Just over a month ago I ordered Natalie Dybisz’s book Self-Portrait Photography. I first got to know of Natalie through the photo sharing web site Flickr and her alias “Miss Aniela”, drawn to her work by her multiplicity or clone images. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Natalie at one of her photo exhibitions in London, she’s a much more petite than I expected, her often below eye-level camera positions changing the perspective and sense of scale. I almost didn’t make it as Katrin, a student staying with our family at the time, had a friend lost in London who obviously took priority. Thankfully we did get there before it closed and I was glad to have made the trip as seeing the images printed large and framed brought them a whole new life.

In part I’d got the book to read her thoughts on marketing, exhibiting and publishing. Before I’d even finished the first chapter I’d already got three or four self portrait ideas in my notepad ready for when I had the time. I’ve shot many self portraits in the past but had stopped due to work and family pressure and had failed to restart. Seeing many of Natalie’s images again in print has inspired me to get back in the saddle. One message from Natalie that clicked was to not over plan or complicate things, get the camera out and be creative, let the ideas develop as you shoot.

As well as showing and talking about her own work Natalie introduces the reader to eight other photographers, two of which I’d also got to know of through Flickr – Yulia Gorodinski and Lucia Holm. Each of the photographers picked has their own unique style and tells the reader how they got into photography, what inspires them and how they took some of the shots shown.

Broken down into six chapters the book covers:

One – Context & History
Two – Equipment
Three – Shooting
Four – Processing
Five – Self-portrait artist showcase
Six – Marketing your self-portraits

The history of self-portraits was a great insight into why some of the old masters like Van Gogh and Rembrandt painted images of themselves.

The equipment chapter talks about some of the things you’ll ideally want in order to shoot self portraits with ease. It assumes no prior experience in the reader and emphasises that it’s what you do with the camera that counts not which camera or flashy gadgets you have.

Shooting covers such things as hair, makeup, clothing, props, lighting and locations – all ingredients that will have an impact on the final image. Natalie stresses the point that you should work with what you have to hand. Not everyone has stunning rolling landscapes or beaches to hand. Great self-portraits can be made in the comfort of your own home, or the room of a friend or family member. Family holidays or work trips that take you away from your normal environment can be used to add variety to your work.

Processing inevitably covers some of the basics of using Photoshop, the industry standard for image editing. I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t at least a page on GIMP, a free alternative that does fine for those starting out with a limited budget. A lot of the photographers featured in the book stress how image processing should be secondary to setting up and shooting a good base image. It’s important to not look at software like Photoshop as a mean of making a bad image good.

I was glad to see the self-portrait artist showcase introduce the work of Noah Kalina, Jon Jacobsen and Federico Erra. Noah, who’s legendary 365 project became a viral video getting a mass of views and the received the honour of being worked intocan episode of The Simpsons. As a man I’d often felt that we’re at a disadvantage with our less varied wardrobe and hair options. And most of us don’t wear makeup. Seeing these photographers work and adding the work of Drummy and Dracorubio to the mix it’s clear that we can be just as creative. With problems on the Jubilee line Wednesday night I found myself wondering around Jubilee Park and was inspired by children playing around the water to be a kid myself, the results “Big Kids Small Park”.

Marketing your self-portraits covers some of the pitfalls to avoid when it comes to getting your work out there and on people’s walls.

All in all good read that’s inspired me to get in front of the lens again.

Published by pixiq with ISBN 978-1-60059-785-5 the book should be available from most good book stores. Check out Natalie’s web site at missaniela.com