I thought I’d make a post about the kind of camera equipment I use to take my self portraits, since the topic came up in the comments section on one of my recent Flickr pics.
When I’m “out and about”, I rely on the cameras on my OnePlus7 phone. This is by no means the best camera phone available, but I like the OnePlus ecosystem and their OxygenOS fork of Android, so generally stick with them. I considered upgrading to the OnePlus7T when it came out as it has a slightly better camera, but the sums didn’t add up. I might upgrade to a OnePlus8 when it is released, but I hate curved edge screens so I don’t know.
Anyway, that is what I use when I’m out. I’ll sometimes use the selfie camera, but usually I use a small collapsible tripod and a Bluetooth remote shutter release, so that I can use the higher resolution of the main camera. It’s discreet enough that I can set the camera up on the tripod in a shop or antiques warehouse, framed onto where I intend to stand, and then go stand there and blindly click the shutter release a few times.
Here’s an example of the kind of photo I have got that way:
When taking photos at home, I prefer a better camera though.
My current camera is a Canon EOS 6D Mk2. This is an entry-level full frame camera and, although it has some shortcomings, was the best I could afford. It’s a big step up from my previous 650D. I stayed with Canon so that I could retain my collection of lenses, which currently include a 40mm pancake, a 50mm (the ubiquitous “nifty fifty”), a 70-300mm, and a 24-105mm (which is the 6D’s “kit lens“).
I mount the camera on a tripod, along with a Neewer NW759 7” field monitor on an arm, clamped to the tripod, and connected to the camera’s HDMI port. The screen is a little small so doesn’t give a lot of detail but it is good enough to help me frame up a photo, but not really good enough for me to accurately pose or tell if a photo is “just right” or not. But it’s better than nothing.
Coupled with that is a wireless remote shutter release. You can see the receiver for this attached to the hotshoe of the camera and a coiled cable that connects it to the N3 remote control port of the camera.
The sender is a little chunky, but gives me all of the functionality of the camera’s shutter release including a half-press to lock focus and then a full press to take the photo. There is also a timer function so I can focus, press, then hide the sender before the shutter fires although often I will just conceal the sender in my hand. The beauty of RF wireless over IR is that I don’t need line of sight to the camera, so it’s far easier to conceal the sender. Sometimes I hide it in a fold of my clothing or whatever, and you’ll rarely see the sender in my photos.
(NOTE: I could ditch this in favour of the Canon BR-E1 Bluetooth remote, but it’s what I had anyway from my previous camera and works well enough for my purposes, even if it is rather clunky. It’s not really worth the money to change it just for the sake of it).
For lighting, I prefer to use continuous light rather than flash.
I have a large softbox, but it is rather bulky and unwieldy, and I don’t tend to use it so much. Plus it is usually too bright and I often have to drape a cheap shower curtain over it to dim it down a bit.
My go-to lights are a pair of umbrella lights. The metal shades are ones I added myself to reduce leakage / direct light. Although not as versatile as a softbox, they are far more compact (with the umbrella folded) and easier to move around the house which is why I end up using them more.
Finally, a recent addition – a small rechargeable LED panel light that is adjustable for both warmth and brightness. I find myself using this one quite a lot now as it is so convenient, and I may invest in another, larger, one as they are so much less hassle than the umbrella lights. Especially as it runs off a battery rather than the mains, making it very quick and easy to move around and to set up.
That may seem like a lot of kit, but they are things that I have built up over the years.
For post-production, I use GIMP, YouCam, and Canon Digital Photo Professional. I try to use a light touch (no pun intended) on the post-production of my photos and usually just correct lighting, colour balance, perspective, lens distortion, etc. although I do sometimes do some correction and enhancement. I try to keep this to a minimum though.
So, that’s it. I hope you found it interesting.
I forgot to mention that in order for the monitor to work, I operate the camera in ‘Live View’ mode, which effectively means that the camera operates as a mirrorless camera rather than a dSLR. Were I starting from scratch without prior lenses, then I would strongly consider a mirrorless full frame camera like the Canon EOS R instead, if affordable. At the time of purchasing my 6D MkII, the EOS R was hugely more expensive and not within budget, plus I would have had to use converters for my existing EF lenses or else buy new lenses. The sums just didn’t add up.
With the camera in ‘Live View’ and set to Portrait mode, it uses facial recognition to make sure that my face is always in focus. This is really important with self-portraiture and often one of the issues that people struggle to overcome. Many cameras now have facial recognition, so this problem is slowly fading away now as cameras get better.
With my camera, I do a half-press on the shutter to lock focus and verify that a green rectangle is being shown round my face on the field monitor, which shows it has focus lock on my face, and then fully depress the shutter to take the photo.