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Self-Portrait Photography – Natalie Dybisz

I purchased this heavily discounted book on self-portrait photography by Natalie Dybisz (aka Miss Aniela), not really knowing what to expect.

The book covers a range of topics, with breadth rather than depth. Including a brief history of self-portraiture, equipment, shooting process, processing, marketing and a ‘showcase’ of self-portrait artists. Dybisz uses some examples of her work to talk us through the techniques she used in shooting and post-production. The artist’s own work is what I would describe as fantasy-fine art photography, mostly comprising Photoshopped composites.

Source: missaniela.com
Source: missaniela.com

While the work is not necessarily to my taste, there are a number of lessons I learned from the book:

  • Be creative in use of props and equipment – don’t fall into the trap of gear acquisition syndrome – much can be achieved with basic equipment and a good dose of imagination.
  • When shooting for composites, ensuring consistency of lighting in-camera saves a lot of time and effort in post-processing and will deliver better results.
  • Ideally the concept for the final composite should be decided in advance of the shoot, to ensure the right images are available for the composite. However, creativity does not always happen in straight-lines so additional work in post-production or reshooting will often be necessary.
  • There are some interesting perspectives on ‘posing’ – I find this a difficult aspect of self-portraiture; firstly avoiding the uncomfortable self-conscious look and secondly trying to act out emotions. Acting lessons needed.
  • Photoshop technique is touched upon throughout the book, from basic to more advanced skills. Dybisz makes use of the pen tool for cut-outing out elements for her composites – I’ve also watched YouTube videos with Photoshop experts extolling the virtues of the pen tool as the most effective way to cut-out. However, it is a tool that at present I use very little, so I need to develop some skill in its use!

I’m wouldn’t recommend this book as being of great worth for exploring the art of self-portrait, but it does give some useful insights in to creative compositing through shooting and post-production processes.


Dybisz N (1986). Self-portrait photograph: the ultimate in personal expression. New York: Pixiq.

Miss Aniela [website]. Available from: http://www.missaniela.com [accessed 5.3.16]



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