Self Portrait Photography Tips

Self portraits are tough for a number of reasons; you can’t see yourself to know how you look until after the fact. Setup can be more time consuming due to the running back and forth setting timers. Focus is difficult because again you can’t see where that focus point is resting and if you are using a timer mode there is a chance you weren’t in the frame when the camera found something to focus on.

On the other hand, shooting self portraits can be invaluable because you learn how to direct people for better portraits. As you walk yourself through a portrait (of yourself) you gain insight in how to explain to people how to pose (you learn how to pose). The best way to direct people is to show them what you want and if you can do it for a self portrait, you can show your subject how to pose for you.

Another benefit is you can move your lights, angle you camera, and just do plain crazy things a subject such as friends, family or a client might not have the patience for (unless you pay them well).

So what to do? Well here are some ideas (tried and tested) to increase your chances for getting that self portrait to look like what you had planned in your mind (or close to it). Of course everything might not apply to you, but there are sure to be a few tips that you could apply and benefit from, and no matter how well you prepare there is always room for improvement.


  • Pick up a tripod. Nearly any tripod will do. The tripod is essential as it gives a flexible yet sturdy mount for the camera.
  • Pick up a remote; if you are using a Nikon or Canon camera there are wireless remotes available for the less expensive DSLR’s that cost about $20. These things are a real time saver and make it easier to fine tune your self portrait without looking all sweaty.
  • Shoot tethered; most digital cameras have a mini video if not a HD video out. This is where the remote comes in great; you can fine tune the composition by watching that little monitor, without having to run back and forth. If you have a newer DSLR with an HD out then you could hook up your laptop or HD monitor.
  • Lighting, a single flash can do wonders for your portraits. We won’t go into any lighting details, but photography is about capturing light. You don’t need to buy a flash, start by learning lighting using work lights. 

Coming up with ideas:
Where most people get stuck on self portraits is the coming up with ideas. Think about your hobbies and past times. Environment  sometimes can inspire the image. 

Creating a theme:
Two items make a photo, the subject and backdrop, and they are equally important. This is where your lens choice comes into play. A long lens allows you to send the back ground out of focus and narrow down the amount of background in the photo. A wide lens keeps the background in focus and allows it to be a key part of the image. Either way the background is playing a big factor by being a key element or by not distracting from the subject.

Dress the part:
Clothing is a big part of your inspiration for creating a theme.

Portray emotion:
Want your photos to look boring, then act bored. The facial and body expressions you make are huge in setting the tone of the photo. This is where having a tethered setup can really help (you will be able to see results and nail it down). Aim for over the top, go crazy. The more emotion you show the better the photo will turn out.

Look at your photos:
When you are done, look through the photos and see what worked and what didn’t. Make notes about what you liked and didn’t like. Enjoy looking though the photos. If certain photos didn’t turn out then do them again. If you do it right your going to love it!

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