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Assignment

Self-Portrait

This assignment ran from Apr 25 to May 9, 2014.

We're often asked how difficult it is to photograph people and make the pictures interesting. If you're among those curious to learn more, why not practice on yourself? We all have a self-identity that includes how we see ourselves, and expectations of how we want the world to see us. Here's your chance to show the world something about you. Maybe you want to share your joy for life or express deep, inner feelings.

Photograph your reflection in a mirror or window. Avoid getting your camera in the pictures by getting to know your camera’s self-timer. If you're using a smartphone, look for camera apps that include a self-timer (a few are free).

You don’t have to include your entire form—maybe just a portion of you is enough. Experiment with different lighting to create different moods. Maybe it’s your shadow that works best. With this assignment, you don’t need the cooperation of a subject; you can take as much time as you want to explore the possibilities.

Curated by:

Becky Hale
National Geographic Staff Photographer

Mark Thiessen
National Geographic Staff Photographer
Assignment Status
  • Open

  • Closed

  • Published

Published May 16, 2014.
Thank you for your contributions!

Craft Your Image

Posted may 7, 2014

As we observed at the outset, when you are your own subject you hold all the strings. There’s no subject uncomfortably looking at their watch while you work to position them in just the right spot. You are quite literally crafting your own image.  

Remember, this assignment should push you PAST the "selfie" where your only aim is to get a quick snapshot of your face. If you've already tried a straightforward portrait, challenge yourself to try an environmental portrait that gives the viewer more context. 

Many of your self-portraits draw on symbolism to emphasize poignant or difficult aspects of your lives. Others have examined their faces at close range, playing with light, patterns, reflections and shadows. Some of you have tried shooting dark scenes that reveal recurring dreams or created comical portrayals of your adolescent selves.     

Because these shots are staged, they can really tell the story you want. Maybe your hometown is central to who you are. Maybe it's your roll in your family. The images I've been most drawn to tell me something MORE about the photographer.

Here's an exercise: as a way to previsualize your self-portrait, try writing the caption. What words would you use to describe yourself. How does the viewer know what matters to you, the subject? An image may grow out of the caption you craft. 

Comfort Zones

Posted may 1, 2014

It’s been really great to see all of your images. Believe us—we get it. This is a challenging assignment. It’s inherently risky to reveal something about yourself in a photograph. As photographers, we are so accustomed to making others our subjects that turning the camera on ourselves can be hard and counterintuitive. 

One of my first assignments in college was a self-portrait project. I spent a LOT of time getting to know my self-timer and operate a rickety tripod in my dorm room. There was something about sitting in front of my own camera that was very intimidating. Trying to bridge that gap between how I envisioned the image and how much time it took to actually get there was a really difficult but satisfying process. 

Here are some things to keep in mind as you keep shooting. 

Don’t only shoot photos with your extended arm. 

Try using your tripod or set your camera on a surface. 

Limit your post-processing: The images should stand on their own without the heavy use of filters and adjustments. 

If your face is in the frame, avoid covering it with your camera. 

Lastly, try a variety of things. Good luck and keep shooting. 

Avoiding the "Selfie"

Posted apr 23, 2014

What we want to avoid are the traditional selfies shot at arm's reach. This tends to distort your facial features because the wide-angle lens is so close to your face. Plus, they tend to be spur-of-the-moment shots that lack much thought behind them. 

This may sound intimidating at first, but we promise you that once you start experimenting, you won’t want to stop. 

Remember, you can only submit up to three photos during the assignment and the assignment closes on May 9 at 5 p.m. EST.

Becky Hale

Becky Hale

National Geographic Staff Photographer
Becky Hale is a studio photographer on staff with National Geographic magazine, working primarily out of the photo studio at Society headquarters in Washington, D.C. A frequent contributor to the Magazine, her work is wide ranging and includes portraiture and still photography illustrating complex scientific and cultural stories. Despite spending lots of time with inanimate objects, she’s most drawn to photographing people. She’s currently working on a project documenting her Washington D.C. neighborhood.

