We’re awash in selfies these days. (In fact, we may have hit peak selfie.) We love the selfie as much as anyone, but there are a lot of not-so-flattering self-portraits out there. We have our eyeballs on photos shared on social media all day long, and when we spot someone who clearly has a gift for self-portraiture, we stand up and take notice. Today, we’re profiling Marey Mercy (her nom de plume as a blogger and Flickr member), who takes very fun, very colorful photos. We chatted with her about self-portraiture and selfies….
You take a lot of very impressive self portraits. Why self-portraits?
First of all, thank you! Portraiture was my primary interest in the beginning, but I wasn’t confident in my ability to take decent photos or direct someone during a shoot, so I used myself as the model to solve that problem. Using myself freed me to learn because I didn’t have to worry about how anything turned out – if the photos were awful I hadn’t disappointed anyone, and if I decided to really mess with the results and go wild with the processing no one got bent out of shape about it. Also, I don’t like working on a schedule so using myself as the model means whenever I’m ready to shoot, I can shoot. I am also a bit of a loner and a homebody, so taking photos has become a pleasant way for me to spend the huge amount of private time I require to remain sane and still be productive. I’ve branched out into other types of photography as well as working with other models since I started, but the self-portraits have remained a nice little ritual in which I indulge quite often. It’s genuinely fun for me and one of my favorite things to do on a Saturday.
I think there’s a difference between selfies and self-portraits, although the term “selfie” seems to have taken over (at least temporarily). Do you see self-portraiture and selfies as fundamentally different?
I think a self-portrait attempts to communicate to the viewer, “This is who I am,” while a selfie just tries to say “Hey,” or, “This is what I’m wearing.” In that respect, my photographs are more in the selfie category than the self-portrait one. I’ve called my photos self-portraits in the past but it’s always felt like a half-truth; sure it’s me, but I’m not doing what a more traditional self-portrait does. I’m not using props or place or setting to communicate aspects of myself to others. In fact, I actually use costumes and makeup and movement to try and transform myself into someone — or something — else. It’s the opposite of a self-portrait. Perhaps I should start calling what I do “unselfies.”
You seem to love to dress up. Do you have a large cache of costumes that you rely on? Is part of your interest in photography based in this love of dressing up and capturing all of that in photos?
I was writing about this on my blog just the other day, that if my photos fit in any category, it’s most likely fashion photography, although I’m not sure it fits there either. I’ve always been one of those people who love clothes and tries to wear them creatively; the makeup and wigs are more recent interests but my current obsession with those things comes from the same part of me that is interested in presentation, transformation, and illusion. I have a huge admiration for drag queens for the same reasons and follow their makeup tutorials and tips more than anything when putting on a face for a shoot. Also, I have several different approaches I might take to a session, and most of those are based on aspects of fashion – a certain color or combination of colors, fabrics and how they flow when the wearer moves about, a wig that makes a real statement, some new makeup technique I want to try. And the way I use lighting tends to mimic that of fashion photography more than anything else, at least from what I can tell. As far as costumes, I’m always looking for interesting vintage pieces I can use in a shoot. I have an entire closet of costumes and I have wigs stashed in bins all over the house, but I don’t like to hang onto too much stuff because I get overwhelmed. So I’m constantly cycling things through - every time I buy something new, I make myself give something away.
Your photos are too good to be amateur. Do you have a background in photography? You must do some post-processing with some of these photos. What kind of editing tools do you use?
Oh dear, this is where it gets tricky. I am completely self-taught, and although I’ve tried to take courses both in a classroom and online, I’m afraid that nothing sticks with me until whatever technique I’m trying to learn is one I’m actually needing to know in the exact moment that I’m learning it. So I am a mish-mash of rudimentary knowledge spread out over a large area. What I mean is, I know a little bit about Photoshop, but only in relation to working with very specific aspects of portraits, then I have another program I use to sharpen a photo and add detail (Snapseed, which for a brief time offered a desktop version of the phone app for twenty bucks; I love it and if I ever lose my copy of it I will die). I use Photo Ninja to work with the photos in RAW, then Paint Shop Pro when I need to use layers and masks, and of course, I use Pixlr for overlays and borders. I’m just a ridiculous mess, really. My workflow is a nightmare. But I love post-processing and am completely addicted to it. When people say they don’t edit their photos I get twitchy, like, how do you live like that? When I was a kid, I used to get my mom’s magazines and use markers to improve all the models in the ads, so I’ve been into this for a really weird, long time. I often say post-processing to me is akin to coloring in coloring books when I was a kid – it’s the adult version of coloring, and that’s why I can spend so many hours doing it that my right arm practically falls off.
