Undoubtedly, you’ve seen selfies on social media. But those are far different from a quality photography self portrait. In truth, a self portrait can convey much about the photographer who took it. And practicing self portrait photography can help you learn critical skills you need to take better photos of other people. Follow these six steps to perfect the art of self portrait photography: 

6 Steps to Perfecting Self Portrait Photography

  • Study Strong Examples of Self Portrait Photography
  • Use the Right Equipment
  • Decide on a Theme and Location
  • Choose the Right Angles and Poses
  • Select the Best Lighting
  • Look into a Mirror

Everyone can feel awkward in front of a camera. That’s as true for photographers as it is for their subjects. However, if you look around, you can find many beautiful examples of creative self portrait photography in books and online. Use those as motivation to stop being camera shy and start brainstorming your own self portrait photography ideas.

One of the best things about self portrait photography is that you can practice it wherever you are—at any time. At a minimum, you need yourself and your camera, although some equipment can certainly be valuable. After learning some basic techniques, you can choose themes, clothing, props, and location to create a message with your portraiture.

There are so many options to explore. You could experiment with fine art self portrait photography or try your hand at surreal self portrait photography. Look around for photography inspiration and creative ideas to uncover techniques you can try on your own. Then follow these tips to achieve your goals. 

1. Study Strong Examples of Self Portrait Photography

You’re likely familiar with painters—like Vincent Van Gogh and Frida Kahlo—who created highly-regarded fine art self portraits. But did you know that pop artist Andy Warhol also took famous self portrait photography? He’d take creative self portraits—often with a Polaroid camera that developed each image quickly. Then, he’d use those photos as foundations for some of his renowned silkscreen works.

Some well-known self portrait photography artists have used costumes to display different sides of their persona. Other artists have used self portrait photography to convey messages or moods they couldn’t express in any other way. 

You can find examples of the work of each artist in self portrait photography books or museum websites. Each photographer achieved acclaim for producing some of the best self portrait photography so they can be great sources of inspiration. 

However, you don’t have to look to famous photographers for ideas. You can find many expert photographers who practice the art of self portrait photography today. Just do a search for their blogs or websites to uncover practical, contemporary self portrait photography tips. 

Sometimes, you can find photographers who host challenges that motivate their readers to complete a self portrait photography project and submit results. These challenges can be anything—from taking funny portraits to sending in examples of abstract self portrait photography. Often, you’ll find some of the most creative self portrait ideas shared on the host’s blog or Instagram feed. You can learn a lot from following and taking part in these activities.

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2. Use the Right Equipment

In addition to a camera, there are a few pieces of equipment that come in handy when shooting self portrait photographs. These ideas will help you make the most of your DSLR self portrait photography—although they work just as well with other cameras.

First, make sure you have a way to stabilize your camera. It’s a good idea to have a tripod or monopod for this purpose. Most models will work, so don’t worry about spending a lot of money on premium equipment.

A camera remote is another good item to have on hand. A remote shutter button release—which is also known as a wireless trigger—lets you capture self portraits from your chosen location without having to use the timer feature on your camera. Clearly, using a remote is a better alternative than running back to your camera to press the shutter between each shot. Often, you can find remotes that are compatible with entry-level DSLR cameras for around $20—so they’re worthwhile investments.

If your camera has an HD video out function, you may be able to connect it to a portable DVD player or your laptop during your shoot. This way, you can watch yourself on the monitor or screen to perfect the composition of your photography self portrait. You can determine if you’ve chosen the right focal point or know if you should adjust shutter speed. And you can experiment with several portrait photography ideas and poses with ease and make the most of your shooting time.  

3. Decide on a Theme and Location

Your first self portrait photography explorations may be simple to help you practice the basics. At first, it’s okay to learn how to take portraits of yourself in every clothes in front of a neutral-colored wall.However, you’ll want to branch out as you gain more skill. There are so many potential portrait ideas to pursue. Deciding on a theme and location for your portraiture that supports your message is essential.

Do you want to achieve a whimsical or mystical vibe in your photography self portrait? If so you may want to use lighting effects, costumes, and props to give your picture the perfect feel. You can also take more than one shot and use photo editing software to create an intriguing example of double exposure photography

Is your aim something more serious and moody? Then, pursuing self portrait black and white photography in a stark environment might work well. 

The background of your photo tells much about the intent of your photography portrait. If you position yourself in front of a bookshelf in your office, you’ll give off an intellectual persona. For urban cool self portrait photography feel, head out into the heart of the city. Take a shot in your favorite outdoor locale for a natural look to you self-portrait photography.

Brainstorm some self portrait ideas and think through all the details. Use a mix of locations, props, attire, and light effects to bring your creative self portrait photography concepts to life.

