Dear Snapwire Community,
A flag has recently been raised on our use of particular language within our platform. As you know, we categorize photographers through levels (explorer, shooter, advanced, elite, pro, master) and you can move up by earning points through different outlets on the Snapwire platform.
It is absolutely devastating that certain words are so prominent in our society right now and the word “shooter” sparks a particular image and controversy. This has been our terminology since the beginning, but as our society has evolved, we need to adjust our language as we do not want this label to misrepresent our Creators and their imagery.
I want you to know that we hear you and actions are being set in place to change the dialogue around our platform. Please know that is does not happen overnight, but the entire Snapwire team is onboard and working toward a more welcoming and celebrated verbiage.
We would not be anything without our Creators, so thank you for helping us grow and evolve.
Recent submissions to our Friendship Challenge.
With Challenges stretching a little longer over two months, it is finally time to celebrate some of our recent winners. Special shout out to those nominated - you did not make our job easy for choosing a final selection!
We often celebrate and admire the beauty of a photograph, but rarely do we get to see who created it. A few months ago we launched a Challenge to discover just that - who are behind the amazing imagery? With over 3,000 submissions, here are a few of our favorite self portraits:
Thank you to all the creators who were brave enough to share a piece of themselves through a self portrait.
See more of the talented submissions here: Challenge: Self Portrait
From working with a variety of buyers on the platform to photographing her family as models, we sat down to get to know more about Snapwire Creator PRO | Van Tran.
Tell us a little about you. What are you passionate about? What do you do when you are not photographing? What is your favorite color? You know, the important things.
I'm a mom, wife, full-time teacher, part-time vegetarian, nap seeker, and coffee addict. When I'm not photographing, you can usually find me wiping crumbs off the floor or devising a secret operation to discard two year old holiday candy without my son noticing, or coming up with a new argument to present to my husband for our on going home decor negotiations (six years and still no coffee table folks!). I feel very passionate about teaching teenagers to appreciate the magic of photography, almost as much as the magic of tidying. Beautiful natural light makes me feel giddy and so does a perfectly Kon Mari-ed drawer of kitchen towels. Long before The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Netflix series came out, my husband gifted me the book for Christmas and I'm certain it is the one regret of his life.
I love my life and I'm obsessed with going on adventures with my boys.
How did you get started in photography?
My fascination with photographs came from my parents. My parents were Vietnamese refugees and the only thing of value they brought with them were their photographs and as a small child I would spend hours looking through them fascinated with this magic of frozen time, place and people that I held in my hands. These photos taught me how precious and valuable photography can be, because without those photos, I would've never known what my grandfather looked like or see my parents on their wedding day. I took my first photo with my father's Canon AE-1 on a summer trip to Duluth, Minnesota when I was 11 and I still use that camera today. I took my first photography class (film because digital wasn't invented yet) in high school, studied art in college and spent a lot of time in the dark room developing Kodak Tri X Black and White film.
Your work has is warm and welcoming, with a very personal style. What inspires you?
My inspiration comes from people and being able to see the beauty in the "ordinary". I also get to live in Hawaii, where I'm a part of a culture that embraces the diversity of ethnicities, where people's kindness and compassion are even more beautiful than the surroundings. My high school students make my daily life fun and funny. My family is, of course, my favorite subject. I photograph my family with the intention of creating a set of history that will always let my son know and feel how much his parents love him. Although I'm not in many of the photos since I'm taking them, I believe photographs can tell more about the person taking them than the people in it.
I notice that you photograph your family for a lot of projects. What are the pros and cons to using them as models verses hired "professionals?"
For professional projects, I'd rather use hired models since you can set a time and location and know you can get the assignment done on that day, whereas with family, the commitment for a photo shoot can be broken over a lazy afternoon of stuffing our faces with popcorn and watching a movie.
You have worked with us for a variety of buyers. Tell us about a project (or two!) you enjoyed working on. Were there any surprises, successes, or struggles?
My two favorite projects were for Hotels Tonight and the USPS. I enjoyed using the beautiful murals as my backdrop for Hotels Tonight and I got to work with two super fun and easy to direct models! For USPS, the challenge was trying to create a very ordinary object look interesting. In one of the photos, I had to lure a rooster into the photo with bread I found in a nearby trash can. I've enjoyed all the assignments I've received because it continues to push my creativity and skill to new levels. Even when I didn't quite "succeed" in one assignment and I kept getting the editing wrong and, as a result, was asked to provide the RAW images (embarrassing!), I still appreciate the experience because I got to learn from it. Changing my mindset on failure, whether it's messing up your editing, exposure, missing the focus, I couldn't get those people to smile, this idea sucked etc., was the number one thing that helped me be a better photographer. I'm either going to create really awesome photos or I'm going to learn from it, and I think those are two really great options.
Do you have any advice or tips for fellow photographers?
Like many have said before, learn to see light and don't focus so much on what's in your hand. Put your energy into what's in front of your camera: light, composition, subject. If you really want to be better at photography, you have to practice and put time into it, learn from your mistakes, there are no short cuts. There are countless excuses you can make in photography- the sun isn't shining, I don't have the right lens, my camera is old, this location is ugly, my model didn't do anything, and so on; and if you allow yourself to focus on the problems, you won't see the possibilities.
There has been a lot of talk about self portraits this week (check out the Ultimate Guide to Taking Self Portraits and enter our recent Challenge: Self Portrait) so we thought we would dig a little deeper and sit down with one of our creators who specializes in self portraiture, MASTER | Madeline Dignadice.
Tell us a little about you. Where are you from? What are you passionate about? What do you do when you are not photographing?
I am a fine art photographer currently based in San Francisco. I am originally from Santa Clarita, CA but moved to the city to study fine art photography at the Academy of Art University.
I am passionate about experiencing life and sharing it through art. I'm aware of every emotion I am feeling so I can capture it and share it, hoping to connect to others through my art.
When I am not photographing myself or nude friends, I am outside walking around or indoors watching films. I believe watching films help photographers understand putting emotions into the visual. For a simple shot in a film like "In the Mood for Love" that has an amazing composition can say so much without the words to guide you towards a feeling.
How did you get started in photography?
I thankfully fell into photography, first as a hobby but soon became a passion and a way of self-expression for me. I received an athletic scholarship for cross country and track from the Academy of Art University, and I chose to study photography because it sounded the most interesting to me. Years later, I am very happy I made that choice because this medium has shaped who I am today. I use photography as a way to understand myself. I have trouble verbally communicating how I feel and so I turn to photography to just document what I feel. It isn't until after, I can start to see and understand what is really going on within.
Playing with light, color, and movement your self portraits are emotional and curious. What is your inspiration?
My biggest inspiration for self-portraits is Francesca Woodman and Nan Golding. Two very different styles but both very impactful. Francesca Woodman created this dark and intimate world within her images. I feel as if she really documented her emotions, often using motion blur. Her images carry this sadness you can feel within yourself as if we are getting an intimate view of her mind. For Nan Golding, her style was more documentary but just as intimate and emotional. Showing you more details that were easier to understand on the surface but challenges the viewers to take a real look into someone's life.
Why self portraits? Why use yourself instead of a model?
I tend to photograph myself when I feel like I'm losing myself; when I'm forgetting who I am. It's odd, but when I photograph models it is when I am trying to express how I feel but when I photograph myself it is in search for myself. I believe that we are all highly influenced by the people the social media we surround ourselves with. I have to remind myself of who I am and I go back to my "roots", setting up my camera and self-timer creates a space that is totally free and allows me to be totally vulnerable.
Do you have any advice or tips for fellow photographers who want to take self portraits?
-Photograph yourself alone and make space for yourself. Move the furniture around, follow the natural light that is leaking into the room and set up your camera.
-Play with the space around you. Due to my small SF apartments, a lot of my self-portraits were in a corner next to a window. That confined corner let me be creative with the two walls around me. Challenging me to try new things for different shots.
-Use your wardrobe or not at all! I like to photograph myself with loose and flowy fabrics. This is another element for you to interact with and adds to the simple details of your image. Or use your body in various poses from different angles, don't be afraid to get close to the camera.
- I usually put on some of my favorite records when shooting anything! When I am taking self-portraits I usually listen to slower music that helps me slow down and work through the process.