Who else — or what else do you usually photograph? Any subjects stand out for you?
I am currently obsessed with aviation photography. It’s funny because I’m known for the portraits and movement stuff, so this new desire to take pictures of jet airplanes throws people who’ve been following me for awhile. But when I think about, it has a lot of what I love about my other work – movement, and the desire to capture it accurately; you’re taking this thing that is moving incredibly fast and stopping it, suspending it in the air. And commercial jets are actually quite colorful and interesting visually. So really not that different from my usual stuff at all.
What would be an ideal photo vacation for you? If you could just go somewhere and leisurely take photos for two weeks, where would you go?
Oooh, the beach right by Sint Martaan Airport! Only, I would clear the beach for two weeks and it would just be me and my camera and some of my lovely friends, with lots of flowy dresses and wigs and airplanes landing directly over our heads. Have you ever seen footage of that beach? The planes fly so low I think you could stick out your tongue and lick those planes as they fly over. Dang, now that it’s in my head, I feel like I have to make that happen.
You seem to have a very creative bent. What else do you do besides take photos?
You know, I cannot state enough what discovering photography has done for my quality of life. I’ve always needed some form of creative outlet, and when I started taking pictures about four years ago I was between interests and very unhappy about it. I was definitely searching for something. I wrote poetry for a long time (about 15 years in fact), then grew bored with it and painted instead for a while. But I was horrible. Now, with a digital camera, there is literally not one reason for me to feel bored or unfulfilled anymore, ever. Perhaps the day will come when it no longer serves me, but I came to it late (I was 41 when I started) so maybe it will be my last creative love before I kick off. So far, any plateau I’ve reached has been easily overcome simply by looking around and discovering something else I’d like to photograph or try – be it a new subject, new lighting, or a new lens. It feels pretty limitless to me.
We’re huge fans of her work, and we definitely would recommend you follow her. She’s got some beautiful photos on Flickr, and she writes about photo shoots, airplanes, her massage therapist, and any other number of things on her blog. Her creative output runs the gamut from poetry to photography, and she even offers some of her work for sale on Getty Images. Marey Mercy, thank you for sharing all this wonderful stuff with us on our blog!
It’s Throwback Thursday (#tbt), which means people are digging up their grade-school picture-day photos and plopping them on Instagram. According to this heady article, posting these nostalgia trip photos makes people feel less lonely and more connected. We’re not so sure about that. We just love seeing people in out-of-fashion turtlenecks and suits with ridiculously large shoulder pads.
Customize Your Twitter Profile Page with This Downloadable Pixlr Editor Template
The social network profile page wars rage on. A good while back, Facebook upped the ante by putting a pretty good-sized header up on top of your profile page. Then Google+ countered with a way for you to put a way-too-ginormous image as your profile header. Bringing up the rear (rolled out in the past week or so and available now for everyone) is Twitter. If you haven’t already been prompted to switch to the new design, you can do that by heading here.
You can add a larger 400x400 pixel profile photo of yourself if you want, and we recommend that you do. The old version was 256x256. Once you’ve done that, you’ll want to focus on the header itself. The size of the header should be 1500x500 pixels. To get you started and see if your favorite image(s) fit, we’ve made a simple Pixlr Editor template that is the right size. You can download it here.
If you care about good design and can spend a little time optimizing it, you can really make your Twitter page look sweet. But you’ll need to make sure you choose images that are large enough to look good in that 1500x500 pixel space. If you absolutely don’t have an image that is large enough (although I’m certain if you dig deep enough you’ll find a photo or could easily take a great one that will work), you can always opt instead for a stylized image. This is a great way to add some art to your profile if you aren’t a high res photo kind of person. For example, I used a photo of the Golden Gate Bridge that I took while out on a shark hunt and added some cool halftone effects and other filters using Pixlr Editor. There are a zillion photos of the Golden Gate Bridge out there in the world — but only one that looks just like this.
This template is a .pxd file, which is the native file format of Pixlr Editor. It has layers, and the layers will be preserved if you save it as a .pxd file. (In fact, you may want to save a copy of this .pxd file to your computer or Pixlr Library so you can edit it again later when you want to update your Twitter profile again). When you’re done making your Twitter image, you can flatten the layers or just save it as a format that Twitter accepts and the layers will flatten automatically: JPG or PNG should both work fine.
You’ll notice that in this template I’ve added a layer for the top strip and the bottom strip below your image. Those areas represent areas of your photo that will be covered up by elements of the Twitter interface on the web. You can hide or remove these layers in the template or just place them behind your image when you’re finished toying with your design.
One other thing… Keep in mind that the user profile photo will bump up into that space. I didn’t include it in this template because where it shows up will change depending on the window size and/or device that it’s seen on. There’s probably no way to solve for every view of this header, but if you are a stickler for positioning, this is something to keep in mind.
So, if you are intent on making sure certain details of your image are not ever covered up by the user profile photo, you will need to place those closer to the right side of your image. Here is an example of how that might work with Pixlr app logos:
Notice also that this image shows up in a smaller way on your own view of your Twitter feed:
We work in an amazing maker space on Pier 9 in San Francisco, with other people who work in communities like Instructables, 123-D, Sketchbook, Homestyler, Creative Market (to name a few). The place is bursting with 3D printers, laser cutters, wood and metal shops, a full professional kitchen — all kinds of tools and gadgets. One of the things we do a lot is give tours of our work space. Recently, we gave a tour to some people from Pixar, and we were stoked to be given an invitation in return to go take a gander at their amazing campus across the Bay Bridge in Emeryville.
As you might expect, the Pixar campus is absolutely amazing. We took our camera and iPhone along and grabbed some photos. A few things this place has that are cool:
An art gallery with art from their latest movie plus art their employees make.
A bunch of character sculptures everywhere — as you might expect.
A soccer field where employees play lunch-time games.
A lap pool, basketball court, tennis courts, gym — they definitely encourage you to stay fit.
Two dining rooms: One where you can get a burger and one where you can get something healthier. The food is top-notch at these places.
A tiki bar, a room for spinning vinyl, a place for employee bands to play, foosball, ping pong, video games, etc. Fun everywhere for employees who need to take a break.
Employees have built “houses” around their cubicles that are literally well-made, itt-bitty houses.
Pixar is easily one of the coolest workplaces we’ve ever seen. It’s bursting with creativity. They’ve given us something to aspire to in making our own workspace more awesomer.
Where do you work? Love it or hate it, there’s got to be something interesting about it. Hit us up on Twitter @pixlr and show us photos of something cool about your workspace.
Our Easter Photo Contest Grand Prize Winner: Three Fluffy Chicks
We have a grand prize winner in our Easter Photo Contest! Bec Howlett from Australia (@bec_ski_9 on Instagram).
It wasn’t an easy decision, but our judges honed in on this photo for a few reasons. First, it’s undeniably cute. And, it’s very original. And quite artistic. It also uses a novelty font in Pixlr Express very well, and the colors in this photo are simply gorgeous. Great composition, unique framing (with the tops of these little critters hidden). All in all, we really liked the mood and feel of this photo and felt that it represented a good use of our apps — and it’s a very pretty photo in its own right.
Bec will be receiving the Samsung NX mini in the color of her choice, and we want to thank her for her participation. She shared a lot excellent entries. We encourage you to check out her Instagram feed. We think you’ll agree that she has some real talent. We put together a collage of just some of her recent photos that caught our eye. Great stuff, Bec! Very creative.
For everyone who participated: Please accept our thanks for taking the time to share both moments of your life and some really superb photos. We saw a lot of repeat past photo contest entrants submitting entries, and we’re thrilled that so many of you enjoy the fun of these competitions. We’ll do more!
We hope you had a wonderful Easter and that you stumbled on some great photos from people who are as passionate about taking photos as you are. Keep it up!
Attention, Earthlings: NASA Wants Your #globalselfie
Happy Earth Day, everyone! If you’re going out and planting trees, picking up trash, and fixing the damage we’ve collectively done to the environment, we all collectively thank you. If you’re not, well we’ve got a pretty easy project that you can accomplish in about five minutes.
NASA is encouraging people to go outside and take a selfie wherever you happen to be. Then, post it on social media sites with the hashtag #globalselfie. NASA plans to dig up all these posts using data collection tools and stitch them together to make a unique snapshot of the Earth built out of photos. It’s a way to look at the world from a whole different perspective — a collective portrait of the Earth made up of individual selfies. What a great way to turn narcissistic, selfie-obsessed behavior into something almost transcendent.
Best of all, it’s very easy for everyone to participate. Download the image we included on this post and print it out, or head to the NASA site to grab one in in the language of your choice.
Another day in our Easter Photo Contest, another winner. @momo_bunny on Instagram takes some incredibly cute photos of her two bunnies Momo and Luna, and she submitted this one to our contest. An actual bunny critter for our contest! This bunny is working some Easter magic on some eggs, and it’s positively adorable.
She chose the Instax mini 8 instant camera as her prize, which we’ll send her way. We thank her for sharing some pretty great photos with us. In fact, we encourage you to go check out her Instagram photos to see a range of bunnies and miniatures. Very creative and very deserving of a prize. You’ll see lots of great stuff on her profile like this Danbo pic, which she also entered in the contest. (Enter as often as you like!)
We still have the grand prize of a Samsung NX mini to give away. You’ve got until Tuesday at midnight Pacific time to get those entries in. Check out all the rules and details on our contest site at pixlrcritters.com.
Winner #3 in our Easter Photo Contest has been crowned! Manivone Chanthapraseuth from Texas shares a quite cute shot of this little critter’s first Easter. In fact, she shared a bunch of really good shots of little Cali. Manivone (@piggy209 on Instagram) went to town with stickers on some of these shots, and there’s no denying that these photos are bursting with cuteness.
Manivone chose the Instax 8 mini instant camera for her prize, and we’ll be sending that to her in sunny Houston.
We’re still rolling along with our contest. Even though Easter ends in a few hours, we’ve got one more daily prize and the grand prize to give away in the coming days. So there’s plenty of time to get your shots in. Enter as many times as you like by tagging your shots #pixlrcritters. Check out all the details on our contest site at pixlrcritters.com.
We have our second winner in the Pixlr Easter Photo Contest!
Alison North from the U.K. shared a very cute photo of a giraffe that sure does look like it’s winking at us. We just love the overall cuteness of it. And the fact that she got such a great shot of a giraffe at a wildlife park. That’s a very big critter!
She entered another photo that we wanted to call out as pretty fun, too. She went and made Darth Vader cute:
Like yesterday’s winner, she chose the Instax mini 8 instant camera. We’ll be popping that into the mail to her. Yesterday’s winner also just happens to be from the U.K. England representing big in this contest so far.
We’ve still got two more daily prizes to give away, and of course the Grand Prize of a Samsung NX Mini camera, so get those photos entered by tagging them #pixlrcritters on major social networks. Not sure how this works? Check out the FAQs and rules on our contest page at pixlrcritters.com.
#pixlrcritters Winner #1: Gemmaine's Bucket of Cuteness
We have our first winner in the Pixlr Easter Photo Contest!
Gemmaine Baughurst from the U.K. captures a very cute critter in a bucket. That’s one very cute baby. We love how she added some bunny ears and a few of the stickers from the new Pixlr Express effects pack. All in all, this is a worthy critter for our contest, and we are thrilled to be sending Gemmaine’s daily prize choice her way — an Instax mini 8 camera.
We’ve still got more prizes to give away, including the Grand Prize of a Samsung NX Mini camera, so get your photos in. Just tag your photo #pixlrcritters on major social networks. Read all about it on our contest page at pixlrcritters.com.
