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Taking Self Portraits with Teri Hofford

Taking Self Portraits with Teri Hofford

During the pandemic I fell back in love with self portraits, so much so that they now consume about 90% of the work you see on my Instagram.  I say that my self portraits are a form of activism for me, allowing me to use my body to break down stereotypes that people might have about bodies that look like mine and inspire others who have bodies that look like mine to realize that they are worthy of being photographed.

I first found out about Intuition Backgrounds from my colleague Shannon K. Dougherty when she released her line of backdrops and I knew that

  1. I wanted to support her and..
  2. I wanted to move in the direction of more portrait style shooting vs. the boudoir style I’ve been shooting within the last 7 years. 

Since Shannon’s release, I have now purchased 12 backdrops and 1 floor drop from Intuition Backgrounds and the variety of colors and textures I have allows me options when it comes to building my self portrait sessions.

One of the questions I get asked the most frequently is where my inspiration comes from, so today I want to share with you how I go about building a set and session because usually I start with something small and let it take on a life of its own.

  1. I usually start being inspired by clothing - my favorite wardrobe for my self portraits are bralette and panty sets that allow me to move freely, but to be honest, I usually end up naked for most sessions because that’s when I feel the most liberated and connected to myself.  That being said, for the session I am sharing with you today I knew I wanted to build a session based off the velvet bra and panty set I got from Solstice Intimates.  I love the burnt orange huge and I noticed the grey-blue details on the appliques and used that to inspire the backdrops I chose.
  2. I chose the backdrops from Shannon’s collection: Stella & Downtown because they had hints of the grey-blue details hidden within them.  I created a V shaped set that I had been wanting to try out.  I then added a smaller version of the Downtown to the floor to cover my hideous carpet squares. 
  3. From there, I was inspired by the grungy vibe to add in some dark stained apple boxes for seating and a few vases of flowers for accents. 
  4. Then I set up my lighting and camera. I use my Alienbee 800 strobe feathered off to camera right and natural light coming in from the window and then I use my Canon 5DMKIV to set an interval timer so that I take 1 frame every 5 seconds up to 30 frames.  I chose my Canon 24-70MM 2.8 lens (it’s my usual go to).  Once all that’s good to go, then it’s time to change into my outfit. 
  5. The first set of images I did sitting down and the next set I want to do some standing up shots.  I noticed that my dark hair was blending in with the dark backdrop, so I popped a light in behind, pointed up at the ceiling so it would bounce off and down to add a bit of light onto the darker backdrop. 
  6. I really liked that lighting, but I felt the flowers + me were a bit too crowded, so I took out the vases and stacked up all the appleboxes for seating.  I decided to add some fabric in the same blue hue as the appliques on my outfit.  I layered it on the floor to a)cover up the stands and b) fill the gap between the backdrop and the floor.  I could feel it coming closer to where I felt I would like it. 
  7. I decided to up level my outfit and I grabbed a tulle robe that I had in my studio closet and tied it around my neck like a cape.  One of my favorite things to do is take pieces of clothing and use them in unexpected ways! It was close to the hue of the applique - you can see I was really trying different things to pull it all together. Finally I could incorporate some movement and texture and I felt this really amplified the vibe of what I was going for!
  8. For those curious, to get the blur I usually keep my shutter speed between 1/60th and 1/80th and adjust my aperture and iso to compensate.  To finalize the images, I use Archipelago presets to achieve the desired look you see here.  They’ve done some amazing things to create beautiful images without having to use Photoshop!

One of the best tools I encourage people to have when it comes to doing self portraits is the tool of curiosity and exploration.  When my brain says “What if we did….” I follow that calling and I can only assume that is my inner artist wanting to come out and play - I think by doing this in my self portraits it makes me that much better of an artist for my clients. 

That being said, having stellar backdrops also helps. 

About the Author

Teri Hofford is a Body Image Expert, Photographer, and Author driven to help people challenge their body image biases & beliefs. Through curiosity, compassion and creative education, she encourages people to move towards body acceptance and self love.


1 Response

Dana Marie
Dana Marie

May 16, 2022

Saw her speak at WPPI this year, amazing speaker and artist!! <3

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