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  • Writer's pictureGigi Gold

Week 1 of the 30 Day Self Portrait Challenge

Updated: Nov 23, 2023

I knew I needed to keep this 30 day challenge as simple as possible. The ONLY goal I had was to take a single image a day. Well, take the image, edit, and post it. But still...simple as I could make it. And I knew I wanted to be able to execute each shoot with (mostly) stuff I already had, and at home. I'm lucky to have a lot of amazing photography equipment, and a home studio with lighting, backdrops, and lots of cool spots to use for varied locations. But I also knew I wanted to dive a little deeper into concepts. I hate the word "theme" because it makes me think of a dollar store 1920s themed party and not in a cute way. So I chose a theme for each week and week one was "In Bed". I took to Pinterest and found a dozen or so inspo images that I could use as a jumping off point. But honestly, each day came with many annoyed minutes of having to swap out sheets, move pillows, adjust and MacGyver tripods and lighting. The concept is so simple, but each day brought a new challenge.

Self Portrait from above in Bed

Day 1 was an overhead shot, which required some notebooks precariously holding up the tripod on the highest settings. Check out the BTS video here.

I used natural lighting from the window, but stripped bare to make sure no clothing would peep through the dark grey linen sheets I wrapped myself in.

Daylight self portrait in bed

Day 2 was taken about midday - and the lighting was EVERYTHING. A boudoir inspired shot, I draped myself uncomfortably over the bed, and opened the curtains just a few inches.

This ensured I got a sliver of lighting, but leaving the rest of the room quite dark. Getting the camera angles and body angles just right was a real challenge. After every couple of shots, I'd roll over, get up and check the focus, framing, and settings. I'm also having a lot of feels about having tattoos at the moment (regret is another way to say that) so having a lot of them visible brought up a lot for me.

self portrait vivian maier in bed

Day 3 was another perfect natural light day.

I LOVE portraits that don't always include faces. Having images without the face as a focus can tell a more interesting, mysterious story. I love those "in between" shots, but taking portraits, especially self-portraits, means I've gotta remove the connotation of "face" and "photo" and think a little outside the box. Vivian Maier is one of the most prolific film photographers of the 20th Century and if you don't know her work, you should. There's an incredible, sad documentary you can check out, too.

This one was challenging mostly because I could decide on the right angle. Above enough? How much to cut off or leave in? And then you set the timer and have to place the book in front of your face, but you can't SEE the preview in camera.

faceless self portrait in bed

Day 4 stays with a faceless image theme, this was surprisingly the hardest of all - I was also leaving for a 36 hour Adventure Shoot

mid-morning so I didn't have tons of time to execute on this one. I originally wanted to add some food (grapes, pizza) and make this a bit more "hotel glam" but I had to work with what I had, and sadly, I had no pizza. The other challenge here was how soft the bed was. I'm not complaining because I have the most comfortable bed in the world. But the mattress topper was so squishy, I was sinking into it, making poses and angles a lot more challenging than I anticipated. This is the only day I got literally ONE image. Every other day I had extras.

self portrait in bed wet hair

Day 5 was another overhead shot, but with the intention of being closer up, a lot easier to manage with the tripod, no notebooks needed.

I was absolutely EXHAUSTED after two days of hot, long hikes and photos on the Adventure Shoot, but I got home and took a long shower, jumped into bed, and got some cute peek-a-boo shots.

I pulled out a linen striped duvet cover to make sure I had some variety. I wanted these images to feel like a collection, connected, consistent with editing and overall vibes. But I also didn't want to use the exact same sheets & set up each time.

self portrait marilyn monroe inspired in bed vintage

Day 6 was inspired by a Marilyn Monroe image where she's being photographed through an old metal bed frame. And luckily, the guest bed has some similar vibes. But of course, it wasn't going to be exactly the same. The frame itself wasn't as tall, and the mattress takes up a good bit of the frame space.

So, I decided to shoot from straight on and take advantage of the diamond shape. This was mostly natural light, augmented with some overhead ceiling light and a SAD lamp. I decided to go with a distinctly vintage style edit with light leaks to add some extra texture.

self portrait silk sheet natural light

And finally, Day 7 brought some bright sunshine. Another midday shoot, taking advantage of the harsh shadows from the blinds, leaving the rest of the room dark. The angles of this one were super challenging. Tripods are easier to use for shots where the subject is standing, so these lower shots always take more set up. The camera was squished up against the wardrobe, and I had to take quite a number of images to make sure I was completely in focus and in frame. And to make matters worse, it was HOT. Those of you who don't know, the UK doesn't really do air conditioning. So sitting in the blazing midday sun, writhing around on the ground and getting up every 60 seconds definitely felt like a work out.

Week 1's biggest challenge was simply getting into the habit. It took me about 3 days of doing this before it felt like it became a part of my daily routine. I questioned my editing choices, felt really uncomfortable in my own skin, and didn't love every image I got. But I knew I was onto something...choosing a concept for each week was the perfect balance of structure and variety. Selecting inspo photos that I knew I could execute at home gave me a goal I could actually achieve.

And by the end of week 1, I had to switch modes and start a whole new concept.

Which day is your favorite?

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