just like the ST escapement and spring from a shutter, connected to the thread end of the cable release and projecting a probe like the extending rod on a cable release, which slowly extends as the timer runs, then snaps back at the end of cycle, tripping the shutter somewhere near maximum extension. Most have an adjustable working length so you can alter how long the probe gets (if set too long, it may lock up the timer after tripping the shutter; too short, and it won't trip the shutter at all).

    Probably not as useful for those who are a little unsteady or slow on their feet as a bulb release with a long hose, but much easier to find than a bulb setup...
    If a contact print at arm's length is too small to see, you need a bigger camera. :D

  8. #8
    Vaughn's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Humboldt County, CA

    Re: how to make self portraits? help!

    I do not know how workable this would be, but how about a small mirror, precisely located on the top of the front standard?

    Some help from one's beloved, one might be able to set it up so that when one's head is square in the mirror, it would also be square in negative. Might work when combined with the knotted string and corresponding marks on the camera for the proper amount of extension of the bellows.

    A high-tech solution would be to couple a video camera with a live feed to a monitor, with the camera. The video camera could be set up next to the camera, focus both on something where you want your head to be, then position the monitor where you could see it as you pose.


  9. #9
    Moderator Ralph Barker's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 1998
    Rio Rancho, NM

    Re: how to make self portraits? help!

    I use a light stand with a "Hollywood Arm" attached to align positioning and to focus. Sitting on the posing stool, I position the tip of the arm so that it's even with my eye. Then I adjust the camera framing to match that eye position, and focus on the tip of the arm. Once back in position, I swing the arm away and use a air-bulb shutter release to fire. Various things could be used as a substitute for the Hollywood arm - it's just the positioning and swing-away capability that is helpful.

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Jul 2006

    Re: how to make self portraits? help!

    i used a mirror for a quick self-portrait. Nuisance was it was in the evening, the lens was about f/10 and the film was EI-5.... that means a long time holding the same face!

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