TEACH YOURSELF PHOTOGRAPHY - Fathoming A Self Portraits

I'm sure I'm not the only one who has brought a camera and given up on it for being too complicated. It's taken lockdown to get me to dust off my DSLR and make friends with it. If you have an unused camera I invite you to read on.

In a flurry of optimism back in 2018 I wanted to learn how to take "proper shots", so I brought an Olympus Camera. Though my photography skill levels with my iPhone were not too shabby but as soon as I picked up my new camera I felt like a complete novice, totally lost, as if I had never taken a picture in my life. The shots I took were mostly dreadful. I found the menu confusing, the lens too restrictive and I soon tired of downloading the photos to my phone to edit. I gave up and returned to the comfort zone of my phone camera and VSCO to get the look I liked.

It was just too easy to go back to my phone, it takes amazing shots, is easy to get on with, reliable, undemanding and always there when I needed. What's not to like? Nothing, but for me now it's become a little bit boring.

My phone has been great for learning how to compose shots but now I want to see if I can create different types of shots with a camera and get to know more about the fundamentals of photography.







To start I needed to do a bit of background work before picking up the camera again. I fished out my old pile of 'Practical Photography' magazines, 'Read this if you want toTake Great Photographs' book and got a PROPER manual .

When I brought my camera it came with a very basic manual and the option to look up online a fuller version. Using the latter is not easy as you need to skip back and forth from page to page and there are a LOT of pages .

Step forward OTC Manuals . This small company print camera and phone spiral bound manual copies at a reasonable price (around £13). I found it much easier to navigate than the online version . I will share the link to the site at the end of the blog .

My bedtime reading is now sorted .


First steps were to remind myself of all the different settings, as well as all the different parts of the camera body .

I found a handy short cut button on far left of the camera to switch in and out of different options when in ART and SCN modes.

I reacquainted myself with the viewfinder adjuster - very handy if you wear glasses to make the display more accessible .

Some recommend beginners to stay on Auto to get familiar with their camera and to use one lens for a year. I liked this idea and "rested" on this option, but it didn't inspire me enough to stop taking shots with my iPhone.



Next was to tackle a self portrait. I really hate having my photo taken, I am happiest taking shots of buildings , but to get out of my photography rut I thought I would try something different, a self portrait. I choose to do this via a mirror. That way no Tripod or self timer would be required. Nice and simple .

The bathroom has white walls with an overhead window for light.

I used the SCN Mode and ART Filters.

ART filters are my favourite. I had previously read to dismiss them immediately as they are cr*p , so that's just what I done. I'm really glad I decided to give them a try again as I love them ! It depends why you are taking shots I guess as to whether you think they are relevant to you, or even cr*p, but for fun I would suggest giving them all a try .


Gentle Sepia is soft and really flattering for portraits and gives a great mood for all types of shots.

It creates a high-quality image by drawing out shadows and softening the overall image .

Now I want to take some Architectural Shots with this one to see how it works with bricks instead of faces .




The Vintage Filter II is in the above shot, this creates a nice moody shot and would be good for Instagram shots. It a nice cool tone effect and a soft focus . I can imagine coffee shop shots would look really good with these ones .

There are three variations of this filter, each giving everyday shots a nostalgic, vintage tone using printed film discolouration . I like the tones and again the softness of the images makes it a flattering choice for portraits .



This is one of the Pin Hole filters. They remind me of 1920's and 1930's movie shots. There are also three variations for this one, the idea is that it creates an image that looks as though it was taken with an old or toy camera by dimming the perimeter . The edge of the mirror adds to this effect.

SCN Mode - People. This one is great to use for portraits, it's easy to find and select, and gives a really nice result . I now use this regularly for family shots.

And this one too ...

I was surprised by the detail of the dog's fur from this lens, I wasn't sure if the SCN People option would be good for a dog , but I was pleased with the result.


I used a 45m lens for all shots, except cafe shot which was iPhone.



I really have enjoyed shooting with my camera so much more now. I have gained some understanding of how to work with it. If you have a forgotten camera that you gave up on like me, check if you've got a full manual or a basic. If it is just on line you may want to get one printed. For me it has made all the difference to get around the menu system of Olympus which I'm told is notorious for being comprehensive.

There is also a lot of supporting information out there . Olympus Image Space website which has lots of free events, you can even book a free virtual 1-1 hour with an Olympus Guru. I have had one of these one in person when got my camera, it was really informative .

You-Tube is great for free tutorials, I just put my camera or lens into the search bar . Warning though - it's easy to get lost just watching and not shooting. .



I am really just at the beginning of learning more about photography and would love to share more with you on this blog as I go, what I find works , and what doesn't, how to get different types of shot from a camera than a phone shot. It takes a bit of time to get around the full menu options, but it's rewarding. I've really liked the results and I've have not done a single edit to any the shots on this blog post which has been really nice as I usually spend a fair bit of time editing shots for Instagram.


Useful links ~


Hive is an online seller that gives back to independent book shops. A percentage of each sale goes direct to an Independent Book Shop, you can even choose which from a list .


The link below is for the book I mentioned in this blog post . A good guide to basic photo techniques and settings on any camera.


https://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Henry-Carroll/Read-This-if-You-Want-to-Take-Great-Photographs/15349396


Olympus Image Space is a hub for blog, events (lots are free) , photography tips and tricks

https://www.olympus-imagespace.co.uk


Printed Camera Manuals

https://www.camera-manual.com


Olympus shop, watch out for seasonal offers

https://shop.olympus.eu/en_GB/index.html


I was gifted the 45m by Olympus but under no obligation to post anything.

All views are my own and unbiased.





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