How Fine Art Photographer Pauline Goyard Created This Captivating Triple Self-Portrait
With her home studio located in a tiny Parisian flat of just 30 square meters, fine art and portrait photographer Pauline Goyard has become an expert when it comes to “MacGyver-ing” her self-portraits to come up with creative and interesting results – often inspired by her background as an art director and graphic designer.
“There are always a couple of stands in the way, and my neighbors below get a bit tired of me moving the furniture around, but I love this place,” she says. “That’s the way I can do it at the moment, and my clients love the cozy atmosphere. Everything is not far when I want to shoot something, and this is what I love about this place.”
For Pauline, photography is about creating meaningful images showcasing a message, a concept and an emotion. And, while she says she’s happy to work with clients, shooting self-portraits gives her the freedom to experiment and try new things, knowing her failures will be a personal opportunity for growth, especially when she’s home alone with nothing to do.
“I think it was probably around 11 p.m. on a Sunday night, and creating something seemed, at the time, more exciting than watching Netflix,” she admits. “I have a few epic dresses that a good friend – Jackie Tadeoni, one of the best costume designers in Paris – lent to me for exactly this purpose. I just tried one of them and decided to let it inspire me.”
While Pauline typically shoots with a specific vision in mind, she says that wasn’t the case on this particular evening. Instead, she stood in front of a grey background with the beautiful dress on and began snapping photos.
Camera & Settings
Canon EOS 7D Mark II
20.2MP APS-C CMOS sensor, dual DIGIC 6 image processors, high speed continuous shooting and HD video
Sigma 18-35mm Art Lens
Aperture Range: f/1.8 to f/16, 28.8-56mm (35mm Equivalent), Hyper Sonic AF Motor
Yongnuo YN560-IV Speedlite
2.4 GHz Transceiver with 328′ Range, Output Range: 1/1 to 1/128, Recycle Time: Three Seconds
Diffuser Turns Umbrella into a Softbox, Fiberglass Frame, Removable Black Backing
After perfecting her lighting, created with the “super-cheap” Yongnuo YN560 IV Speedlite flash and a medium-sized Photek SoftLighter, Pauline mounted her Canon 7D (which she says “refuses to die after more than 300,000 shots) on a tripod with a Sigma Art 18-35mm lens. She adjusted her settings to shoot at 400 ISO, a 1/100 shutter speed, and an aperture of f/1.8, then used a remote to shoot from a distance.
“The aperture of f/1.8 is probably not the smartest choice when it comes to self-portraits, because it is so hard to focus properly,” Pauline says. “I put a stand or something where I will be posing, and then lock the focus.”
Then, Pauline got to work with her remote, shooting a variety of shots in multiple poses. With her space constraints, she often has to use Photoshop to extend the background, but she decided to take her post-processing a step further to create a more surreal self-portrait by using masks to combine several versions of herself into one dramatic image.
“It’s not really hard, just a bit time consuming,” she says. “If you want to try this, I recommend you don’t turn or enlarge the photographs you blend together – they all have to have the light coming from the same side, the same way, up and down. Our eyes are so used to seeing reality, they pick up everything that looks weird. That’s why composites often look a bit off, it’s usually the light sources or the scale that make no sense.”
While Pauline admits that the final image was simply the result of an evening of photographic experimentation, she’s pleased with her end product – and encourages other photographers to try getting in front of the lens or playing around with different techniques, as well.
“You can always improve your skills, but if you don’t have a good idea or a vision to start with, it is much more complicated to stand out from the crowd,” she says.