How to Master Self-Portrait Photography
Are you presenting your work to the world? Do you need to create a visual representation of yourself? It’s time to skip the selfie and delve into the world of the self-portrait. As any photographer knows, it’s not as simple as taking a photo of yourself. The professional self-portrait is a way to show off your photography skills, yet it allows you to let your personality shine through.
Once you start the timer, you can be as creative as you want because self-portraiture is experimental and fun. But before you can start taking amazing photos, you need to master the basics and learn about the best tips for taking your own self-portrait. In this guide, we’ll explain how to take self-portraits and share our favorite tips and tricks to ensure you’ll be successful.
But first, let’s take a look at what a self-portrait really is and why you must try it.
Why is self-portrait photography useful?
You might ask, ‘Why do I need to take a professional self-portrait? Isn’t a selfie enough?’ Well, a selfie might do in some cases, but if you are a photographer or artist, the self-portrait is the best visual storyteller. It allows you to establish yourself as a professional, and it helps you connect with your audience. People love to see what you can do, artistically speaking. If they like your work, they’re more likely to contact you and want to work with you. You can always showcase your best self-portraits as part of your portfolio or website.
Selfie vs. Self-Portrait: What’s the difference?
In simple terms, the self-portrait refers to a picture of oneself. This type of portrait can be drawn, painted, or photographed. The selfie is the result of thousands of years of self-portraits. It refers to a photo of oneself taken with a camera or smartphone.
Self-portraits are more than a simple snap and go type of photo. It is well thought out, composed, and shot to create a lasting impression on the viewer. The self-portrait tells a visual story about the subject (YOU). On the other hand, a selfie is mostly taken for social media; it is a quick way to represent oneself in the virtual world. While you can take experimental selfies, professional self-portraits never cease to amaze because they combine photographic skill, art, and creativity.
In order to take great self-portraits, you need a carefully chosen location, backdrop, camera equipment, and lots of test shots.
Tips for shooting self-portraits:
For a successful self-portrait session, there are several prerequisites. The camera is the most important tool, but it takes more than a good camera to create a lasting impression. It’s all about you – the subject and the person taking the shot. Since you are the subject and the eye behind the camera, it’s double work. Taking self-portraits is time-consuming and harder than you’d think! You can’t see how your posing looks until after the fact, so it’s challenging to anticipate the outcome.
To make it a little bit easier, we’re sharing our best tips for taking photos that captivate.
Your gear is as important as your skill because it helps you take gorgeous shots that stand out.
Here are the essential pieces of equipment you need to take the best photos.
Camera to Laptop Connection
Thanks to modern technology, it’s much easier to take self-portraits than it was in the past. In the early days of photography, people would have to hold a pose for minutes before the shot was taken successfully. When you take someone’s photo, you can examine the pose and lighting conditions from behind the camera. But when you can’t see what you’re doing, the task is much harder. Therefore, we recommend you use the camera’s video output and a cable to connect the camera to a laptop. As you project the image on a larger screen, you can ensure you get a good shot.
A must-have accessory is a wireless remote. This allows you to have control of the camera from a distance. Freedom of movement is very important since you need to keep going back and forth between your camera and your sitting or standing position. As soon as you set up for the shooting, set the lens to manual focus. Then, use a target to create and establish a focal point. Autofocus is not a good feature to use in this case as an autofocus delay will make you miss the moment. Besides, the last thing you want is a distraction.
It’s difficult to shoot self-portraits without a sturdy tripod. Even if you don’t have your large bulky tripod with you, a small foldable, and flexible one will do. A tripod is essential, for both indoor and outdoor shoots. It allows you to mount the camera wherever you want and keeps it steady. You can also mount a flash if you need extra light.
The wireless remote helps you take the shots from afar, but the self-timer is a must-have. All cameras have this feature, so there’s no reason not to use it. However, when using a self-timer, it’s a race against the clock. Once the countdown begins, you need to rush to your position and strike the perfect pose. The picture may be out of focus and blurry, so you’ll need to do it quite a few times before the photo is perfect. Make sure the camera focuses on you, and not the background, as you don’t want to look like a blurry blob.
Use a higher f-number to get clear pictures. Here’s the best tip to follow when working with the self-timer. Use a chair or prop object as your substitute and set it into the scene. Make sure it is focused, then, set the camera to manual mode and move into the scene. Just ensure you set the self-timer’s delay time to give you enough time to move around.
A photographer knows the importance of lighting when it comes to capturing great images. As you plan your self-portrait shoot, consider the lighting conditions. If you shoot indoors, it’s probably best to use a work light. These are inexpensive small lamps and you can find them online or at home hardware stores. If you’ve got professional studio lights, use those. Even with artificial lights, the flash comes in very handy, so use the flash – you’ll see improved photo quality.
When shooting outdoors, a flash is also useful there, you can even buy a mountable flash to use when you need it. If you can shoot during the golden hour, opt for that instead of shooting at noon when the sun is out in full force.
The options are endless but location can have a huge impact on your photos. Choosing a meaningful location is the key to showing off your best self-portrait work. Look around and choose a location that represents you and your work. Indoor locations are easier to work in because you can control the shooting environment. When you shoot outdoors, many things can happen around you that are out of your control. Choose the location that portrays your personality. If photography is the biggest part of your life, shooting at the photo studio is probably a great idea!
