Tag: emotions

How to take emotional and meaningful self-portraits

In today’s technologically advanced world, selfies exist everywhere. With the desire to take a photo of oneself comes the desire to look visually appealing. Subconsciously, many of us seek to look acceptable because we wish to feel accepted and welcome. I myself can relate to this desire, one that has often turned into an obstacle in my creative endeavors. Though this need, which is often desperate, makes many people feel like outcasts because of their insecurities, it mustn’t be chastised. A need for acceptance through photos of yourself doesn’t mean you should ditch the mirrors in your home, abandon the art of self-portraiture, and never look at yourself again. Rather than neglecting your appearance, embrace it in an honest way, finding inspiration in the things you often avoid thinking about. Self-portraiture, in its rawest form, is both honest and gentle, revealing the photographer’s strengths and weaknesses simultaneously. Here’s are tips on how to add more emotions and depth to your self-portraits:

Understand and embrace yourself

It can be very challenging to pick out an emotion and label it accurately. Instead of trying to chase and organize your feelings, remember a movie that really touched you. The movie may not have directly explained the actors’ troubles or joys, but what it did was present you with scenes which flipped a switch in your heart. Photography, like any meaningful film, possesses a similar kind of power. Use this to your creative advantage. Read books, watch films, and listen to stories. As you do these things, your mind will get filled with fascinating ideas and the knowledge that you’re not alone, no matter strange your emotions might seem to you. Storytelling will give you the necessary confidence to take self-portraits, and the heart of a creature belonging to someone else will fill you with inspiration. Watching an incredible film right before a shoot will be especially helpful, as your inspiration will eagerly wait to be used by you.


Use nature and objects to intensify your emotions

Weather, colors, movements, and light will all help you reflect your emotions better.
Though facial expressions can often speak for themselves, their effect can be enhanced using things in your home or out in nature. Weather, for instance, can be used either as a dramatic contrast or a direct reflection of the emotion you wish to convey. A self-portrait of a dancing silhouette against a daunting, stormy background has the power to express passion, perseverance, or an inner struggle. No matter how moody or sunny it is in your area, use it to your advantage – if the weather doesn’t match your desired mood, challenge yourself by finding ways to use the current conditions to your artistic advantage.

Other elements that can further highlight an emotion are colors, movements, and light. Colors are especially useful in the editing process, where they can be altered even more to perfectly elevate the image’s atmosphere. Movement can be used to express things like haste, impatience, longing, and fear; a portrait of a person looking frightened in a room filled with falling feathers could express the subject’s fear of moving forward in life. To complement all of these elements, light must be used wisely. Experiment with it as much as you can, even on a daily basis – soon enough you’ll naturally understand what kinds of shadows and highlights would look good in a certain composition. Once you befriend light, things like colors and movements will be bonuses, instead of hindrances, in your work.



Find yourself in other people

Oftentimes, the people and things we photograph are a direct reflection of ourselves. The famous portrait photographer Richard Avedon once stated, “Sometimes I think all my pictures are just pictures of me.” When we photograph others, we usually capture them in moments we ourselves can relate to. The angles and poses we prefer are often very much our own; even the editing process is a quietly personal one.

Since self-portraiture isn’t all about human faces, take photographs of the people or things you cherish most. If you do want to include yourself in the image, place a mirror next to your subject(s) to get an interesting reflection of yourself. Whatever you do, find details, objects, and colors which speak to you and use them during your shoot. Though the results may not necessarily feature you, they’ll contain the very heart of who you are, and that can certainly be considered a self-portrait.

There are countless ways to take photographs of yourself without prioritizing perfection; photography of all types can be celebrated no matter who or what the subject is. Accepting yourself in spite of your insecurities and worries through art will make you an endlessly empathetic individual. Again, this doesn’t mean that your entire portfolio must consist of very raw photographs; what it means is that when you do feel insecure, dare to embrace it, not conceal it.

Happy shooting!

Discussing the beauty of portraits with photographer Bluewaterandlight

Ben, also known as bluewaterandlight, is a talented portrait photographer from Germany. His interest in people is very evident in his images, which vary from heartwarming portraits to emotional works of art. In this interview, Ben talks about his working process, how he feels about human interactions, and what he believes aspiring photographers should know. Please enjoy this fascinating conversation.

