Today is time for a little self-portrait. A couple of days ago a received my new Canon 70-200 f/4 L IS, and I wanted to test it. I don’t have much free time now to make a session, so I decided to try it on me. Perhaps I’m not the best subject to photograph, but at least I would try it.
I’m not very proud of my self-image, and I don’t like being photographed. If I could, I would substitute my image for a grayed-shilouette, like unlocked characters in videogames. But even if you don’t like it, you are projecting your image to the world every day, all days. People will see you the way you are, so avoiding taking pictures, even if you don’t like them, is not a solution, just a way to delay the problem until the next time you get out of your house.
But I have to admit that any photographer should do self-portraying from time to time. It makes you think on what you are doing from other perspective, and you have to develop new strategies to take a good picture. Autofocus is nice until the moment when you can’t be there to press the button or, if you are there, there is nobody in the place to focus on. Some people change the tripod position to focus and afterwards change to manual. It works fine when the depth of field is large enough, but when it reduces to a few cm the method gets too imprecise for a correct measure. Eventually you manage to find a way, getting a dummy on the place and focusing on it, or just estimating the distance by trial and error. This time, I have to admit, focusing wasn’t an issue and I got the correct distance easily.
There are a few things I learnt while doing this picture:
– Working on 4.5 square meters makes you feel like in the old times when people sent ships to the moon using technology that we can now find on our watches, or when people built operative systems in 32 kb of memory. It requires a lot of optimization, especially when your main umbrella is 109 cm in diameter. Everything has to be calculated to the millimeter. You learn how to compensate lights using 2 A4 paper sheets as diffusers, and eventually to accept that those pesky shadows won’t go away no matter what you do.
– The 70-200 f/4 L IS is an exceptional lens for portraiture. Not only it doesn’t distort the image, it is really sharp and keeps the face proportions in an attractive way. The color is wonderful and focusing is precise as can be. Even for my small improvised studio the focal length wasn’t too long. I started working at 70 mm and I managed to go up to 93 mm without any problem. Of course, using a full frame sensor helps, with an APS-C sensor I would have been forced to change to another location, or change the lens.
– I hate glasses. Perhaps small low graduation glasses might be fine, but big and high graduated glasses are pure hell in photography. I don’t know how to manage them, and I would really appreciate if any professional photographer would tell me. The little bit I moved my face to any side, the distortion the glass created was so big that almost shrunk half of my face to half of its size. Too many halves for my taste. I had to keep my face perfectly aligned to the lens axis to avoid (or at least dissimulate) the distortion, what makes a boring portrait. No broad or short lightnings, no creative profiles, just boring frontal planes. Of course, the first picture is nice, but when all the good pictures you manage to get are those that seem like taken for an ID card you start thinking on how much you miss landscape photography. And of course, taking the glasses away wasn’t possible. Not only because I need them to see the result while I’m taking the pictures, but also because they are a part of me, and I wanted a portrait of my whole me (avoiding a problem doesn’t solve it). Too many restrictions make difficult pictures.
Anyway, this is the result. I won’t probably take any other picture of myself in the next months (perhaps years). But I guess it’s something you have to go through from time to time, at least as a didactic exercise, to know how it feels to be on the other side, while still keeping control on the picture. Like playing chess against yourself.