Stop the selfies, grab your tripod, and put on the self timer so you can take professional quality self portraits.
First we had to flip our cameras around and guess whether our faces were even in the frame. Then smartphones came around, and the game changed forevermore.
Selfie culture, for better or for worse, has altered our knowledge of portraiture. Over half of all social media profiles are selfies, where the user photographs themselves with the inward-facing camera of their smartphone. Inevitably, selfies must be considered an (informal) form of portraiture.
Whether you are a blogger without any friends to take nice photos of you (kidding!) or a business professional who wants to update their LinkedIn profile without too much cash, this is the article for you.
Keep reading to learn how to take a great self portrait using only you, yourself, and… you!
Location, location, location
Although you could probably make any place work, I recommend finding a relatively unpopulated location for your solo shoot. Let’s be real; taking pictures of yourself with a tripod and self-timer is relatively…strange, especially when you decide to take them in a public place.
Personally, I become stiff when people walk by and notice me “in the act.” They often stare at me, smirk, or worse—offer to take the photo themselves.
On the other hand, I find that I appear even more natural when I take self portraits alone rather than when somebody I know takes them. I can take the time to achieve the look I am after rather than feeling rushed, judged, or worrying about whether they are taking the photo correctly.
I won’t even tell you how I feel when being photographed by a stranger in a professional studio. (Awkward…)
Overall, find a lonely place where you can take your time, be silly, and take whatever photos you want. Some of my best self portraits were taken in empty alleyways (such as that of the woman in the introduction photo above!). People tend to stray from alleyways, and the numerous lines behind the subject are geometrically satisfying.
Other vacant, aesthetically-pleasing locations may include parking garages, quiet neighborhood sidewalks, interesting scenes behind buildings, and possibly your home.
Into the woods
I know several bloggers and photographers who love to take outfit photos in nature. The woods provide a beautiful background to create a warm aesthetic that—yes—is perfect for showing off your clothes.
I prefer not to showcase my face in these shots because the resulting images usually look complicated and unnatural. Simple, textural clothing and an interesting pose, on the other hand, will lead to some interesting work.
If you decide to take your camera into the trees, make sure to bring a tripod with adjustable legs. The terrain will probably be rough, so be careful with your equipment.
Setting up the self-timer is the easy part; getting your camera to focus on you instead of some random point in the background, however, presents a different challenge.
The answer is relatively simple: Autofocus the frame on something at the distance you’ll be standing, whether it be a stump or a stone on the sidewalk. After you set the autofocus, switch to manual focus so that your camera won’t focus on something else when you enter the shot.
If you keep your camera on manual, it might refocus on some random point in the background. You will look blurry and the shot will be awful. (Don’t do that.)
Variety is the spice of life
You might have the perfect pose in mind, but you should always change up your shots. Sometimes I like to capture close-up details of my outfit, while other times I want to stand back further and let the background add meaning to the shot.
Movement can also add interest to your portraits. Capturing yourself mid- step will reveal how your clothing moves, which causes your portrait to appear animated and alive.
Experiment with different speeds and the creative effects they add to the shot. Sometimes you might want to look at the camera; other times your gaze might be elsewhere.
Always be conscious of your environment with you take self portraits. Although it is important to experiment with eye direction, you don’t want to point your eyes in such a way that causes the viewer to wonder what exists outside the frame. Try to direct your gaze “inward,” which is most often the center of the frame.
Finally, take many shots, and I’m not talking twenty. I usually continue snapping until I reach fifty—minimum. We are always our own worst critics, so you should always give yourself plenty of photos to choose from.
Have fun with it!
This last step speaks for itself. It sounds quite silly to take photos of oneself with a tripod and self-timer, so be silly about it! Jump around and be yourself and let your true colors shine for the camera.