We’ve had some great articles about shooting self-reference here, involving costumes, tripods, lights, and interval timers. Well, I often need some hand, or pose, or neck wrinkle reference at odd hours when I’m the only person awake, or during a pandemic when I can’t hire a model… (The real truth is I’m lazy and working fast and don’t want a big setup).

The greatest super quick self-reference tip I’ve learned is the smartphone voice shutter. For those odd poses, specific hands that would take too long to direct someone else, goofy faces, and weird back-of-head angles, it’s been a godsend.

Check your phone camera’s settings. In my phone it’s in “shooting methods.”

Once you set it up, you just say “cheese” or one of the other voice command options, and it does a short countdown so you can adjust your facial expression. I’ve had minor problems before where I forgot to turn off music I had playing, which accidentally turned it into interval shooting, or where I thought it was broken but I simply had headphones plugged in…

With a combination of the voice shutter and mirrors I can take what would be a simple setup with a tripod and interval timer and turn it into a pose requiring pretzel-like contortions that end up looking like a floating hand–but hey, I didn’t have to get up from my drawing desk!

The art style I’m using on this project is linework-based and doesn’t require very much lighting information, so these references can be very quick and rough.

Here I wanted a very specific, difficult-to-hold pose:

Not an easy one to Google – the smiling back-of-head:

Neck wrinkles:

Voice shutter is particularly useful when you need to shoot a reference of both hands:

Or your back (I admit this one would have been easier with a model but again, who knows what time it was and I needed it right away–and my coat doesn’t fit my partner):

If you find yourself needing to just barrel ahead on something without planning and scheduling a shoot, crappy reference photos can do the job. For comics, where you might need tons of odd references, they’re a life-saver. I hope you get some use out of your smartphone’s voice shutter!