Are self-portraits the new selfie?


I have to admit I may be a little of a selfie addict. And there are a lot of us. They've made life easier and certainly more fun too. We've been able to capture ourselves on the go and on every other second of the year with more and more clarity (or filtered brilliance) as the front-facing cameras that come with our smartphones get more high tech.

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So why consider taking self-portraits if selfies seemingly achieve the same goal much faster and easier?

Well there might be more to self-portraits than you would have thought.

Wikipedia defines a self-portrait as a representation of an artist that is either drawn, painted, photographed, or sculpted by that artist. Simple enough. It's how an artist decides to capture themselves or rather portray themselves. So a selfie could be a self-portrait but a self-portrait is not necessarily a selfie?

What's the difference? I haven't been able to find a definitive answer. But... maybe it's about the intention behind it. What you're trying to represent and how it is created to be read.

Ultimately selfies are easier to capture and not much thought goes into them - all you have to do is take out your smartphone and take a snap. Selfies are a documentation of continuous moments.

Self-portraits to me on the other hand, are more inspired, they are a narrative and more thought and work is required to make them successful. They require your creativity, your emotions and more of your time. 

It's this interesting Twitter thread started by U.S.-based Twitter user Amina McKenzie that had inspired me to ponder about the subject and get creative. At the base of her interpretation of a self-portrait is losing that smartphone and selfie stick and employing more skill and context with a camera.

Amina McKenzie asked people to share their favourite self-portraits and many started sharing theirs while offering each other tips and tricks to keep in a mind for their next shoot. 

So what about us amateur photographers? Where do you even start when taking a self-portrait. You start by understanding why people take them and what the experience means.

Khalipha Ntloko is a South African amateur photographer. She says to her self-portraits are about capturing your essence, your emotions and lived experience in a moment. Khalipha titled her self-portait series, "A Flower. That Bloomed. In A Dark Room."

So it's more than just taking a picture of yourself but about telling a story - your story. 

Thato Lehoko is another South African photograper who took part in the thread. She says that she used to stay away from self-portraits because she was always behind the camera and never imagined herself in front of it. Taking self-potraits for her meant that she had first allow herself to be vulnerable in front of the camera and eventually in front of people when she posted her pictures. 

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So here are some guidelines on how you can start your journery on taking self-potraits we got from some of the participants.

1. Practice, practice, practice

Stand in front of the mirror and practice your poses. Knowing what your story is before hand is also useful. This will help you practice the specific emotions and facial expressions needed for your story.

2. Use what you have

You may have more resources than you thought you. If you don't have a tripod, a stack of books, your table and maybe a bar-fridge can be your tripod. You don't have fancy studio lights? No problem use your night lamp or open your curtains wide to let in natural light. The self-timer is your friend - use it. 

3. Be relaxed and have fun

There is no one else in your room so don't worry about looking silly. Things may get a little uncomfortable at first, especially if you are not used to being vulnerable in front of the camera but that is normal and it will eventually pass when you start having fun. The key is remembering that this is your self-expression and it does not have to look like anyone else's.

4. This is a trial and error process

Believe it or not some professional photographers shy away from self-portraits so don't freak out if you don't get it right the first, second or third time around. Although the process may be daunting from setting up your camera, to making sure that your surroundings are perfect it is all worth it in the end.

5. Self-portraits are your personal project

You don't have to share your self-portraits and once you remove the pressures of what people might think of your self-portraits you might see things coming into place. So enjoy your project and express yourself freely away from the prowling eyes of the world. 

Techonolgy has made capturing yourself far more accessible comparatively to photographic [images] or paintings.
Nicola Cooper, Pop Culture expert

6. Get familiar with camera settings

The 'auto' setting won't always work when you are in a particular setting. So don't be afraid to play around with your manual settings. Go wild and find a Youtube tutorial that helps you navigate those settings or read the manual.

But we have to admit taking selfies is faster depending on how many shots you need to take to get the perfect shot. You don't have to worry about setting up your camera or making sure that the self-timer is set correctly. Pop Culture expert Nicola Cooper adds that, "Techonolgy has made capturing yourself far more accessible comparatively to photographic [images] or paintings."

At the introduction of social media, selfies have been seen to be quite narcissistic but as the understanding of social media has evolved, for some, selfies have been a creative outlet for artists to express their identity through technolgy. 

Artists such as Cindy Sherman use abstract self-portraits to create new images that are unique and different. It helps when your editing skills are immaculate. 

Watch: How I Take Self Portraits | MandasJournal

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