The Selfie Project: Learn Professional Lighting from The Douchiest Thing I have Ever Done.

It’s Saturday night about 11:30… I had just been out raging with dozens of my best friends (and by raging, I mean I was home alone drinking three glasses of zinfandel, endlessly clicking through Okay Cupid until I find Natalie Portman’s profile).  Sitting in my office, I get a facetime chat from this super amazing girl (and by girl I mean my mother)….

“Hi Mom…”

“What are you doing home on a Saturday night?”

Ughh…. “I’m uhhh… working early tomorrow.”  (not true)

“How are you ever going to meet a girl just staying in?”


And then it hits me…. OMG… This is UH-MAZING.   That little Facetime preview screen of myself in the lower left is showing a perfect portrait of my rapidly inflating head.   Shifting in front of my computer screen, I’m able to perfectly light myself using the bright computer monitor at a 45 degree angle from the direction I am facing.  If I tilt my head just so, and move my iPhone to the left,  OMG!!!….  This monitor is lighting my face like a blast of golden light from Jesus!  Holy crap!!!  (mom is talking about something… I’m FULLY not listening)

“Mom, I gotta go!”

Cllllllick!  It’s SELFIE TIME!!!!

What happens next is the biggest episode of self-inflicted D-baggery I have ever exhibited.  I proceed to sit there all alone in my office, with the lights off, staring at myself in the font-facing camera of my iPhone.  I’m taking selfies like a mad man.   My computer monitor is acting as a light source to get super professional looking portraits!  ¾ light, side light, ohh BOOM!  There is one with short light!  Ohh, now I’m gonna put my hand up to my face and look as super-freaking-interesting as I can.  The Dos Equis dude was like,  “Woah!… Settle down! I cant handle it!”   Selfie, Selfie… Selfie SELFIE!!!  Click, Click, Click!  Seriously this was a full on sesh and the whole time I’m thinking “The girls on Okay Cupid are going to DIGG. THIS. SHIZ!!!”

To understand the full effect, let’s just take a look at how many of these photos I took gazing into the camera like I was some iPhone gift to the sex gods.

Good lordy.

NOW… this is where I will attempt to redeem myself for this lapse in character and make reading this post worth your time.  In all of this, I discovered a pretty awesome lesson.  If you have a computer, and you have a smart phone with a selfie cam, you can learn professional lighting while sitting at your desk, drinking 1 to 7 glasses of wine.  See???  Now YOU wanna get your selfie on too!

Here’s the deal.  Professional photographers don’t use the flash that’s on their camera.  That’s why their photos look different.  That’s why your iPhone photos look like everyone else’s bazillion iPhone photos but not a pro’s.  Moving the flash (or any source of light for that matter) to a point that is off to the side of the camera will instantaneously bump your photo situation to semi-pro.

During my little selfie session, the room was dark except for my computer monitor.   When I put that monitor off to the side of the direction I was facing, and took a photo of my face head on, it created shadows that brought out my ultra sexy features (Clearly)…  By moving my iPhone to the left and to the right, and also spinning in my desk chair (remember the three glasses of wine?  Wheeeeeeeee!), I was able to create a variety of lighting situations using only the light from my monitor.  Seriously people!  Screw buying all that expensive gear to learn the technical stuff.  Just take some super sexified selfies while you’re chilling at home!

Look at the above… Front light, ¾ light, side light, short light, broad light, and Rembrandt lighting.  Those are six of the most fundamental lighting configurations for pros, and it cost me nothing to create (well, maybe my dignity, originally, but now that that’s gone I have nothing to worry about).

If you can mimic the lighting patterns on these six photos, you’re totally gonna be a portrait pro.  The cool thing is that you can actually use the same lighting patterns on people that you are photographing (these are called portraits, not selfies) and make your work look super legit.  Instead of using a computer monitor off to the right hand side… use a window… or a lampshade… or another iPhone with the flashlight app to light your subject (teach your brother or your dog how to hold it).  Figuring out the angles at which your light needs to hit your subject, and also the angle from which you are photographing that subject, is easy now that you’ve got these lighting patterns in your head.

If you need a little live action demo… check out the video below.  Front light, to ¾ light to side light, and back again.  Ohh hellz yeahh!!!

So there you have it.  Profesh lighting straight from my most delightfully douchie moment.  And, yes, since you’re wondering… I did put that photo on Okay Cupid (annnnnd Facebook).  Natalie Portman is still TBD….  ;D

  • Joy - February 26, 2014 - 9:36 am

    Colson, you kill me. Love this.ReplyCancel

  • Dana - February 26, 2014 - 10:10 am

    Pure awesome. Pretty sure you could put this tutorial on your bio on OK Cupid to let Natalie Portman know how funny you are.ReplyCancel

    • Colson Griffith - February 26, 2014 - 1:33 pm

      Dana, you think so!?!?!? Okay… copy and pasting NOW! Lol Thanks for stopping by!ReplyCancel

  • Jana L - February 26, 2014 - 1:27 pm

    hahaha! That video! I’m dying. As funny as it is, it’s also right on with the lighting! I guess next time I need a new selfie I will use my computer screen!ReplyCancel

    • Colson Griffith - February 26, 2014 - 1:32 pm

      Haha, Jana thanks for taking the time for a read! Yes, but when you’re taking selfies in front of the computer dont forget the WINE!!!! Checked out your website… great stuff! I hear ya on the coffee thing, but Im more of a Philz guy! ;DReplyCancel

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *