CAPTURING A PERSON'S SOUL IN A PHOTOGRAPH

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The Story Behind How this Image was Created

For November 15th 2020, the weekly challenge in the self portrait community I am part of was "My Soul". Because a soul is not a tangible object, I opted to depict it by creating an image which portrayed my soul as something of a light emanating from  within. 

I decided on a red dress, because I felt the notion that the soul is something that can be set on fire which works well with red.

This effect was created in camera, no Photoshop necessary, using the following techniques:

• A dark-as-possible room and dark background.

• A long exposure – this was 2.5 seconds

•  Camera Settings: ISO 200, f3.5

• 50mm Lens

• A speedlite hidden underneath my dress, close to my belly, pointing upwards.

triggered to fire as the camera shutter opens.

Start off by being in the main pose position when the shutter is triggered and the flash fires. As soon as the flash has fired, spend the remaining portion of the 2.5 second exposure to move around, thereby creating a secondary ghosting effect.


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Editing Notes

This image is what the shot looked like straight out of camera, prior to editing.

The photo went under some minimal editing in Lightroom:

• The image was cropped to square (the original intention, which is why didn't worry about the edges of the frame during the shoot)

• I used Lightroom's color grading tools for the first time to tweak the reds.

• I blurred the bottom of the dress by a small amount. 

Learn More About The Art of Self Portraiture Community

This is a community I have been part of for about 8 years. I credit it with keeping me sane and optimistic and for providing me with a community forum and inspiration for creative self expression. If you are interested in joining or learning more, here are some links:

• Check out The Art of Self Portraiture website

• Check out the Self Portrait Sunday weekly challenge themes.

• Request to join the community on Facebook


A few of us are currently plotting to start a 52-week Self Portrait commitment in the next week or two. Will you join us? 

  • Sam Breach

    2 weeks ago

    I love that Robin, thank you. I don't think I'd ever wear it in public but I do love this peculiar dress and how it looks angelic in profile. It has the craziest poof sleeves. I like that duality you describe, as a Gemini it feels particularly appropriate!

  • Such clever ideas you have to pull off an image like this. What I love about it is there is also an angelic form from the motion. Red is often perceived as a devilish color, so the two together — angel and devil — give this image an extra meaning in the duality that is the soul ... ;o)

Check out these previous blog posts where a similar technique was used:

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