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4. Choose the Right Angles and Poses

Taking flattering self portrait photography requires some practice. Even if you’re an expert at shooting portraits of other people, you’ll need to know what works for your face—and what doesn’t. In fact, most faces aren’t symmetrical, so everyone has a “good side” that works best for self photography.

You also should experiment by taking with a photo that don’t focus on your face alone. Perhaps you’ll want to capture an image of yourself on a stool gazing out a window. Or maybe you want to showcase another favorite hobby, like playing an instrument or creating art. Also, you can pursue boudoir photography on your own in a comfortable setting.

Full-body shots are a mainstay of fashion self portrait photography. Learning how to pose yourself is a must if you’ve ever dreamed of publishing your own fashion photography blog. 

These types of photos show more of your body, so you’ll want to choose positions that reflect your best self. As a bonus, you’ll learn some new posing techniques you can test out with other people in the future.

That said, one of the most compelling things about self portrait photography is its ability to capture the truth of who you are. No one is perfect. So, if your self portraits reveal some flaws, you may want to embrace them. 

You can even use conceptual self portrait photography to portray difficult emotions, like loneliness or heartbreak. In these instances, honesty is the goal instead of perfection.

5. Select the Best Lighting

To get started with self portrait photography, you don’t need fancy lighting equipment. The flash on your camera or the natural light outdoors (or near a window) may be all that you need. When you’re first learning, you can work with household lights or inexpensive work lights from a hardware store to gain some basic lighting knowledge.

After some practice, you can focus on some new techniques. You can use a classic single light setting for your self portrait photography. Place the light to one side of your posing location. Make sure to position it high and point it down. If you want a more dramatic look, pull your light higher and move it more directly over your head. This can create a high contrast look that is ideal for black and white self portrait photography.

You can also explore non-traditional light sources for creative self portraits. Think of all the light options you have around your home. How about holiday lights or a glowing salt lamp? Have a colorful lighted sign or camping lantern? 

Just look around and open your mind to the possibilities. Your next excellent self portrait photography idea is within your reach. 

Beautiful woman drinking coffee and looking through window while sitting at windowsill at home

6. Look into a Mirror

Undoubtedly, you’ll find it can be hard to know how your pictures are turning out while you’re photographing yourself. One of the best ways to overcome this hurdle is to use a mirror.

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Position a mirror behind your camera and focus on it while taking your self portraits. You can learn how changing your facial expression conveys different emotions. And you can determine if you need to shift the angle of your face for a more flattering picture or if your poses reflect the themes you want to convey. 

You can also experiment with self portrait mirror photography by pointing your camera toward the mirror. That lets you take an image of your reflection. With this technique, you can achieve a look that is far more sophisticated than the mirror selfies taken with a smartphone that are everywhere on social networks. 

Learn the Art of Self Portrait Photography

If you’re feeling inspired to take photos, why not try some self portrait photography? You don’t need any fancy equipment to shoot photography portraits of yourself. All you really need is yourself and your camera. And there are many cool ideas for creative portraits you can try once you’ve gotten comfortable in front of the camera. 

For inspiration, look to other photographers for self portrait photography ideas. You can find examples of famous self portrait photography by renowned artists. Or you can look to contemporary photographers for cool photography techniques that you can apply. Their blogs, websites, and social media feeds are great sources of photography self portrait tips. 

As you learn new skills, you can explore different themes or pursue portrait ideas in varied locations. You can also use equipment like tripods, remotes, or simple lighting options to help make your portrait ideas a reality. A mirror is also useful to help you shoot a flattering image of yourself.

Learning to shoot a self portrait in photography can help you make progress towards your other goals. You’ll learn so much about facial angles, poses, and using props, lighting, and backgrounds to convey themes or emotions. You can apply these learnings to take artistic, compelling, or cool portraits of others—and may be able to use them in street photography as well. 

Truly, the options for creative self portrait photography are endless. You can go for an artist vibe with an abstract self portrait or try out faceless self portrait photography. Or you can even shoot your own professional headshots for your photography website or portfolio. You can also use professional-grade Lightroom presets to help you quickly achieve the look you want for your self portraits.

You can get started today by brainstorming as many photography self portrait ideas as you can. Try a simple project at first to gain experience with the basics. Then, move into whatever direction you prefer—whether that is artistic self portrait photography or abstract self portrait photography.

Once you begin practicing, you’re sure to find more sources of self portrait photography inspiration. You have the talent to make all your self portrait photograph ideas and vision a reality. Start today, and you could evolve into one of the outstanding photography self portrait artists of our time.

Published by Oli Dale

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