Self-portraits are a medium of self-expression for a plethora of artists. It requires a thorough understanding of photography basics and an understanding of self too. It lets creators connect to the viewer intimately and show off a part of themselves.
Self-portrait photography can be the perfect choice if you're looking to express yourself while bettering composition, lighting, and posing skills. It can also be a source of inspiration for your other work.
Selfies vs self-portrait photography
While, arguably, any photo you take of yourself can be classified as a self-portrait, there's still a big difference between these two mediums.
Self-portraits are artistic expressions of the self. They involve planning, technical skill, and a creative mindset. Selfies can be defined as photos you took of yourself with your smartphone's front-facing camera. They can be artistic and beautiful or made in the moment just for fun.
5 tips for self-portrait photography
As a general guideline, all elements of your self-portrait should be intentionally used to set the tone you want to convey. Let's dig into this with the following 5 tips.
1. Get the right equipment
Picking the right camera equipment can drastically improve your self-portrait photography.
Don't let your resources limit your creativity, though! Stunning photos can be taken with just a smartphone on a timer and the fairy lights from the garage. The right camera equipment simply makes your life easier and allows you to work with more options.
You need to have an idea of your desired outcome before you even pick up a lens. A telephoto lens allows you to separate yourself from the background by keeping it blurry. A wide-angle lens is great at showing off your environment.
Besides the camera and lens, you also might need a tripod to avoid camera shake.
Projecting your camera's output to a laptop, TV, or any bigger screen can make it a lot easier to see what you're doing.
2. Learn how to trigger your shot
Besides the aforementioned camera equipment, you'll want to consider a wireless remote for easier control. Certain cameras can even be controlled through an app, which can eliminate the need for remotes.
Self-timers can get you far but if you want full creative control, a remote can come in handy. It also saves you the annoyance of having to go back and forth between your pose and camera and helps with your shot's focus.
3. Light your self-portrait with intention
Lighting your self-portrait should also serve as a tool to achieve your desired look.
Generally, soft, reflected, natural light is the most flattering for human faces. They cast little to no shadows and illuminates the face evenly. This kind of lighting is frequently used in all sorts of portrait photography.
On the other hand, harsh lighting, especially at an angle, will create a dramatic effect that isn't necessarily favorable. It could be something that compliments your concept if you're going for a moodier feel, for example.
Experiment with different kinds of light for unique shots. Using a prism to cast a rainbow or having only one half of your face lit can be visually interesting ways of breaking the norm.
4. Use the right backgrounds and props for your self-portrait photography
The background of your portrait can be a great extension of yourself. While a neutral wall will do as a backdrop, don't be afraid to experiment and open up about your mood, hobbies, or usual environment.
Do you enjoy spending time in nature? Your garden can be an excellent yet challenging location. Surrounding yourself with candles, scattering around books, or trying to involve your pet in the shoot can add the desired unique quality to your photos.
Being in a meaningful environment might help you relax and feel more confident in front of the camera too.
5. Learn to relax in front of the camera
Learning how to be comfortable and post naturally is a crucial part of taking self photos. Try to relax and get into the headspace of trying something new, or even being silly! Tilt your head, cross your arms, lengthen your body the same ways you'd direct a model to do. Evaluate what works and try to stick with it to improve your posing skills as well.
Getting started on your self-portrait!
Find inspiration from other self-portrait photos or different elements of portrait photography.
Or get back to basics with Photography 101 to master the fundamentals for taking better images.
About the instructor
London, United Kingdom
Dan Kennedy is a London-based celebrity and fashion photographer regularly commissioned in the UK and USA to shoot for advertising clients, magazines, and celebrity agents.
How do you take a portrait of yourself?
You can easily take a self-portrait by setting your camera on a timer with on a flat surface. To take masterful self-portraits, consider lighting and composition carefully.
Why do photographers do self portraits?
Self portraits allow photographers to experiment with different elements of photography while expressing themselves.