Self portraits are easily dismissed when there are nothing but “selfies” on Instagram and Snapchat, but it truly has been a popular form of expression ever since man first saw his own reflection (Oh hey - Narcissus!) From Van Gogh to Ansel Adams, to extreme conceptual artists like Cindy Sherman, self portraiture has become a way to express personality, share your story, explore one’s self, or to play the part of someone else.
Left to Right - Self Portraits by: Ansel Adams, Cindy Sherman, Frida Kahlo
Photographers often use the excuse that we are awkward in front of a camera and that is why we are behind it. For some of us, this is definitely true… just kidding! :) Self portraiture does not have to be glamorous - it simply has to be you. And if you are “awkward” be someone else in your self portrait. Be honest, we’re all a bit self-conscious about having our photo taken, but with self portraits you are in complete control.
Here are a few tips and tricks to get you started:
Location & Composition:
What does your location say about you? Like taking a photo of someone else, composition and location are just as important. The best part is you already have so many spaces that are particular to just you - your bedroom, your bathroom, your favorite park, any place you find personal already exists. Maybe you are a private person and do not want to share those spaces, conceal it with anonymity and use that as part of your expression.
Composition of your image will help make it stronger than just a “selfie.” You do not need to be directly in front of the camera. Experiment with different angles and positions. Are you completely in the frame? Or only a piece of you? Maybe you are not there at all. Play around with a variety of looks, but remember you will have to reset your own camera and focus every time you change. Don’t let that hinder you, just be aware.
You have your location, composition, and modeling skills all ready, but how do you actually take the photo? There is absolutely no right or wrong way to do it and in some cases you may have to get really creative. (I had a classmate in art school who taped his DLSR to the ceiling with duct tape - I do not recommend that) I suggest starting with these three options: tripod, human tripod aka friend/sibling/life partner volunteer, or handheld.
When you take self portraits, prioritize safety by not placing your camera on risky platforms. Use a tripod to keep your camera in a consistent and safe position. Once you have your camera facing where you want it to be, it can be tricky to gain focus on you while you are behind the lens playing with settings. Put something in your composition where you will be posing. Focusing on this object will help the camera focus on you when you trade spots. Height of the object is not as important as distance, but try to match it to yourself as best as you can for accuracy.
You can also try focusing with a remote or autofocus while you are in front of the frame. This may take a few tries, but once it is established it can save you time an energy of getting up, focusing, and going back to position.
If you do not have a remote, try using the timer and burst mode on your camera. This will at least give you time between your pose and pressing the shutter. The burst mode will give you multiple options in one sitting (so you can guarantee your eyes will be open!)
If you decide you want to handhold your camera to take your photo, remember that your distance between you and the lens is relied solely upon the length of your arm. Naturally, you may also shake which could result in blurry images. On the other hand, this may be the exact kind of framing and effect you are seeking.
You are not cheating if someone assists in taking the photo for you, but use them only as a human tripod and remote. You still need to have full control of the image and how it is taken. Set everything up and direct your human tripod to stand and focus where you want.
Take Your Time:
You may not be a professional model, so getting into a pose and finding what feels/looks good to you may take some time. Self portraits are filled with infinite possibilities, but has some limitations. It is exhausting. When losing energy, you’ll feel very impatient, irritated, and uncreative. Take breaks, have snacks, listen to your favorite music, and treat yourself like you would your best model. Are you getting discouraged? Call it a day and try again later.
A self-portrait should be a very personal expression, not a mirror of something you've seen somewhere else. Think about who you want to be and how you want to say that. What does using yourself as the model say differently than what you would say with someone else? Sometimes the self portrait may not be about you, but rather using yourself to depict another person. But why use yourself, instead of the other person? What is the narrative?
Lastly, Do Not Be Afraid of Judgement.
It can be intimidating to use yourself as a subject. Self portraiture is not vain and narcissistic. It is more widely accepted today with the social media promotion of selfies and sharing your life. You have every right to experiment and evolve as an artist. Self portraiture can teach you patience, independence, and feeling comfortable in your own skin. It is the ultimate opportunity to get to know yourself better. Remember, if you ever receive unnecessary negative criticism, it is simply a reflection of that person’s closed mindedness.
Here are some examples of self portraits to get you inspired:
Paul Mpagi Sepuya
Ready to create? Submit your self portraits to the newly open Self Portrait Challenge!
We cannot wait to see YOU!