Most of us make the mistake of correlating self-portrait with mirror selfies; thanks to our smartphones and social media. But one thing that we must understand is that the custom of representing one’s self through visual art has been prevalent for a long time. Look at the self-portraits done by painters such as Rembrandt, Picasso, Vincent van Gogh for instance and you’ll get a glimpse of the context.
In today’s age of digital photography too, self-portraits have their own special place. Don’t simply think of self-portrait as popping out your smartphone’s front camera and taking your snap. Whether you want to keep your creative juices flowing, build your portfolio, just practice your photography techniques, come up with unique photo ideas, or simply portray yourself through images, self portrait photography can be a great approach. Today, we’ll go through some key points that you should consider when taking self-portraits, and some interesting self portrait photography ideas that you can use for self-portraiture.
Gear for Self Portraits
You definitely don’t require a special set of equipment for photographing yourself. However, the ones that we recommend will surely make your work that much easier while allowing you to conveniently take creative control of the final results.
A Camera with Manual Control
Smartphones are great too. However, we highly recommend that you work with a camera that lets you take complete control of all the settings – a DSLR, mirrorless, or a bridge camera will perfectly serve the purpose. Such cameras have the following benefits:
- better image quality thanks to the bigger sensor
- more creative options as you can easily manipulate the settings to your liking
- ability to work with different lenses opens up a door to different perspectives
- images have a more “professional” look thanks to the shallower depth of field
Bonus: If your camera has an LCD screen that flips, be sure to have it turned towards you during the shoot. It will help you tremendously in composing your shots.
Having a tripod handy helps you a lot when taking a self portrait photo. You might think that placing the camera on some flat surface will do it, but we urge you to get a sturdy tripod. It is much safer and will also help you to work in “awkward” or creative unique angles with ease.
Wireless Shutter Release or Self Timer
It is a good idea to invest in getting yourself a wireless shutter release or a remote. Using the device, you will be able to release the camera’s shutter any time you like using the remote. You’ll also tire yourself less this way as you won’t need to run back to the camera time and again.
If you feel that using a self-timer will suffice, you can work that way too. However, keep in mind that you will need to constantly run to the camera to activate the timer.
If you want your self-portraits to appear more professional, you can use lighting equipment as well. But other than that, these three are everything you need for self-portraits.
Tips for Photographing Self-Portraits
We’re pretty sure that you must be excited to learn more about self portrait ideas to take exciting and inspiring photos of yourself. Now that you’re aware of why self-portraits are important and what all gear you’ll need for the purpose, let’s look at some exciting tips that’ll help you take some eye-catching creative self portraits.
Emphasize Your Personality
Everyone is unique and has special personality traits. Think of what makes you stand out from the rest and use that to emphasize your personality.
For instance, do you like wearing fancy clothes or accessories? Wear them for your self-portrait. Or, do you love playing basketball? Then, plan your shoot in a court, or photograph yourself playing the sport. You can just play silly or go extravagant with your posing too if you love to goof around with friends.
When you’re being yourself and doing what you love doing, chances are high that you photograph a true reflection of yourself.
Have Someone With You
Self-portrait doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to be alone in the frame. If you have a friend who can accompany you, include them as well and portray the bond that you both share. Human interaction always adds value to an image.
Pets work fabulously well too. In fact, they can invoke deeper emotions compared to when you have a human counterpart.
A self-portrait can be a fantastic way to challenge your creative side. One way to do so is to try and seek ways to limit yourself and take the best self-portraiture using those limited resources. For instance, you could limit yourself in terms of location. You could force yourself to shoot inside a room and come out with as many different portrait ideas as possible.
Another idea could be to photograph self-portraits using a limited color palette. For instance, try and shoot with only red and greens in your frame. Or, try and match your surrounding with the color of the outfit that you’re wearing.
Shooting by limiting yourself will force you to think creatively and brings out the best in you.
Add Some Action
Playing around with shutter speed can be a great way to make your images more dynamic and full of action. Instead of simple stationary poses, try some fun and action-filled poses. Jump around if you like, or break out a dance move if you’re into it.
Using a fast shutter speed with your camera in burst mode, you can freeze your motion and appear like you’re stuck mid-air. This gives the viewers a sense of energy that you must’ve had when taking the photo.
On the contrary, by using a slower shutter speed while you’re moving around, you can capture your own motion trail and give a ghostly/ethereal look to the image.
Play Around with Perspective
Many photographers make the mistake of always shooting from eye level. While this is preferred, the final result can appear boring when you’re always shooting this way. A simple idea to create dynamic-looking images is by shooting from a different angle and perspective.
Place the camera low and point it upwards to give yourself a dominant look. Or, give yourself a miniature or a suppressed look by getting yourself low while raising the camera high. Tripods can be very useful to help you in scenarios like these.
