My thoughts on self portraits



October 17 2004 – Analogue self portraits.

I often get questions about my self portraits and the most common question I get is how I do it, what equipment I use and if I have someone else who press the shutter button for me.

1) I’ve done this for many years now. I have both knowledge and experience and of course you learn something…

2) My equipment is my camera… Mostly I use the self timer, sometimes I also use the remote control and tripod (and when I don’t use the tripod, I photograph hand held).

3) I would never (ever!) let someone else press the shutter button for me, that would, from my pov, not be a self portrait, even if I have set everything (composition, exposure, focus etc etc).

I’ve also been a runner for many years, so I have no problem keeping up. And most of the time I use the wideangle lens (16-45mm) and therefore it looks like it’s a longer distance than it is between the camera and me.

And last but not least: the most important thing for me as a photographer, is having control over the light. I work only with manual settings (aperture, shutter speed and exposure). I never use the automatic settings, because I don’t want the camera to control me.


    1. Thank you, Kari! I have often had witnesses who have seen when I’m photographing myself and have also shown others how I work. And I do have videos too… :)

      Maybe I should have a workshop in the art of self portraits?


      1. I think is very important to have witnesses, and yes I had a friend that took photos of me taken photos, it was very strong and intense!! Workshops is a very good idea!! Have a nice day, Malin! and thank you!! (…smiling…)


          1. …so true…but isn´t like that with everything? – distrust, lack of understanding, preconceived ideas, part of dark human nature? – that´s why education is so important, to try to open, a bit more the head…to create understanding and light!! (…smiling…)


    1. Thank you, Ken.

      I don’t do much when it comes to post processing. I am working very little with the images. I work with the blackness, the grayscale and contrast and sometimes some retouch (dust removal). This is what I do with both analogue and digital images.

      I have never been able to stand in an analogue darkroom because of my allergy, so I have always sent my films to a lab for developing.

      When it comes to post processing with the analogue images, I scan the films, retouch (dust removal). I work with the blackness, grayscale and contrast.

      When it comes to digital cameras, the images are always a little grayish in their tone. I often expose a little darker when I photograph, just to maintain a deeper blackness in my images.

      I’m not entirely sure that I describe the technical terms in proper english, but I hope you understand anyway. I will post some before and after treatment here in my blog. I have written about this with before and after processing earlier, you can see one example in this link.


  1. Very cool! I had been wondering about your process with self-portraits, too. So impressive! I have a difficult time getting an image set-up even when I’m looking right through the lens!


    1. Thank you, Robert – I am trying to describe the best I can how I do it. There are a lot of photographers that are working with this kind of photography. You can check Miru Kim if you want to. And you can also check Arno Rafael Minkkinen. Very interesting photographers.


  2. I am in agreement with the use of Manual Exposure. The camera’s meter only reads reflected light, it is unable to take into account incidental light. So, basically, it is just guessing the exposure for you… not a good way to maximize the tool of the camera. In addition,Shooting RAW as opposed to Jpegs is the only way to maximize control.

    I am an admirer of your work, and the images that result from your particular style.

    Regards, Rohan.


    1. Thank you, Kenneth.

      The environments I choose is usually related to the feelings I want to convey. The environment in this post is an environment with many memories from my childhood. I often visited this place when I was a kid. All these memories from this place, now everything is quiet and deserted.


  3. I take a lot of photos of myself. I don’t really know how many are self portraits and in how many I was the only willing and available model at the very moment. :) I expect the difference is blurred.
    I’m always excited to see self portraits of other people, photographs or paintings or whatever; I don’t think one necessarily has to appear in an image for that image to be a self portrait, or even that it be an image.
    I love your self portraits, Malin, and your mastery of light.


  4. Yes, good point – if someone else triggers the camera, then its not really a self-portrait – I agree. And I love the point about being able to keep up because you’re a runner >>> not sure FATman could manage that!

    And finally, I admire your adherence to manual camera settings – I almost never use them. For me, its usually Nikon’s Matrix metering, often with exposure compensation; Centre weighted metering is good for unposed portraits, and I use spot metering sometimes too. A


    1. Thank you, Adrian. You don’t always have to run :) I have the camera more closely than you think and the wide-angle perspective makes it look like it’s more far away than it is.

      … and maybe you should give it a try? The best thing about manual settings; You have the control, not the camera.


      1. I know manual settings really put one in control of the camera – but I don’t feel that the camera is controlling me when I use auto settings – I can always make it do what I want. And now that the LCD screens on digital cameras show exactly what the photo is going to be like, that is in terms of framing, exposure, focusing, etc – well in a way I think it almost makes it all too easy – but I don’t want to go back to the more difficult days! :)


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