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  • Writer's picturesarahhawley

The Selfie: Taking it to Another Level with Composites

Hello and Happy New Year! I hope 2023 is going well for you so far. To those of you who regularly visit my blog welcome back, and to those of you who are new here, welcome. I appreciate that all of you have shown an interest in my blog, and I hope that you continue to visit often. I hope that you have a very healthy and happy new year ahead of you and I sincerely wish you all the very best. I thank you for your support.

This is the first blog post of 2023 and the start to another year where I will post a new blog entry every month as I have done for the past year. It is my hope that in creating this blog I will reach individuals with a similar interest and by posting on a regular basis I will strengthen my writing abilities while continuing to explore and experiment with visual imagery through the practices of photography. I should mention that although I am currently rooted in creating using photography, this blog is not just for photographers but also for other artists and creatives who have the drive to make, no matter what medium you work in.

In the last blog post, I focused on Double Exposure or Multi-Exposure Photography. I enjoyed working within this process so much that this post is basically a different branch of the same tree. Initially, I was going to talk about photo collage, how it is a similar way of working with double exposures and it is another great way to reuse or recycle older images or to show an image from a different perspective that might draw more interest… However, I very quickly realized that the photo examples I planned to illustrate here, were all best done with portraits. If you regularly follow my blog, you will know that I am not a portrait photographer and so, I don’t have many portraits to work with. The few portraits I do have, are of myself from a photoshoot I did a few years back for a photographer selfie project. It should come as no surprise for you to know that I much prefer to be behind the camera instead of in front of it, but this project was designed to help photographers understand how uncomfortable and unnatural your client’s behaviour becomes when they get in front of the lens. I will be using a few selfies that I took from this photo session to visually illustrate my points in this blog.

As you have probably guessed, I won’t be discussing photo collage as the subject of this blog (I will save it for another time), instead I have shifted to another topic which will still cover much of the same content that I was initially going to explore. In this blog I will look at the selfie! Yes, the selfie. It is a photography trend that has grown popular since the rise of smartphones and social media and it is fair to say that this trend, at this point, is likely here to stay. Personally, I don’t take very many selfies, but it is a very common practice in today’s society. The average selfie image is a self-portrait photograph that is often taken while the device/smartphone is held in the hand, at arm’s length or supported by a selfie stick. Selfies are often casual in nature (or made to appear casual). That is the basic description of what a typical selfie looks like, but I am not going to talk about how to take a typical selfie. Today we will explore how to take those selfies to the next level using composites.

Now is probably a good time to explain what a composite is, for those who are not photographers and don’t know what I am talking about. A composite photograph or digital image is an image that uses a combination of two or more different images to create a new one. Again, if you read the Double Exposure Blog you may think that the definition for a composite is the same as the definition of a Double or Multiple Exposure…and you’re right! Composites are used in many different types of photography, double exposures, fine art, surrealism, fantasy, portraits, product photography to name a few. Composites can be used in virtually any type of photography, but that does not make it an easy process. Composite imagery often uses a layering technique, usually using computer software like Adobe Photoshop and editing one complete image can take up to several hours. Practice in creating a believable image is key to making flawless images that don’t look like they have been patched together. It is a skill that takes an abundance of time and effort, but it is all worth it in the end, if the images are done well.

So, you’re probably wondering how this can enhance simple selfie images. Well, as mentioned in the beginning of this blog, this method can be a great way to recycle old images by reusing them in a different way. Also, showing the same image from a different perspective refreshes the image by providing new context and composition that frames the image in a new way, adding interest that can generate more attention than the original image.

There are lots of different ways to spice up your selfie images and I have only explored a few options here. To explore more ideas just do a simple online search or do some brainstorming using you imagination. The first step is to plan and gather all the images that you need to make your composite selfie image. Now, I know it can be a challenge to take all the images you need or perhaps you don’t have access to the things that you need to have photos of. For example, I don’t have access to a polaroid image, but I need one for the image I want to create, so what do I do? Go find it!

Thankfully, there are companies out there that supply stock photography, some are free, and some are a service you pay for. You do need to be careful that the images you are using are not copyright or that you don’t need a license agreement (which is paid permission) to use the image. And in some cases, you need to give credit to the photographer. Please do your research and don’t get sued for stealing and misusing another creator’s work. Some of these stock image companies include Adobe Stock, Pexels, Pixabay, Shutterstock, Getty Images, and many more. With an online platform like Pexels they offer free stock photography images where some users upload images to their image library to be used by other users for free (for more information please visit the company website for details). I was able to find all the images that I couldn’t take myself and I was able to create the images that I planned out.

To kick it up a notch, try using different techniques for your selfie images including colourful lighting, working with mirrors, water or even a puddle on the road to incorporate a street photography vibe into your selfie. You can put together a collection of images in one frame that perhaps show a larger portrait with the surrounding environment and then use closer detail shots from the same photo sitting or location to go around the main image to tell a more complete visual story about that day. You can also find images with old frames, TVs, cameras – lenses and viewfinders, social media posts, film strips, or a polaroid to give a different context to a simple selfie which literally add an interesting frame to an otherwise simple or maybe even downright boring image.

You may have noticed that I have used the same few selfie images over and over in my photo examples. To break things up, try using different colour schemes, filters, blending modes, duplicate or flip your selfie image, use different textures, or even add text. The possibilities are out of this world. In the end, just try to make a cool selfie, which is usually just making something unique that stands out and that not many other people have done before. Another key bit of advice would be to put together images that make sense. Like a selfie of me taking a photo on a polaroid that says smile. There is a photography theme there that visually makes sense (see below).

Most importantly, have fun and enjoy the process!

*** Disclaimer: Please be advised that these images were made with stock imagery found in the Pexels image library. These images were created purely out of the fun of photo editing and experimentation. The images are posted here on this blog as a visual to illustrate the points mentioned and discussed in this blog. The images are here to share my knowledge and editing techniques with others who share the same interest. The images shall not be used for any other purpose including financial gain. This is simply just a bit of editing fun! Thank you to those who have shared their images on Pexels for others like me to use. ***

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Jan Hawley
Jan Hawley
Jan 11, 2023

Hi Sarah, Thanks for this post. Although I don't take selfies, I did really enjoy your tips and the creative shots.

Jan 11, 2023
Replying to

Thank you for your comment and for reading the blog. I am glad to know you enjoyed it!

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