Tell us a little about yourself and what you do.

Hey, my name is Benjamin, but I prefer Ben. I’m a portrait & people photographer from Germany. I wanted a new toy to play with, which I couldn’t understand directly, so at Christmas, in 2014 I decided to buy a camera. And the journey began. Since I got this camera I knew I wanted to photograph people, but my introversion and shyness made it impossible. But with every little step, I noticed more and more that I must photograph people and not landscapes, so I spent time with other people and I found the most interesting thing in our world: humans.


Landscapes are really beautiful but without people they are dead. I’ve learned to see the beauty in every little piece of God’s nature. The beauty is there, everywhere. But unfortunately, most people can’t see it. If every earth inhabitant could see this beauty, we would not enslave and destroy our nature, but live in harmony with it.

Photography for me is the best therapy and way to express myself. When I am sad or full of anxiety I create a picture of myself or another person with these feelings and put all my sadness and anxiety in the picture and then my heart is ready for happiness and love. I love people and I think this gives me the power to work hard and follow my dream, to be a worldwide working photographer.

Your portfolio is filled with gorgeous portraits. How do you make your models feel comfortable in front of your camera?

I start my photo shoots with a hug for my models to create a friendship. I’m really interested in people and this is one of the reasons my pictures look so natural. During the shoot, we talk a lot about life, love, anxiety and other things. My shoots look like this: two friends talking about their life and creating “a few” pictures.


In addition to being sharp and well-lit, your photos are beautifully edited. What does your editing process consist of?

My editing process begins during the shoot. I alway try to get the perfect exposure directly in the camera. Great make-up is also very helpful. At home, I import my pictures to Lightroom and choose the best pictures, if I didn’t do that already at the location together with the model. Then I import my/our favorites to Affinity Photo to edit the skin and if necessary, I remove distracting elements. Then I go back to Lightroom and edit the color, brightness, etc. Here I use my own or the VSCO presets.

Many of your images were shot using a limited amount of light. What do you think is the most important thing to consider when shooting in darker locations?

Shootings at dark locations are really hard because my Canon 6D’s autofocus isn’t good, and at dark locations, it’s extremely bad. So I mostly focus with manual focus and focus peak (Magic Lantern). Often, I use a reflector or even a flash. Many people don’t like noise/grain, but I love it because it gives the portrait a bit of a painting and creates a symbiosis between the model and the background.


Are there any photography genres you’d like to experiment with more?

In the future, I want to take more “Fine Art” pictures because I want to tell the world what’s in my mind. I want to travel more to talk with people all over the world and take pictures with them. And I would love if I find a model to take pictures of her/him crying, it’s one of the strongest feelings.

What do you find most challenging about portrait photography?

For me, people photography is the masterclass of photography. It’s extremely hard to make people familiar with you and your work and make them trust you. In my preparation for a photo shoot, I listen to my “power playlist” to give myself certainty that the photo shoot will be awesome. You should create your own “power playlist” filled with songs which give you energy and self-confidence.



If an aspiring photographer asked you for advice, what would you tell them?

  • Follow your heart, don’t give a shit on what other people think.
  • If something doesn’t work, wait a bit, try it later and get some rest. But never give up!
  • Use music to make the emotion more intense (a mobile music box with Bluetooth and battery is helpful.) Classic music, for example, can slow down the space around you and help you see through chaos.
  • Write down your ideas and thoughts in a notebook. If you don’t, you will forget them.
  • Don’t look at cameras, lens or other gear. It’s not important. The image in your mind, your ideas and people are important.

You’re a fan of black & white photography. What do you find most appealing about it?

Black and white photography is the origin of photography and the most natural photography. It puts my focus on the model/subject and away from color. For me, it’s the essence of photography. It makes the light and structure more important.


If you could meet your favorite artist and ask them 3 photography-related questions, what would they be?

  1. What’s your story?
  2. Why do you do your photography the way you do it?
  3. How do you handle anxiety and depression?

What has been your most challenging creative obstacle so far, and how did you overcome it?