Location and background or backdrop go hand in hand. You can play around with the focus on your backdrop with your lens choice. A long lens allows you to set the background out of focus, which then makes you (the subject) the main focus in the image. If you prefer a visible focused background, then use a wide lens. It’s up to you if you want the backdrop to be a primary element in your image or if you prefer to avoid distractions from your main subject.
If you’re stuck with background ideas in an indoor location, go for a neutral-colored backdrop. That way you can focus on showcasing yourself and your props (if you have them). Black, white, cream, and grey backgrounds are easy to work with.
Props are not necessities, but they can help you tell a story. The studio can tell an interesting story about you as a professional photographer and artist. Even the way you arrange and decorate says a lot about your style. Even if it sounds a bit cliche, you can always use your camera gear and equipment as props when you shoot self-portraits indoors and outdoors.
Don’t stay away from props – there are many objects you can incorporate into your self-portrait. For example, you can hold a photograph in your hand, paintbrushes, a piece of art, a sculpture, books, magazines, and even pets. Make sure to pick something that represents you – it can be an object of sentimental value that showcases your hobbies.
One of the biggest challenges is deciding how to pose when you shoot yourself. Even with clients, it takes time and creative vision to see how a person looks best in front of the camera. You need to get comfortable with your own body in front of the lens. It also depends if you want serious and professional photos, or if you want a fun and creative shoot.
It comes down to which part of yourself you want to portray in the photos.
Here are some posing ideas:
- Cross your arms on your chest
- Hold your chin pensively to look serious
- Tilt your head slightly to the left or right
- Sit and place your hands behind your head
- Pretend you are tinkering with a camera or lens
- Stare into the distance pensively
- Sit in a spot where the sun or artificial light shines on half of your face
There are, of course, much more fun and serious pose ideas, but we’ll stick to the basics for now.
Self-portrait Photography Ideas
Now that you’ve learned about equipment, location, and posing, it’s time to get those creative juices flowing. There are so many photoshoot ideas out there, but when it comes to taking great photos of yourself, you need to consider locations and props that flatter you. The composition is very important, after all. Therefore, you need to plan and think the whole thing through before you start shooting.
Below are some fun and quirky self-portrait photo shoot ideas:
Have you seen those self-portraits of the photographer staring at you in the mirror? Well, the reflection self-portrait is a fun way to get the photographer’s body and his or her camera in the same shot. It’s an easy take on the classic mirror selfie. Draw the viewer into the scene through the reflection. Widen the shot so that you can see yourself but also the objects in front of you. This gives the viewer a voyeuristic glimpse into ‘your’ world.
Don’t be afraid of shooting in black and white:
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The idea of getting lost in nature is not new by all means. But, the classic whimsical nature self-portrait never gets old. When you pose for such a shoot, you need to express a sense of being mesmerized by nature. Shoot outdoors in a park or forest, preferably between lots of grass, foliage, flowers, etc. Base your composition around the landscape and try to ‘blend into the scene’. You can play around with placement within the scene. The message you convey depends on your obscurity or your prominence in the scene.
Looking through the lens
I’m sure you’ve seen those popular self-portraits of the photographer looking through a camera lens. To take part in this, pick up one of your lenses and remove the front and rear cap. Choose a shorter lens because it looks better in photos. Stand up and hold the lens in front of you. The front of the lens should face the camera. The trick to successfully doing this is to hit that spot where the image is in the center of the lens. You’ll be able to see your distorted eye, or your whole face upside down, depending on how you do it. Just keep in mind that everything in the lens is inverted. It takes some experimenting to get it perfect.
Lights and shadows are cool ways to bring your self-portrait to life. They add a sense of mystery and draw in the viewer because of the contrast between light and dark. If you feel like experimenting, you can play around with light shaping objects to create interesting patterns on your face. It’s quite easy to do and doesn’t require any special equipment. You can use a card to create hard-line shadows on your face. You can also use your palm to create a cool shadow on your complexion. If you like the shadow effect, you can let it become the subject of your self-portrait.
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Sure, taking photos in the sunlight on a beautiful summer day is fun. But have you considered taking your self-portrait during inclement weather? It’s the perfect way to incorporate some dark mystery into your shots. The best time to create an eerie photo is during a dense fog. Foggy days go well with black and white shots. The fog creates a unique background for your pictures and it takes the viewer back in time, even though we’re in the present.
Play Dress Up
Don’t be afraid of exploring the world of fashion and costumes. Dress the part of the ‘role’ you want to portray. If the goal is an authentic self-portrait, then dress just like you would any other day. But, if you want to stand out and make a statement, go for bold colors and statement pieces. You can use clothing and accessories to create a theme for your portraits. Think of pieces like hats, gloves, silk scarves, shoes, coats, and other stand-out fashion articles.
Switch up the Emotions
As the subject of your images, you convey a certain emotion to your viewer. Don’t forget that even boredom is a state of being and a common emotion. Your facial expressions and body say a lot about your emotions. They set the tone of the photos, so make sure to really let it all out. Exaggerated facial and body expressions have a great effect in pictures because they tell a visual story. Experiment with different emotions in front of the camera and take some test shots to see what works and what doesn’t. This way you’ll already know what to aim for when taking self-portraits.
The Bottom Line
There’s no limit to how far you can take a self-portrait. Get creative and play around with lighting, locations, and props. Being authentic is the best way to portray your personality on camera. But, there is no limit to how unique and fun you can make your self-portraits. As long as you have a tripod, a good camera, and some time to experiment, you’re all set to shoot some amazing pictures of yourself.