January-March 2023

I've come to realize I'm a Kinaesthetic learner; I learn more about photography by grabbing the camera rather than researching it in a book. I've always really struggled with posing and prompting my clients and I think that's because I do not know how to pose myself. Now, I wouldn't say I hate doing self-portraits but it's definitely not my favorite part of photography. My mind is constantly running so, ideas flow with ease but I often get nervous to execute them because I don't know how they're going to be perceived. One of my favorite songs from 2022 "Everybody Ain't Sh**" from Dreamville ft. Earthgang, they say "live your life, don't be living it for likes" (and that's the clean version, we know exactly what they said) With that being said, I'm challenging myself to do one self-portrait concept a month to not only gain confidence in myself but in my work. My thinking is if I know how to do most things that I want my clients to do, there's a higher chance of building a better rapport and leaving them feeling a little bit more at ease.

I'm also horrible at staying consistent and I saw this Tiktok encouraging viewers to try to break up their years into quarters (January-March, April-June, etc) I think this a great way to tackle the year and hope this approach will make this challenge feels less daunting. Plus, It's much more rewarding filling up four different blog posts than one big one. Enjoy the first three months!

January-Sunset Lamp

I've been wanting a sunset lamp for the longest but I was not about to pay $25 for something I know I'm going to eventually grow out of. I went to "Five Below" one day and truly thought I was dreaming when I saw the lamp all the way in the back. I have never snatched something faster from a shelf to purchase and It was easily my favorite purchase of December. When first thinking about taking photos with the lamp I looked at others for inspiration which actually made me less excited to execute these. Let me tell you the first batch was ROUGH. As I'm writing this, I personally notice a big change in how I looked at this project just from looking at these two attempts. I learned through portfolio-building seminars that you want something that will guide your eyes to the next thing. You can see that the first batch of photos just isn't very captivating. They're all on the same plane, looking very similar and although I'm a pretty face to look at, they aren't exciting enough to keep anyone engaged. Trying a second time, I challenged myself to just experiment with how the light falls onto my face and that definitely got the creative juices flowing. I was way more confident in moving things around if they weren't working rather than feeling defeated that my ideas didn't come to life instantly.

Two things that helped during my process:

  1. Talking to myself out loud while reviewing shots to see what I can improve/ work on next.

2. Using a long enough extension chord to be able to hold the lamp in either hand.

This is the most visually interesting self-portrait I've ever done and I'm mentally high-fiving myself for starting this year on a high note.

First attempt with the sunset lamp. Settings f/2.8, 1/50 sec , ISO 400

The second batch *chef's kiss* Settings: f/2.8, 1/80 sec, ISO 400

February -Birthday Braids

You know the phrase "second the best?". I think whoever came up with that had to be born in February, it just makes the most sense. I mean, February is the best month of the year; Black History Month, Valentine's Day, and most importantly, National Dani Day (my birthday). For my birthday photos, I wanted to do something that showcased more about me and I thought this was a perfect time to show the biggest piece of preparation before my big day, my hair.

My hair was one of those things I never put much effort into when I moved out. For those of you that don't know, I have very tight (4c) curly hair. Taking care of it is a job in itself and I have put my curls through the wringer over the years. It didn't make much sense to take care of it if it was already dead. Summer of 2020, my cousin, asked if I was interested in getting some braids. She had taught herself over the last year and had been doing her hair the majority of quarantine.. I'll be honest, I was very skeptical at first because I didn't want "comments " after. (if you get it, you get it). I heard them too often growing up and it wasn't something I wanted to resurface as an adult. When first saw the final product, I could not stop staring at myself. It was the first time in a very long time that I felt like the prettiest woman on planet earth. Literally, nothing could kill the high I felt that day. Let's not get it twisted though. Teaching myself how to braid has been one of the most tedious things I've ever done in my life. I hate sitting for long periods of time so I never quite understood what got me so invested in learning. But looking back at the last three years I've come to find beauty in protective styles and maintaining my curls. You have to have a lot of resilience to sit down, let alone braid for that long.

The idea for this shoot was to make these feel like the first time I braided my hair in front of my roommate. She was so invested in what I was doing and even helped me part the back of my head. I was inspired by the Detroit street photographer Vuhlandes when thinking of composition as well as color grading to give my digital photos a filmy look. Vuhlandes has a very unique way of seeing the world and I find it beautiful how he makes the everyday life of a Black individual look so alluring.

Things that helped me through the process

  1. Reminding myself to move my tripod first, then change my focal length if necessary. I get too comfortable having a zoom lens and I tend to stay in one spot and adjust the focal length. This a reminder that the easier option is not always the better one.
  2. Prayer. Braiding and taking portraits is not for the weak of heart. This set took me two and a half days, a new record.

Settings: f/2.8, 1/50 sec, ISO 400


I wish I had a better excuse for why there isn't a self portrait for March but I got nothing. We will try harder next quarter!!