Making A Self-Portrait In An Hour

I set myself a challenge today – to try and create a self-portrait in an hour. This is something I’d never attempted to do before, nor even thought about doing prior to this morning.

Considering I can sometimes take the best part of a day to create a single portrait that I’m happy with, creating one in an hour felt like an ambitious and somewhat foolhardy endeavor. And, unsurprisingly, it didn’t go exactly to plan.

Getting Ready

With the objective of creating a portrait of myself reflected in a piece of broken mirror, I made a board on Pinterest while I was having my breakfast, and spent about five minutes filling it with inspiring photographs. Any longer than that, and I think I would have started to feel overwhelmed by all the options of what I could try and do.

I then found an old compact mirror, and (carefully) broke it. I wiped it clean of smudges and stuck it to my wall. Then I set my camera on its tripod, checked the camera settings, switched on my softboxes (remembering to switch OFF my bedroom light) and readied myself.

*I’m still learning which camera settings are best for the lighting I’m using. Today I wasn’t very happy with my judgement of what the settings should be, but my disappointment is spurring me on to improve, rather than leaving me thinking ‘I’m shit at this, I shouldn’t bother.’

The Shoot

20 Minutes.

I was fizzing with excitement when I set my timer for twenty minutes. I had a vague idea of how I was going to achieve the shot I wanted, but quickly realized I should have practiced beforehand (or at least tried to find a YouTube video on what I was doing) because it’s extremely fucking tricky trying to get a photograph of yourself in a shard of glass.

Fourteen minutes were spent trying to get the shot. After not being able to get a single good photo, and with time rapidly running out, I changed tactic. I decided to abandon the broken piece of mirror, pulled on a wig and grabbed the mirror I’ve been using in my most recent photographs. Using said mirror and with the six remaining minutes, I managed to get a shot that ‘would do.’

Choosing & Editing Photos

40 Minutes.

After choosing my photo, I opened it up in Photoshop and blacked out my eyes using the brush tool. I added motion blur, and then, using the history brush, removed most of the blur. Then I transferred my image onto a vintage overlay and played with the opacity until I was happy with the result. Next, I tweaked the curves and lines. Feeling sort of alright with what I’d done, I saved the photo onto my desktop and opened it in Lightroom. In Lightroom I increased the clarity and put a matte filter on the top. And that was that.

*After editing, I realized there was makeup on my lips and that I hadn’t removed enough blur from the nose of the Katie in the foreground. Live and learn (she says with an exasperated sigh.)

What I’m Taking Away From This Experience

This challenge wasn’t easy, nor was it the most fun I’ve ever had taking photographs. Far from it in fact. I’m not looking at this photo and thinking ‘I’m proud of this….’ because there’s so many little things I could have done to make it much more effective.

However, I am proud that I did the challenge on a whim, and I am proud that I’m sharing a photograph with you that I’m not entirely happy with. Despite everything, I think I’ll do this again. It could be interesting to do this challenge, say, once a week, and then, in a years time, look at the ways in which I’ve been able to develop my craft. It’s quite thrilling to think ahead twelve months, and to what I could potentially be creating in sixty minutes.

What I Was Listening To While Writing This Post

Blizzard Storm Sounds

5 thoughts on “Making A Self-Portrait In An Hour”

  1. The blur effect on the left face to me is especially effective. But I think the second face is needed to say, again to me, there are choices. Life is more than an instant, even when depicted in a photograph. And I agree with the response above. It counts so much your deciding on a project and then setting doable if dramatic parameters. And everything is realized. As for perfectionism, yeah, not a helpful standard. We’re not perfect. You work hard at your craft, and what you express is excellent. And it reaches.

  2. I think what’s amazing here (and there’s so much, really, but this is the thing that stands out) is that you set a task for yourself, you jumped in, realized what might possibly overwhelm you, took yourself past that, started the process, realize what wasn’t working (or if not exactly “what”, at least that “something” wasn’t) switched gears, adapted, moved forward, and did the thing. You DID THE THING, KATIE! That’s always amazing, even if it’s not perfect.

    In the doing of things, and especially the everyday doing of things, it’s so vital to be able to say “this isn’t working the way I envisioned it, but I know I can make it work *some way*. I think that practicing that sort of flexibility and adaptability and always learning, changing, evolving your mindset and your vision is so much better for us than perfection. Which is easy to say, I guess. I mean…I want things to be perfect too! So I guess I really just typed all that out for the both of us 🙂

    1. Everything you’ve said here is so damn precious. I feel as though you’ve handed me a lantern and illuminated my world. Thank you. I’ve been in a battle with perfectionism for far too long. It has to end. Your words are getting copied down and saved. X

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