My A Level photography portfolio has been centred around identity, and I’ve found myself creating lots of conceptual portraits over the last year to represent mental health, memories and emotion. In the last few months, I’ve been creating some concepts for personal art too; you can see all of the stuff on my portfolio here!
Yesterday, I shot a self portrait and I’m hugely proud of it. It’s probably my favourite piece I’ve done this year!
This self portrait only took on a deeper meaning whilst I was editing and coming up with the title, ‘in bloom’. The sunflower in the bouquet hasn’t quite bloomed yet, but it’s on its way! This image has come to represent personal growth. Over the past year, I’ve developed a lot in terms of my creative skills, and my personal life. I’m not a fully blossomed bouquet yet, but it’s getting there. So this portrait has a more optimistic mood compared with ones in recent months!
I thought I would share how I made this image, because it was fun too shoot, and I don’t talk about processes much on this blog!
This concept developed from a mindless doodle at the start of the week. I realised this might translate well into a photograph, but I wasn’t sure if I’d have the resources to do it! I didn’t end up going with a coloured tie. I kept the doodle on my phone for a couple of days, mulling it over and thinking about where / how I’d shoot this.
Yesterday morning, I went and bought some flowers because I was super motivated to create something. Originally, I had looked up meanings behind certain flower types and colours, but ultimately I wanted to just go for something vibrant. I bought two small bouquets – if you’re doing a floral shoot, Aldi has some great cheap flowers btw.
Later in the day I walked to the location with my assistant/brother. We got some weird looks. I was in a suit, carrying a tripod and a bouquet, but ya know.
When I was planning locations, I really wanted a vibrant wall that would match the colours, but I went for a plain garage wall nearby (it was easy to walk to with the equpment / props!). I’m never great at taking self portraits alone, so assistant/brother stepped in for some test shots for me to focus and frame the image with. I then set self timers and swapped places with him. We took a ridiculous amount of shots, both portrait and landscape, so I’d have enough variety. This was super useful because my tie wasn’t straight in a couple of shots. Oops.
Assistant/brother then held the flowers up for me to photograph free-form in separate images. Again, we took lots of shots because I wanted to make sure I had the most attractive angles of the bouquet. When photoshopping later, I also needed to make sure I could resize the flower image so the stems replaced the width of my neck.
I’ve included this screenshot to show my editing process in Photoshop! I used two images from the shoot, overlaying the bouquet and erasing around the outline of the flowers and stems to keep it as ‘realistic’ as possible. Once I was happy with the combined images, I imported the WIP into Google Nik’s Colour filter program. This program is the. best. thing. It brings out so many beautiful tones in images and it took me ages to decide on a preset for my portrait! I went with a cross processing filter that yellowed my image slightly.
With Google Nik filters, I usually turn them up to high strength and export, which adds the finished image as a separate layer in Photoshop. This enables me to tweak it a little more – I tend to turn down the opacity of the layer slightly. I did so here, which lessened the yellowing of the wall but meant the vibrancy of the flowers still maintained.
Another thing to note about the editing – my computer screen doesn’t display accurate, true colours, so the screenshot above appears too dark and contrasted on other screens. So as I do with most of my images, I added a levels adjustment to brighten the image, before saving, so it looks better online.
And there we have it! That’s how I made ‘in bloom.’ If you like my self portrait, give it some love on Flickr.
Would you like to see more BTS posts in the future?