Earlier this year, before wedding season kicked off, I was feeling the need to warm up my creative muscles. So, I decided to start some kind of personal photo project that would get me using my camera for more than just client shoots. This has been something I’ve struggled with for the past four years and I knew it was time to start pushing myself creatively.
I’m a photographer of people. It’s what I’m into. So, I knew I wasn’t going to focus on landscapes or inanimate objects – there needed to be at least one person in every photo I took. And, while I love street photography, the idea of being a street photographer on a constant basis just stresses me out.
Which is why I used the one person that is always available on my schedule – myself. All of the photos I took and have been taking for this project are self-portraits. I throw my camera on a tripod and set the self-timer.
I’ve been blogging each image on my Tumblr page, This Dear Heart. If you’re interested, I’d love it if you followed me there. I started off posting a photo a day, but after a 60-day streak it began to feel like a chore, so now I’m only taking and posting photos when I feel inspired to do so. I plan to continue the project into March of next year, to make it one full year.
Before I started the project, I set up two ground rules for myself:
1. All photos had to be taken outside of my house. If I was going to do this, I wanted to make sure I got out and explored the world around me.
2. I would post one photo a day. Sometimes I take a picture a day. Sometimes I get inspired and take six pictures in a day. As I mentioned before, this is no longer one of the rules, but I’m proud of my 60-day streak!
These photos are not about how I look, or what I’m wearing. I’m not a model or a fashionista, and I’m not pretending to be. These photos are about pushing myself creatively. They’re about pushing me out of my comfort zone. They’re about getting myself to think about composition in a different way. They’re about getting myself out of the damn house every once in a while for something other than running errands or shooting an engagement session or wedding. I’ve started off somewhat standard so far but I have some cool ideas, I think, and I’m excited to stumble across the perfect locations and find the perfect light to try those ideas out.
I’ve been surprised at what’s come out of it so far. For instance, I didn’t anticipate that taking these photos and being on the other side of my camera so much more than usual would help me feel a bit more comfortable in my own skin. I rarely have a camera pointed at my face, and when I do, I usually turn into an awkward mess of a person who contorts her face and shuffles her feet, trying desperately to look normal, but failing. Don’t get me wrong, I still do that, especially when someone is watching me take these self-portraits, which has happened a few times already. But the awkwardness is quicker to dissipate now, and I’m hoping eventually I’ll be super comfortable in front of a camera. If only because it might help me offer up some tips to my clients who are painfully awkward in front of a camera as well.
I also didn’t expect to enjoy taking these photos as much as I do. When I’m by myself setting these shots up, I have great music playing loudly and I’m not thinking about anything else. Normally, I’m not great at living in the moment, but I’ve noticed that when I’m in self-portrait mode, I’m really enjoying the process and not thinking about things that might otherwise be weighing my mind down. It’s really nice and I’ve come to crave those moments.
I hope you enjoy the project as much as I enjoy creating these images. I sometimes feel a little self-conscious that people might view it as narcissistic or silly, but it’s really helped fulfill me creatively and I hope it encourages others to get in front of the camera more. Again, please feel free to follow along!