How To Take The Best Self Portrait
Over the weekend, a close friend of mine (and an exceptionally talented photographer) approached me about how I take self portraits because she was looking to take some of her own. I was flattered she had asked me but I was mostly surprised because I never really thought it was anything unique. In fact it was self portraits that sparked my interest in photography initially. Up until the age of 18 I had pretty much only taken photos of myself. A lot of my art projects at school were based around identity and the transition from girl to woman, which of course meant the obvious subject for my work was myself. It wasn’t until University that I had my first proper photoshoot with a model. I assumed it would just be a natural progression of my work and the next step for developing this hobby of mine. Unfortunately that didn’t turn out to be the case.
I can see why photographing someone else could bring a level of ease because there are defined job roles and responsibilities, allowing you to solely focus on your technique. However in others ways I actually found it more difficult. My role as a photographer made me anxious and overwhelmed with a pressure to be professional. Regardless of how excited I was about a photoshoot, I couldn’t shake the nerves and it would detract away from the enjoyment of it. It only took me 3 years and countless projects to finally revert to my old ways and experiment with self portraits again.
Personally I find self portraits open a world of possibilities for my photography. I have the flexibility to photograph whatever and whenever I want. If I get a burst of inspiration at 10pm I have the option to grab my camera and go, as opposed to spending a whole week planning a photoshoot and then not even guarantee I’ll like the photos. I am also never constrained by the clock. There were times when I felt bad because I had promised the model the shoot would only take 2 hours and it was now running half an hour late. I would also feel restricted by what I could ask the model to do. I got caught up in having to play it safe out of fear I would waste everyone’s time. Even if a series of photos turn out embarrassingly disastrous, it only takes a click of a button and they can be deleted forever, never to be seen again. But if I had dragged a model to the studio and made her pose for 3 hours it wouldn’t have been that simple.
I wanted to share a few tips that I have learnt over the years from my experience with this area of photography. Although we can all point a camera at ourselves, it takes time to produce a thoughtful and interesting self portrait.
How To Take The Best Self Portrait
1. Most of the time I rely on a trial-and-error method. I will shoot until I am happy, and then probably shoot again because you can never be completely satisfied.
2. Be sure to regularly check how your photos are looking on the back of your camera. Make sure you are happy with the lighting, framing and focusing otherwise you might find you have a card full of unusable shots.
3. Focusing is a pain in the ass. There is quite a simple solution to this problem but it’s difficult to get it 100% accurate. I like to bring something to stand in my place whilst I’m framing my shots. Place an object (a tall lamp or a spare tripod work the best) into your position, focus on it and then stand in it’s place.
4. Obviously you don’t want to have to run into the frame just as your camera takes the image so to give yourself plenty of time use the the timer setting on your camera for as long as possible. Check your user guide for how to set it up but most cameras should have the option available.
5. Look into purchasing a trigger remote! This was a lifesaver throughout school but unfortunately mine broke recently and it has been a little more difficult ever since. Sometimes your camera will also give you the option to delay the shutter a couple of seconds so you have time to hide the remote in your pocket.
6. Check if your camera has a ‘burst’ feature which will allow you to take multiple photos in succession. This will give you the chance to experiment with a variation of poses and movements so you have variation. Even if you know exactly how you want your photo to look, it’s never a bad idea to have more options than none.
I hope you found this insightful and if you’re also familiar with self portraits I would love to hear some of your tips and tricks below. If not then now is the time to experiment!