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  • Writer's pictureGigi Gold

Week 2 of the 30 Day Self Portrait Challenge

ICYMI, I decided to embark on a 30 day self portrait challenge. Read more about it here.


Week 1's theme was "in bed" and once I wrapped on what felt like a pretty easy foray into the challenge, I moved onto the "Shadows" concept. Now, I chose that theme for that week because we were SUPPOSED to get some good sunshine that week. But of course, it's England and that forecast was a goddamn joke.


But part of what I wanted out of this challenge was to be challenged. To be forced to cope with the conditions because that's what happens when you're on location shooting. And I've done a lot of that, but it's nice to practice overcoming obstacles without worrying about another person.

Day 8 was a silhouette style shot. Using a wake up light, a sheer piece of fabric, and a white sheet, I wanted to make sure there were the fewest amount of distractions. I draped the white sheet over the dark blue/grey velvet headboard to minimize the distractions. Then, I set up the camera and placed the bright wake up light behind me. This was the hardest part. If you read Week 1's recap, you'll know how soft and squishy my bed is. So as soon as I sat down, the little light wanted to rock and roll all over the bed. After some choice expletives, I got the shot. Silhouettes are all about shapes, so I had to ensure there was negative space around my hands, fingers, limbs, and between my chin and arm.


Day 9 saw some gorgeous sunlight so I knew it was a prime time to get outside and use that sun for natural light. You'll see a lot of shadow images on pinterest, but they're quite tricky - I set this up with a bedsheet on a clothesline and played with the camera angles and where my body was. This was super tricky because after each shot, I had to walk back around and check to see how it came out and try and adjust my position on the other side, no preview because the Fujifilm app sucks.


I managed to get a couple of good shots, even if they weren't exactly what I wanted and had some distortion to my proportions. But isn't that part of the fun? If I didn't love the first result, there's always a chance to do it again one day.


Day 10 was another perfect natural light day.


The sun was high, the shadows were harsh and this wall in my back yard made for some super interesting textural elements.


I took quite a few of these at different angles, and really liked the crack running through my head on this particular shot.


It adds an air of mystery, a little quirk, something for you to think about...or not.








Day 11 got tricky. ICYMI, I'm based in the UK and while the weather forecast was SUPPOSED to have a lot of sun for week 2, it was a straight up LIE. So I really had to improvise here. There was no harsh sunlight to get what I wanted, so I decided to use artificial light and place half of my face in shadow instead.


This is so much of what happens when shooting - you go in with an idea and what you walk away with is completely different because the circumstances change. The model is too short to replicate that pose, the weather isn't cooperating, the street is too busy to shoot on. There's always something, but there's also always a better image waiting.


Day 12 was another unexpectedly overcast day. And at first, I thought this was gonna be a wash. I was exhausted, and wasn't sure if I even had time to get this day in time.


But after it got dark, I was looking out towards the back yard and noticed the bright street lamp was casting a harsh shadow into the catio (yes, I'm insane).


The pattern the light was creating was PERFECT to play with shadows. So I climbed out of the window, into the catio, hauled out the tripod and set up the shot. It definitely could have been focused a tiny bit better, but we'll just call it artistic license.



Day 12 FINALLY saw some sunshine again! I've got these gorgeous gold velvet curtains in my office space that glow when the sun is shining brightly through them. And playing off shadows means we can play with silhouettes, too.


It was an extra fun bonus that the blinds behind the curtains added extra texture and shadow on top of the already intense golden glow, harsh silhouette, and tiny bit of light finding my forehead. There is a large wooden divide between these two windows, so instead of fighting it and having a weird dark line, I very literally embraced it in this shot so I could get a landscape shot, as all the others in this series are portrait.

And finally, Day 14 was another interior artificial light day.


Shadow work is super tricky - it's soooo much about geometry and distances and I have A LOT to learn in this area. Which is honestly a lot of why I challenged myself to this in the first place.

The recessed lighting in my kitchen created the perfect light source for this - using a dried flower stem held above (or out of frame in other shots) to cast an interesting shadow on my face. You'll often see this work done in outdoor shoots using tree leaves, flowers, or ferns.


All I did was place myself on a white wall, hold up the flower stem, and position my face to get the most direct light. It's a lot of small adjusting and holding still. I'll try a burst next time so I can get a handful of images and choose the best without having to reset each time.


I love the soft effect this image has.


Week 2's biggest challenge was understanding what lighting I needed to create what shadows. And when I had a specific idea, the weather wasn't always playing ball. It was such a big learning curve for me, and mastering lighting is absolutely the key to any good photograph, especially when you're playing with shadows. Some images were easier to capture than others. But the ones that challenged me, helped me learn the most in the process.


And by the end of week 2, I was really in the groove and excited to move onto another geometric challenge - mirrors.


Which day is your favorite?



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