Every single time, it’s hard to transfer the image from your mind to the reality. My most challenging picture was the picture of my best friend Ante. I was inspired by the pictures of “omerika” (https://www.instagram.com/omerika/).

The act of sleeping fascinated me all time because during sleep you solve problems you can’t understand in the real world. During sleep, you can be every person you want. You can be an astronaut, race car driver, a bird and even the doctor (knock, knock. Who is there? Doctor! Doctor Who? Correct. 😛 ) In this picture I wanted to create a symbiosis between a sleeping girl and mother nature. First, I tried to use a tree as a symbol of “mother nature” but then I didn’t like the picture. So I put it away for a few days, and later I decided to use a forest and merge it. It was so beautiful. I love this image.



A few last words from the photographer:

Don’t do what other people want you to do. Do what you love and never give up!
“The limits in photography are in yourself, for what we see is only what we are.” -Ernst Haas
Good light and great ideas,
With love, Ben 

You can find more of Ben’s work on his website and Instagram.


The Power of Vulnerability: Photography as a Delicate Art

There is much beauty to be found in the simple photographs we take of ourselves and others; more often than not, client and commissioned shoots satisfy any photographer’s creative thirst. However, it’s important to acknowledge the enormous amount of beauty that floats in the very depths of the photography realm, a place where emotions thrive and collide. There, vulnerability is in charge; memories, thoughts, and stories continuously work together in this factory of feelings. The results differ from person to person, though one similarity remains: everything that vulnerability creates carries with it a meaningful and heartwarming honesty.

Vulnerability is defined as “the quality of being exposed to the possibility of being harmed.” Naturally, such a statement doesn’t appeal to the mind. In fact, the state of being vulnerable sounds so emotionally fragile that we’re tempted to avoid it altogether. It’s not unusual to be intimidated by the idea of exposing one’s weaknesses. It’s normal to be frightened of a mindset that promises harm. But what if you were told that the aforementioned definition was incomplete? In the world of art, vulnerability has a slightly different meaning: the quality of being exposed to the possibility of encouraging others to be their true selves by sharing one’s honest humanness. Letting fellow human beings know that flaws, weaknesses and powerful emotions aren’t something to be ashamed of.


The concept of vulnerability might remind people of tears and darkness, but there’s much more to it than discomfort. As the revised definition explains, vulnerability has the potential to encourage natural human growth and create the knowledge that no one on this earth is an outcast because of their emotions. If we lived in a fictional world where only revealing one’s cheerful side was allowed, we wouldn’t know if anyone else had the same self-conscious thoughts as us. We’d be isolated on a land of doubt, and unhappiness would slowly begin to grow somewhere in the depths of our hearts. Thus, it’s exceedingly important to share the many sides of life in ways that are comfortable to us.

If you have a desire to share your story in whichever way you see fit, then the only thing preventing you from doing so is the fear of being vulnerable. Oftentimes, fear is disguised as the notion of fate; it sneakily chokes our wishes and makes us bitter. It tells us that if we’re being stopped, if we doubt ourselves, then we aren’t meant to encourage a single soul.  The way to get rid of this, as you may already know, is through art. Wishing strangers a great day or sharing an uplifting passage from a book are simple yet powerful ways of letting others know that they’re not alone.  To do this artistically, you can come up with relatable concepts that you yourself care about. A portrait of you finding a glowing item in an abandoned house, or a photograph of light entering a room that has been neglected for too long, both symbolize hope in times of darkness. Though these ideas aren’t shared in the form of private diary entries, they’re just as powerful.


There are many photographers who write stories for their conceptual images, ones which they share in description sections for the entire online world to read. This is when the idea of harm might enter people’s minds: what if someone judges my lifestyle, concept, or way of expressing myself? What if my emotions are laughable? While there’s no definite way to avoid these thoughts, it’s possible to beat them by going straight into the cloud of doubts. Upon entering the haze, you’ll realize how easy it is to swat those thoughts – from a distance they seemed daunting, yet up close they’re just a swarm of paper flies in disguise.

