Gilmar Smith: Getting Creative with Self-Portraits & My Platypod Ultra for 'Girls Night Out'!

  Pictured: In this 'Girls Night Out' themed image, photographer Gilmar Smith gets creative with some low-angle shots using a Platypod Ultra.

Pictured: In this 'Girls Night Out' themed image, photographer Gilmar Smith gets creative with some low-angle shots using a Platypod Ultra.

My mission here is to take my Platypod to territories it's never been before, and I may have taken it too far this time! I know, I know; you may be wondering how, and most importantly, why I took this picture. But, before we go into that, let me tell you a little bit about my journey into photography.

I got into photography at the end of 2011 and fell completely in love with it. I experimented with every photography genre there is. I got into long exposures, macro, and I even worked with a Motorsport team for a while. That was pretty cool!

But, my calling has always been photographing people. Now, the problem is, when you are starting out in photography, people are not too willing to sit and let you shoot their face all day. So, when I got my lights, I set up a home studio in my garage, and since the only model available was me, I started taking self portraits.

Some people say that self portraits are narcissistic and silly. However, if those people knew all the things that I've been through (and made it through!) simply by dedicating some quality time to my craft, they might certainly change that point of view. 

Here's Why Self-Portraiture Will Improve Your Craft

I know you're probably wondering how and why a potty is involved in this picture, but first, I am going to talk about the ways that self portraiture can help improve your craft.

  • Your model is always available! First off, you will always have your model available, right? Of course you are, because that's you! And by always having a model available, you're able to practice your craft and creativity a lot more.

  • You get to practice relaxation techniques. The first time you sit in front of your camera, you will feel uncomfortable, which is exactly how all your subjects feel when they first take a seat. By finding a way to relax, you will be able to share those techniques with future subjects.

  • Practice makes perfect. Take your time to test your light setups. You never want to go on a shoot and do this with your clients, if at all possible. Getting the lights right up at home ensures you show up to your shoot like a real pro.

  • You get to be creative and be free! There's nothing more magical than having total control of what you do, especially when you're doing something artistic. Don't be scared do it all -- be silly, be dark, be innovative. You can take those creative reigns more easily with nobody watching!

  • Most importantly, you get to really express yourself. Just two years ago, I lost my fiancé. While I was grieving, I was able to sit in front of my camera for a series of very raw, very emotional self-portraits. Those shoots were extremely cathartic. That's what art does for many of us; it helps us heal our souls.

So, what gear do you need to shoot self-portraits? You will need a wireless remote and, of course, your pretty face! If you want to take things a step further, I recommend investing in a tethering cable so that you can shoot tethered to see the images you're capturing. I always also recommend experimenting with different angles, which I'm always able to do with my Platypod Ultra. (In this shoot, I experimented with some cool low-angle shots, which Platypod Ultra really helped me achieve.)

About the Picture

Now, let's talk about this picture. First of all, don't try this at home, at least not in your potty! Since I'm always trying to find new ways to use my Playpod, I remembered that I had a brand-new toilet seat in my garage, and this picture immediately came to mind. Who else is going to think about using a toilet seat as a prop? Me, of course! 

Although my social-media life is always on fire, in real life, my life is pretty lame and lonely.  So, I called up my three best friends to help me out with this self-portrait -- me, myself and I and went ahead and set up the gear for this shoot.

As you can see above, there's nothing fancy here -- a side table to hold the seat, some tiles to balance it, my camera on my Platypod Ultra to get my perfect low-angle shot, my lights, and my computer since I was shooting tethered. 

My concept for this shot was 'Wild Girl's Night Out' and how different girls behave so differently on those nights. For this shoot, I had to change my clothes a few times and do little changes to my make up to portray each one of my characters.

I masked all of these images together in Photoshop, did a little bit of dodge and burn, added contrast, sharpening and exposure adjustments and I was done!

Gilmar Smith is an Orlando-based photographer, content creator, Photoshop addict & social media junkie! Visit her at gilmarphotography.com and be sure to follow her on Instagram

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