Mark Thiessen

Mark Thiessen

National Geographic Staff Photographer
Mark Thiessen is a staff photographer with National Geographic for the past 15 years and is recognized for his work on science stories and wildfire. Recent stories include Methane, Titanic, and he was the expedition photographer chronicling filmmaker James Cameron’s dive to the bottom of the Mariana Trench in DeepSea Challenger. He also runs the National Geographic photo studio.
330 comments
Becky Hale
Becky Hale expert

Congratulations to everyone who was published and to those of you who took so much time with this assignment. There were MANY image that challenged my own expectations of what a self-portrait could be. It made editing your submissions such a wonderful process. Keep shooting and I look forward to seeing more of your work on Your Shot! Becky

Rena N.
Rena N.

These are (mostly) all good...but I have to admit I was disappointed in a couple of them, especially since I had to look at them for awhile before I could figure it out. LOL But congratulations to those who were chosen, your efforts obviously paid off. Congrats to the rest of the thousands of you, too, there are some pretty fantastic captures there and I would give many of you at least an honorable mention! Too bad I'm not one of the editors, huh? :D

Krista Hudson
Krista Hudson

Amazing publishing's! The world is full of originality and creative people. Keep shooting my friends <3

Michele Sutton
Michele Sutton

Congratulations to all winners of the assignment!!!  A job well done by both the photgraphers and the judges!!!

Anirudh R.
Anirudh R.

hey, when are the results for this assignment being published..? i mean, today is may 16th right..? 

Katrina Kiefer
Katrina Kiefer

Is anybody else having trouble with their inbox?  Mine won't load up.

Camille Lierre
Camille Lierre

Hi everyone! I have a little question… I submitted an image to this assignment before the deadline but the colours were really really off. I initially didn't bother with this but today decided to edit the submission and just re-upload the image as an sRGB, as recommended by a website admin, and I didn't realise this wasn't possible so ended up deleting my submission… I've re-uploaded the photograph and was wondering if I may still be considered?

Cevdet Kulaksiz
Cevdet Kulaksiz

portrait photography publications regarding the information that you do not understand the rush and irrelevant because of my poor english I sent the photographs which I apologize for.

feray umut
feray umut

My English is not very good at the last minute I saw the note, the subject did not understand the three photographs will be sent believing before my gallery three photographs I have sent, and then tell but the die is cast, I sent photographs apologize for.:)

Colby Stopa
Colby Stopa

I think I could have worked harder on this one... I decided to go with a self portrait I took in front of the aurora borealis but it really didn't show who I was as a person. There were many other great submissions that achieved that and I congratulate them! I do still feel very fortunate to have experienced seeing the aurora though and the photo is still a reminder of an amazing experience for me. :)

Peter Cannon
Peter Cannon

Had some fun with this one. Found an older one of myself working on the computers while around me renos were going on and one that was an accidental selfie while walking. However I think some people need to look up the definition of self portrait. How is taking a picture of a statue considered a self portrait? Should there be at least a part of your own body in the picture?  

Rena N.
Rena N.

I can imagine that the editors are smiling alot in this assignment, too. Not as much as the "Smile" assignment but, hey, pretty close! May the best photographers win but...we know it's a matter of the editors' opinion. That's ok, too!

Ioannis Vasilakis
Ioannis Vasilakis

Hi,as you have seen I have shared until now 15 photos and I will continue to share photos with all of you because to take pics and to share them it was my passion since 12 years old. It is amazing to freeze the time with your camera and to travell and explore the world from your home.

Jennifer Jamison
Jennifer Jamison

I didn't think I would, but I tried again and submitted a second photo!  I just couldn't let the first one stand, it was just to portrait like and I wanted to accept the challenge, to put my artistic best foot forward.  Is it still the best photo ever?  There is always room for improvement, but I challenged myself to do better, and found it was possible.

carol worrell
carol worrell

This assignment challenged me like no other...... I struggled with trying to convey my emotions in the image, then after submitting the photo, questioned why I would chose to be so vulnerable and why it was so important for me to do so.  It was technically a challenge to create the image I composed  in my mind and then be satisfied with the results, but isn't that what makes an assignment stimulating? 