Pre-focus Your Shot
Getting your focus right can be a real hassle during self-portraiture. Since you will be in front of the camera, you cannot immediately tell whether the camera is focusing on you or elsewhere. A neat trick here is to pre-focus your shot.
Switch the camera over to manual focus mode and using the focus ring carefully focus where you’re planning to be in the shot. You can either use a dummy object like a bag to help you in nailing the focus. This way, once you’re done with your composition, you can go to the pre-determined spot and take your self-portrait.
Another benefit of using this technique is that you won’t need to keep on adjusting your focus unless you decide to change the distance between you and the camera.
Recreate a Story
Think of your favorite scene from your favorite movie or a book. Using those as references, plan your shoot to recreate those scenes. You could even take this as a creative project and invest a good chunk of your time and resources to explore your creative side.
Shoot Near a Window
Creative self-portrait photography does not essentially mean that you need to be spending tons of money on expensive lighting. You’d be surprised to know that if you’re shooting indoors, you already have your best lighting source in the form of a window or a door.
Large openings inside your home work perfectly as a large softbox and are a great source of soft light – perfect for portrait photography. Be sure to place yourself as close to the window as possible see how the free natural lighting will do wonders to your self-portrait.
Pay Attention to Your Background
Things can get a bit tricky when the camera’s lens is pointing towards you. Having a clutter free background is very important so that the viewers don’t get distracted away from the subject. But when taking a self-portrait, it can be easy for you to miss whatever’s happening in your background.
Be sure to go through every shot meticulously and ensure that your background is clean and free from any kind of distractions.
Take Black and White Shots
Black and white images have a sense of timelessness. When taken properly, you can create an image that purely emphasizes the details and expression rather than the flashy colors and glamorous looks. So, if you really want to challenge your creativity, a great self-portrait idea can be to take a black and white image. When doing so, be sure to pay attention to your facial expression and lighting. You’d want these two things to be on point.
Self Portrait with Natural Landscapes
A cool self-portrait idea is to do it amidst mother nature. When you’re out hiking, it doesn’t necessarily mean that landscape photography is the only thing that you need to do. Point the lens towards you and show yourself having fun in nature. Such images can be an inspiration for others, making them eager to explore more.
In addition to this, you can also compose your image in a way that showcases the grand scale of nature. This makes the image appear so much interesting while making the viewers imagine how fun it’d be to be actually standing there in your place.
Add Mystery to Your Self Portraits
You can deem a photograph to be successful if it leaves the viewers asking questions. And adding elements of mystery is a creative way to do so.
There are various ways you can create mysteries in your photos. Stand against a light source and capture your own silhouette. Play with lights and shadows to reveal only a small portion of your face. You can also use other elements such as curtains, hair, or branches to reveal only a portion of your face.
You can even take a self-portrait photo that is entirely void of a face. Have your back turned, or hide your face creatively but still tell a story where the face is not as important.
Use Mirrors and Reflections
Contrary to adding mystery to your shots, you can use mirrors and reflections to creatively reveal yourself. Keep in mind that the idea here is not to go stand in front of a mirror and photograph your reflection. Instead, think of how you can do so in a creative way.
For example, you could photograph a wall with a small mirror and then position yourself in such a way that just your face is reflecting on the mirror. Another creative idea with mirrors is to carefully hold a right-sized mirror against yourself in an open area so that it appears that your body is transparent. Try this and you’ll definitely end up with a cool self-portrait.
Get Artsy and Flashy
You’ll love this tip if you’re a makeup artist or love painting. Treat yourself as a canvas and feel free to go overboard with your makeup or painting skills. Use bright and flashy colors and glitters, be creative, and see how you present yourself as a work of art. These kinds of images will work as an inspiration not only to other photographers but also to makeup and painting artists.
Tell a Story
Storytelling is an important aspect of all genres of photography including self-portraiture. In case you find it challenging at first to convey messages with a single shot, there are many other ways to do so.
Try your hand with double exposure. With double exposure, you can overlay two or more images in a single frame. By overlaying images that have contrasting or harmonious moods, you can convey a certain message to the viewers. You can do this either in-camera or during post.
Another great idea for storytelling can be to create a collage, a triptych (three different photos in one frame), or even a quadtych (four different photos in one frame). By shooting different photos separately but by having them in a single frame, you will have a greater chance to convey what you want to your audience.
Self-portrait photography is definitely something that everyone should try out. Whether you have some extra time in hand or want to sharpen your photography skills, taking a bunch of self-portraits is a great way to do so. The best thing is that you can take all the time that you want and since you don’t need a model, you can basically do it for free.
We really hope that you try out some of the interesting self-portrait ideas that we’ve shared in this article. These creative self-portrait ideas will definitely help you take some cool self-portraits and help to sharpen your photography in the process.Back to Top