Anytime I hear people talk about taking a self-portrait, I also hear about how intimidating or scary it can be to jump in front of the camera.
But I don’t think it has to be scary or intimidating at all, especially considering it’s just you and the camera.
Taking self-portraits can and should be a fun (and honestly, sometimes funny) experience. Here are 5 tips to help you have a successful self-portrait session.
1. Tell a story
Before you set up your self-portrait, it can be helpful to decide on the story you want to tell. Your story doesn’t have to be super elaborate, just have in mind the message you want to convey.
Once you’ve decided on your story, it becomes easier to decide what you want to wear, what you want your backdrop to be, your posing, etc. Deciding on the details comes after you’ve decided on what you want your self-portrait’s story to be as a whole.
The story I wanted to tell for the following self-portrait was the story of hope – of me seeing the light among the shadows. This helped me decide to wear something fairly simple (a t-shirt) and use dappled light against the side of the house, positioning myself in one of the bright spots facing the sun, with a big smile.
For this self-portrait I wanted to tell the story of solitude and loneliness. I knew I wanted it to be a low-lit portrait and I chose a pose where my body is very closed off, almost as if I’m protecting myself from my surroundings. My clothing is minimal to express vulnerability and rawness.
Here I wanted my story in this image to be quiet confidence. I knew I wanted the lighting to be fairly simple and my body language to be pretty relaxed with a smile. I also decided to go without makeup, because I wanted to feel confident in my skin without any enhancements and portray that in the photograph.
2. Get creative
If you’re feeling shy about being in front of the camera, you can take a creative self-portrait that doesn’t even incorporate your face. This is a good way to get comfortable taking self-portraits without completely putting yourself out there.
You can take a faceless self-portrait where you use your body language to convey your message.
Creating a silhouette is always an option, too.
You can also focus on a body part besides your face. There’s legs, hands, etc. So many body parts to choose from so don’t feel limited to just your face!
You can even get super creative and do a composite.
There’s so many ways to avoid having your face in the frame if you’re uncomfortable when you’re first starting out with self-portraits. All it takes is a bit of brainstorming to come up with a concept that allows you to be present yet anonymous at the same time.
3. Incorporate a person/item to interact with
Figuring out what to do with your hands in a self-portrait can be super awkward. Do you include them in the frame? If so, what are they going to be doing? Should they be posed? Should they be relaxed?
There’s so many options, and sometimes it can be overwhelming to figure it all out. Incorporating an item or person into the frame for you to interact with can make these decisions so much easier.
Incorporating flowers gives you something to hold AND can double as a way to take a faceless self-portrait.
When in doubt, hands in the hair always works for me. Again, incorporating flowers automatically gives your hands something to do and incorporates another interesting item into the frame.
4. Be realistic
Don’t go into a self-portrait session thinking every photo is going to be a keeper. Because they’re not. It’s just not possible. It’s going to be just like any other session you do. There’s going to be times when you catch yourself blinking, or you look constipated, or your pose is awkward.
Out of maybe 100 frames I take (and yes, I can take that many frames for a 30-minute self-portrait session), there’s only about 20 I keep and consider editing. Then out of that 20 there’s usually only about 5 I actually end up liking enough to share.
Realize that you’re not perfect, but your flaws are what makes you unique. So jump in front of the camera anyway and embrace them!
5. Have fun!
Taking self-portraits should be a way for you to get to know yourself and build self-confidence. It doesn’t have to be super stressful or intimidating at all. At the end of the day, no one even has to see the photos if you don’t like any. Simply scrap them and start over with a new idea!
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