Devaki Erande
Devaki Erande

I am not able to upload my photo :( Any idea why that would be? It says uploading unsuccessful... Thanks for your help in advance!

Terah Wilson
Terah Wilson

This assignment has stretched me!  I didn't just want to do a typical "selfie"  It took me almost until the end to figure out how to express myself.  Let me know what you think!!!

http://on.natgeo.com/1uJZZiW

SURESH BALAJI
SURESH BALAJI

Hi friends how are you all!

Last moment i add my shots to assignment for portraits ! If u lyk given your tips and cements i am waiting !

Vamsi Maganti
Vamsi Maganti

Long time ago, that mask moment was captured. This is being submitted to Self Portrait Assignment on the pretext / hope that one day when she grows up, she'll see her self portrait in national geographic. :) Here is the link esteemed members. Thanks for your time.


http://yourshot.nationalgeographic.com/photos/3174455/



srimanta ray
srimanta ray

@Becky Hale Hello.... Excellent Effort by You and Mark Thiessen...Love the Story and Selection....and Specially Your Cooperation and Reply in the wall and Update really inspired me.... and I believe all of our friend really enjoy the assignment.... Specially all time We the Photographer and Photography-Lover are not in front of our lens... now You and NG gives us the chance to make us as a photography subject...in this connection I meet some of our Your Shots Friend...Fantastic Assignment...I'm really happy to participate in this creative assignment...Thanks to all of You.... CONGRATS FOR YOU FANTASTIC EFFORT.....and CONGRATS TO ALL THE PARTICIPANT.... Regards... :) Sri

Rena N.
Rena N.

@Anirudh R.  It will show up sometime today. I can't remember the hour but they're on the west coast, I think, so it'll be later in the day for some of us (like me) who are in a different time zone. Patience!

Rena N.
Rena N.

@Katrina Kiefer  Yay, it looks like it's fixed. At least mine is, anyway. I'm sure it was just a techie problem.

Rena N.
Rena N.

@Katrina Kiefer  Mine is the same way, I was wondering about that! It shows that I have notifications but when I go there it's blank.


One thing that's lacking here is a general place to go for questions like these. As it is, the editors may not even see this. I've tried using the "Feedback" option (on the right) but I've never gotten responses that way.

Joydeep D.
Joydeep D.

@Camille Lierre Hi Camille, unfortunately the photo you uploaded is not associated to this assignment anymore. If you will delete a photo from an assignment, the entry is lost.

Linda B.
Linda B.

@Cevdet Kulaksiz  I feel sad that people feel they should apologize for shots they entered.  I think however a person interprets an assignment is up to them and they shouldn't feel it is wrong to put in what they do.  I took one out too because I thought people might criticize if there was a camera showing.  


Linda B.
Linda B.

@feray umut  You should not feel you have to apologize.  I looked at your gallery.  You have some beautiful photos of amazing places.  Wow!  

Joydeep D.
Joydeep D.

@Peter Cannon Not only a part of the body, but shadow of one self is also considered as his/her self-portrait. 

Anirudh R.
Anirudh R.

@Rena N. @Anirudh R.  lol, sry, i didn't mean to hustle things up.. :D i pretty much figured it out after i had posted the comment... :) was jus eager to see the finished product.. :) 

Katrina Kiefer
Katrina Kiefer

@Rena N. @Katrina KieferI've always gotten a response when using the feedback button, huh...guess it's hit or miss.  I show I have 5 items in my inbox, but yeah, nothing there when I click on it.

James Blosser
James Blosser

@Linda B. @Cevdet Kulaksiz  No one should ever delete any of their photos because no one really knows what each editor is truly looking for!!! If you enjoy your photo --- I'm sure there are many others that will love it also!!! To me each photo means something to someone or else they wouldn't take the shot. Be proud of your work!!!

Rena N.
Rena N.

@Anirudh R. @Rena N.  I agree, I am, too! And I know I won't be in the winning selections, I just want to see which ones are!!


Joydeep D.
Joydeep D.

@CHARULATA BISWAS @Joydeep D.Yes, it is clearly mentioned under the assignment status on right side of the assignment page.
 "We are busy curating images. Check back on May 16, 2014 to view the published story"

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