Pixlr Easter Photo Contest: Tag Super Cute Portraits #pixlrcritters
We’re delighted to be running another photo contest. People seem to really enjoy these, and we really, really enjoy seeing what people make. The grand prize is one of the cutest (and quite powerful) new cameras out there, the Samsung NX Mini. But we’re also giving away 4 daily prizes. As with our past contests, these daily prize winners get to choose from about a dozen neat prizes on our contest site.
This time around, we want to see some super cute portraits of critters. What kind of critters? Bunnies, pets, stuffed animals, cute babies, selfies with bunny ears — anything or anyone cute or cuddly. Cuteness rules in this contest! Don’t have a cute critter handy? We’ve got some Easter stickers and effects in Pixlr Express that you can plop onto your photo. Throw some bunny ears on a selfie and give us your cutest look. Get creative and show us something inventively cute.
Entering is incredibly easy. Just tag your entry #pixlrcritters on Instagram, Twitter, Flickr, Pinterest, Tumblr, or Facebook. Check out the prizes available at pixlrcritters.com, and knock us out with some creativity. Contest runs 4/17-4/22.
If you think the whole #aftersex hashtag phenomenon is the ultimate indicator that the world’s going to hell in a hand basket, Emma McGowan might just change your mind. How she changed her mind and came to embrace #aftersex selfies.
We’re always scanning the Internet for people who take interesting photos with our apps, and from time to time we like to dig in and learn a bit more about them. Today, we’re lassoing Hayley Marlow, one of the members of our Pixlr on Flickr group. Since she joined the group about a year ago, we’ve noticed her style has changed again and again. We wanted to know just what all the experiments were about and what her background was with photography. Turns out, she’s still developing her style.
Where do you live in this wide world?
I live in Leicestershire, England. I move around a bit but always return to Leicestershire.
Your Flickr profile says you’re relatively new to photography, but it looks like you know what you’re doing. When did you pick up a camera (or camera phone)?
Thanks *blushes*. I got my first compact camera last year as a birthday gift and haven’t been able to put it down since. I recently invested in a dSLR camera — three weeks ago — because I realised this is something I love to do. I am still trying to work out how it all works, but I am enjoying having a go.
From looking at your photos, you seem to be pretty good at street photography. Our last Follow Worthy interviewee (Maria Georgiadou) says she’s sometimes shy and has to rely on a zoom lens to capture intimate photos of people in the streets. Are you good at approaching people or making them comfortable about being photographed?
I can completely relate to that. It does get easier though. The more I do it, the easier it becomes. I carry a few cards with me (it could just be a homemade one) with my email address and Flickr account written on it. I find that people are a lot happier to let me take their picture if they will have an opportunity to view it afterwards. Sometimes giving someone a card is inappropriate such as if I take a picture of a homeless person. I tend to get on the floor with them and share a tea and a chat. I enjoy listening to peoples’ stories. Most importantly, I feel like you are not doing anything wrong, and the worst thing that can happen is someone will say no. Respect their request, say thanks, and find someone else.
By crazy coincidence, we noticed you photographed the same street ad as one of our previous Follow Worthy folks (JeffC.42) who also happens to live in your area. He’s into street photography, too. Is Leicester just a stellar spot for street photography?
Awesome! Leicester is a cool place to take street photography pictures. I have only had positive experiences with the people there. It’s my home city. It’s a totally different experience taking my camera with me now. I see the city in a different way. It’s like rediscovering the city I love.
Some of your photos are heavily textured and look like HDR photos. Do you prefer to experiment with lots of effects?
I do. I think in part it’s because I am new to photography. I want to try everything! I sometimes have reign myself in.
Not all of your photos are of street scenes. In fact, from looking at the lot of them it seems like you are trying out all kinds of styles. Do you feel like you’ve found a style yet or do you expect to keep experimenting?
I really like experimenting, again I think it’s because I am new and want to try it all. I had a conversation with my 13 year old son about finding my style, my niche, and he said something that has stuck with me. He is autistic and sees things in a very logical way. I said I am not sure what I am into yet — street, macro, nature etc. And he said, “Mum, you are into photography; don’t choose.” So I plan to keep experimenting.
Smart kid. No need to choose when you have all these roads to try out. Thank you, Hayley, for taking time out of your day to tell us more about you! We’ll be following along to see what you make next. You can also follow Hayley on Flickr or Instagram.