How to Shoot a ‘Punch Portrait’ Without Actually Getting Punched

Tutorial

We’ve seen a lot of creative self-portrait ideas come across our inbox over the past several weeks, but none are quite as fun as this “punch portrait” tutorial by photographer and YouTuber Mike Smith.

“Today I’m going o show you how to take a punch photo self portrait… with no contact,” writes Smith. “You’ll have a lot of fun taking a few crazy self portraits and then learn a few Photoshop skills to layer up this image. Whether you have one flash head, a strobe or professional flash heads, you can take some really fun and different portraits!”

This experiment should make for a fun afternoon at home—and where else would you be right now?—as you try to capture all of the individual frames you’ll need to composite in order to create a final product that looks something like this:

The full tutorial is a little lengthy, coming in at about 34 minutes, but the basic steps are pretty easy to replicate at home without much hand-holding or instruction—just lots of trial and error to get the perfect combination of fist and face shot:

  • Step 1: Set up a basic, one-light Rembrandt portrait against a black background, preferably using a softbox.
  • Step 2: Take a “wobbly face” portrait as you shake your head back and forth, kind of like these dog portraits.
  • Step 3: Take several photos of your first coming into the frame using the same settings.
  • Step 4: Take a third shot with both your fist and your face in the frame, to get a reference shadow.
  • Step 5: If you don’t mind getting messy, take one final ‘wobbly face’ portrait, but this time with your mouth full of water.
  • Step 6: Cut out and composite the resulting frames in Photoshop.

Smith does a good job of sharing several options depending on how much gear you have, and walking you through the editing in detail. And if you don’t have a flash available, he even provides the RAW files so you can follow along with the Photoshop section and get some photo editing practice.

Check out the full video up top if this is something you’d like to try for yourself, and then head over to Smith’s channel for more tips, tricks, and tutorials.


Image credits: Photo by Mike Smith and used with permission.

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