Self-Portrait Photography Tips and Ideas

Self-portraiture is something all photographers have explored since the early years of photography. Even if selfies have earned a not so great reputation in our digital age, self-portrait photography is still a popular means of self-expression and representation. But while anyone can point a smartphone to himself or herself, meaningful photographic self-portraiture is more thought-provoking and require more skill. As opposed to a quick snapshot taken in front of a mirror, a self-portrait tells a story by revealing essential aspects of your life and personality. Let us guide you through the art of self-portrait photography with a few inspirational ideas and creative tips.

Self-Portrait Photography Tips

Locus Pocus

Self-portraits are synonymous with self-identity. Is location essential to you? Do places, buildings or streets say something about your identity, preferences, or expectations? Try to include a meaningful ‘locus’ in your self-portrait such as an urban background, an iconic building or simply a beautiful landscape.

Self-portrait photography in Paris

Mirror, mirror…

Taking a self-portrait often implies using a mirror. Mirrors have been the preferred props for photographers pointing the lenses to themselves. And they can still make a difference if used in a creative way. Unleash your imagination and be ready to create some surprising compositions.

'Mirror Imagination' self-portrait by Graham Nash taken in 1974
‘Mirror Imagination’: Self-portrait by Graham Nash (1974)

Into and Out of the Light

Different lighting creates different moods. Experiment with lighting both to add diverse effects to your portrait and to reveal subtle feelings. Don’t be afraid to shoot in dark settings. Play with shapes, reflections, and shadows.

self-portrait photography by Michael Wirth
Self-portrait by Michael Wirth

Surreal Touch

If you feel skilled enough to make your self-portrait magnetically surreal, there are a few such photographic works you may want to look at. Joel Robison’s photography is exemplary of how technical boundaries can be broken. He believes self-portraits are an amazing way to express emotions, ideas and dreams. Do you know what is amazing? He took up photography by participating in a photo project entitled 365 project for which he took a self-portrait every day for a year.

Zev is another photographer who takes surreal self-portrait photography to another level. Born in Natick, Massachusetts, and only 14-years old, Zev is genuinely talented and highly imaginative.

self-portrait photography by Zev
Self-portrait by Zev

Powerful and haunting images are the trademarks of another young photographer’s self-portraiture work – Kyle Thompson.

Surreal self-portraits imply post-processing techniques you may not be familiar with. That is why self-portrait photography is also a great opportunity to refine your skills, not only to express your personality. Expressive compositions and mind-blowing effects require talent, but also a lot of work in front of the screen.

Vintage is Cool

If you are a vintage enthusiast, check Vivien Maier’s website and find out more about her eccentric self-portraits, both black & white and color, taken 50 years ago in various locations of New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.  Her life and work is truly inspiring. Learn more about her story.

self-portrait photography by Vivien Maier
Self-portraits by Vivien Maier

As you are about to see, selfies were not invented on Instagram. The first recorded self-portrait was taken in 1900 by an Edwardian woman in front of a mirror with a Kodak Brownie box camera. How cool is that?

 edwardian woman taking her own photograph in 1900 using a miror and a kodak brownie box camera

Search for Inspiration

The Internet offers you numberless photography sharing websites where people upload thousands of self-portraits every day. On Pinterest only, you can find tons of such eye-catching examples and explore truly impressive ideas.

Also, you can gain inspiration from professional photographers who master the art of self-portraiture.

Discover and participate in self-portrait projects around the world. Share your skills, experience and story. Such projects not only are meant to make you more skilled, but also more creative and self-aware. As a tip, try using words to describe your photos.

Avoid the ‘Selfie’ Automatism

Last, but not least, nothing looks less professional than a selfie taken with your smartphone. Avoiding the selfie mania is one of the elementary things you should keep in mind. In order to do so:

  • Don’t shoot photos by extending your arm. Use a tripod instead or place your digital camera on a solid surface.
  • Limit self-portraits taken in front of a mirror.
  • Play with perspectives.
  • Experiment shooting from different angles.

Image Sources: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8

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