When seen by other people, honesty blooms and teaches them something profound about themselves. This is why, as artists, we must be encouraged to produce and share our vulnerabilities in ways that feel right to us. By doing this, we will allow others to see their own selves in the emotions we bravely share, compelling them to grow. Though we’re not magicians, we’re able to create something close to magic: a movement, no matter how weak, that drives the world forward. A movement that, when consistently repeated by many, changes the world.


Photographer interview: A Time with the Talented Marvel Harris

What inspired you to start taking photographs?

I bought my first camera at the age of sixteen. I started photography with self-portraits, to capture my own emotions which I found hard to deal with and difficult to talk about. While growing older, my passion to capture the vulnerable parts of myself and other people only grew. I have been battling with mental illness since the age of twelve and taking self-portraits and showing them to my parents has helped me to communicate.

I have always wanted to help others by being open about my own struggles. At first, I found it extremely scary to capture my own vulnerabilities and to share the pictures that I took of myself on Social Media, but I got such sweet private messages from people, telling me that I have helped them, that it motivated me to keep creating what I love to create and love to do.

You take stunning images of other people. What do you look for in a model?

Thank you! When I capture the imperfections and vulnerabilities of people other than myself, I want to let them feel that painful feelings can become more bearable when you share them with others. I noticed that sharing my own story made me feel less alone. Together with my models, I want to tell a story and make the invisible visible.


Who are your favorite artists and how have they influenced your work?

Lots of photographers have influenced my work and Facebook has helped me to get in contact with some of them. People like Ines Rehberger, Joel Robison, Laura Zalenga and Taya Iv are an inspiration to me, because they tell wonderful stories with their beautiful and outstanding images; they motivated me to capture my own stories and in my own way.

Your self-portraits are incredibly honest and touching. What does a typical self-portrait shoots look like?

Right now I am working on a project called ‘Inner Journey’ and the pictures for that series are currently taken with my Fujifilm X70. The series is about mental illness, self-love, self-acceptance and my struggle with gender identity.

I also have a Canon EOS 7D and I use a tripod to hold my camera and a remote to handle long-distance shots instead of a timer. When I grab my camera to take self-portraits, it’s mostly when I don’t know how to deal with feelings such as anxiety, emptiness, loneliness or being desperate about the future. After capturing emotions like that and after editing the picture in Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop, I can look at myself from a distance and stop my negative thoughts from spiraling out of control; self-portraiture helps me to feel able to breathe again after an episode like that.

As you can see, photography is therapeutic to me and I think that’s why my self-portraits are as honest and raw as they are.


If you could photograph anyone in the world, who would it be?

I don’t have any specific person in mind. To me, it really doesn’t matter who sits in front of my camera, but if I am able to tell a story together with the person in front of my camera.

But I would love to meet the photographers that inspire me, so we can take pictures together.

What has been the most challenging creative obstacle in your life so far, and how did you overcome it?

Taking pictures with light different from natural light. Sometimes you have to step out of your comfort zone, how scary this may seem, and experiment with things different from what you are used to doing.

For me that was experimenting with hard light and hard shadows. Eventually, I found my way in there and came to the conclusion that it can also be fun to step out of your comfort zone and to explore new things.


When you’re faced with a creative block, what do you do?

I will start writing in my journal, because I am more connected with myself when I write; when I am more connected with myself, it will be easier to find the inspiration to start shooting again.

If you could give your younger self one piece of photography-related advice, what would it be?

Keep trying and experimenting and never stop creating because people don’t like your work. When people say left, go right for once and see where you will end. Try to improve yourself every moment and follow your own path by doing what you love the most.


You have a rich collection of black & white photos in your portfolio. What do you love most about monochrome photography?

We don’t see the world in black and white, but when you are fighting against a mental illness the world seems like it has lost all its colors; it seems dark.

I think when you are focusing on capturing emotions, that you are more drawn to the subject when shooting in black and white; looking into someone’s eyes, without being distracted by all the different colors, can provide a stronger emotional connection.

What, in your opinion, is the most important thing an aspiring photographer should know?

Stay true to yourself and create your own style. Accept criticism and ask people for constructive feedback, but don’t apply blindly. Never compare your own journey with the journey of someone else, because you are unique and life is a long journey of self-discovery.

marvel harris


You can find more of Marvel’s work on her website, Facebook, and Instagram