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How to Take Stunning Self-Portraits

You may need a self-portrait to go on your website. You might be thinking about using self-portraits to demonstrate new services when you don’t have client images ready yet. You may even have seen some stunning self-portrait projects from other photographers and want to give them a go yourself. Whatever the case may be, it’s easier than you might think to take stunning self-portraits. Here’s how to get started!


The number one thing that you need to do is to relax. You are best off taking your self-portraits alone and in a secluded location, especially when you are first starting out. Having other people around can distract you and make you feel self-conscious. You also need to stop worrying about how you look. It’s natural to tense up at first and make funny faces, even when you don’t realise you are doing it. Instead, try to take a deep, calming breath, and just be yourself. Think of something happy if you want to smile – make it genuine rather than a pose.


Practice in the mirror

Before taking your self-portraits, it’s a good idea to practice in the mirror. Try out different facial expressions and figure out which angle suits you the best. The more you try, the better you will understand how your face really works. You are probably already experience at doing this with other people if you work with models. You know how to find their best angle and exploit it. Try it with yourself and you will see great results. When you get in front of the lens, that’s when you should pull out your practiced moves. They will give you confidence because you know you will look great. For the best results, place the camera at head height – parallel with your eyes. This will ensure that the shots you take are as close as possible to what you saw in the mirror.

Get the right equipment

Most cameras have a mode where you can press the shutter release and have a few moments before the camera actually fires. This mode is fine for casual situations, but when trying to do a proper photoshoot, you should upgrade to a remote shutter release. You can hold this in your hand and press the shutter when you are ready to shoot. It also allows you to use auto-focus rather than relying on manual mode, which can be tricky at low f-stops. You should also set up your self-portrait the same way that you would when taking a portrait of anyone else. That means having a full lighting set-up if necessary as well as paying attention to the background of your shot.


Be creative

You don’t just have to take a smiling photo looking dead-on at the lens. You’re a creative artist, so go wild! Think about the purpose of your photograph and what you want it to say about you. If you are making more of an artistic piece, don’t be afraid to experiment with make-up and costuming as well as your location. Do you want your photograph to make people feel something? If it’s a creative shot you might want them to feel empathy or sadness or joy. If it’s a professional headshot you may want them to feel like they can trust you, that you would be fun to work with, or that you are serious about your work. You can portray those feelings in different ways. For example, to show that you are a hard worker, take a self-portrait of yourself on set or while you are doing post-production at your desk. If you want to appear fun to work with, use bright colours, wear a big smile, and get the camera somewhere in the photo so that you get the message across. It’s tough to photograph yourself with a camera when you are using it for the image, but you can always use an old model or borrow one from a friend for the purposes of the self-portrait.

Edit it right

When you edit your shots, try again to do exactly what you would for anyone else. If you normally smooth skin, do that for yourself too. If you normally use overlays or actions, then use them! The important thing is getting a self-portrait that not only reflects your style, but you are also comfortable with sharing. This way it will be a portrait of yourself as a photographer, not just as a person. It’s easy to be negative and edit harshly when we look at our own portraits. But as yourself, would you really be taking away that scar if you were working with a model – or is it something that makes you, you? On the other side of things, it might be easy to decide barely to make any edits at all, leaving the photograph more or less straight from camera. But to really make a self-portrait pop, you need to edit it like you would any other photo. That’s the key to elevating it to the next level.


Do it often

Finally, in order to improve your self-portraits, try to take them on a regular basis. You will never get better at doing something if you don’t try doing it – so be sure to update your self-portrait now and then. It’s also good to have something fresh to use to represent yourself on the internet or with published work. The more up-to-date a portrait is in these cases, the better. As you take more and more self-portraits, you will notice that the things listed above start to come naturally to you. You no longer feel uncomfortable or afraid in front of the lens. You know how to look good in photographs, and you have built up the kit you need to do it right. Your creative ideas flow easier, and you know exactly how to edit yourself every time. When you get to this stage, your self-portraits are bound to be stunning every time.


What’s your favourite self-portrait you have ever taken? Share with us in the comments!


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