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If you’re a photographer, you know one of the hardest techniques to conquer is self portraiture. Let’s be honest, our hearts skip a beat when we take pictures of our kids or clients. But when we see a photo of ourselves? Well, we start to critique and we start to critique hard. Perhaps it’s because you haven’t lost those 40 pounds you so wish you could lose. Perhaps it’s because you really have no self love for yourself (and if that’s the case, stop reading this right now and go do something for you because you deserve it and you are beautiful). Or maybe you find it hard to get in the picture. Whatever the reason is, stop it. You are beautiful. You are loved. You are cherished. Your kids will want pictures of you one day. They will want to see what you look like. And you know what? They WON’T care about that 40 pounds you never managed to get off. They just won’t. They will care that you are in photos with them. I have 3 tips to help take self portraits and to make it easier.
Here are a few other posts you might like about improving your photography:
- 9 Photography Tips for Moms
- How to Take Pictures of Your Everyday
- 7 Ways to Improve Your Photography NOW
- How to Create Catchlights in the Eyes
Before we get started, I thought I would talk about the necessities you need in order to take a successful self portrait. Some of these are not essential to your success, they just make the job a lot easier. I’ll show you what I have.
- A DSLR – I have the nifty Nikon D610. I absolutely love this camera, it definitely does what I want. It has a lot of buttons to control your settings. I especially love how easy it is to control my white balance and ISO. But a simple DSLR will work, like a Nikon D5100. Whatever you have as your camera (assuming it’s a DSLR) will work!
- A Tripod – If you don’t have a tripod, you can use anything else that is sturdy to hold your camera up.
- A Remote – not a requirement, but certainly helps. I like using my remote to enable the self timer. Then I don’t have to constantly get up and push the button, I can stay in my spot and just simply push the button on the remote. Makes it a much more enjoyable experience.
- Your lovely self – this should go without saying … in order to take a self portrait, you need yourself! A few things to note: You don’t have to look amazing. Sometimes the beauty of a self portrait is the honesty behind it. That being said, it can be fun to dress up sometimes and get in the frame!
Alright, now that I got the list of lovely things you need in order to take a successful self portrait, let’s dive into some nifty tips on getting the look you want.
my 3 easy tips to take a self portrait
I love taking self portraits for so many reasons. One of them is that it’s actually calming to me. And it’s always a challenge to figure out how to compose an image when it’s a self portrait. These tips will help get you started, but remember that self portraits take time. If you were to see my self portraits from my earlier years of photography to now…you would think it was a completely different photographer. My self portraits from years ago just look like snapshots, now they look like art. Give yourself time. Practice. Patience. I can’t stress this enough! If you try out self portraits and these tips helped, please let me know in the comments.
1. focus on the tripod
I love using a tripod. But if you don’t have one, anything will work! I have set my camera on books, my desk, tv stand, mantel, stairs, counter, table, anything stable will do. Make sure it is stable, I don’t want any camera’s breaking!
The trick here, and it’s a favorite of mine, is to stand where you want to stand, camera in hand. Then, and here’s the magical part, you focus on where you are going to put your camera (the tripod, the counter, the stack of books, etc). Focus on where your camera is going and set your focus to manual focus. Not sure how to do that? Look it up in your manual! Mark the spot where you are standing, sitting, etc. Make sure you go back to that same spot. Next, set your camera on your tripod, table, etc. and go back to where you marked your spot. Use your timer or remote shutter and ta-da! You are in focus in every shot. Such a fun trick.
2. hand the camera over
This is probably the number one thing I do when taking a self portrait. Whether it’s really considered as a ‘self’ portrait or not is entirely up to you! But, hand the camera over to someone.
First thing you want to do is have them model for you. Get the settings the way you want them. Take a test shot and make sure the image looks the way you want. Then I like to show the person helping me the image I took. I’ll tell them, “focus in the middle” or “put the little square on my face” etc. I will tell them EXACTLY what I want! That’s the key here. I show them how to focus, I give them pointers on how to get the shot that I want and what I would do. I also fully encourage taking a lot of images. My husband has a hard time with this. He sometimes only takes one image and then that one image doesn’t turn out.
Since they are new to a camera this big, I really encourage them to take as many images as possible. Then, ONE of them will for sure turn out.
3. do something in your photo
I know when I first started taking self portraits, I felt really awkward (let’s not even talk about how weird that word is!) and I didn’t know how to pose myself. I would sit there and stare at the camera, sometimes smile, and they always looked forced. Not the natural looking self portraits I always saw! I would suggest to do an activity. For example, in the above image, I am helping my son get dressed. My face isn’t even in the image, so it doesn’t matter if I’m making a funny face or not! In my images, I usually like to hold my son. It gives my hands something to do and usually makes for fun pictures (because my son is adorable and I can’t help but smile when he’s in my arms!).
If you don’t have kids, you could try something else. Like baking, reading, writing, working on the computer. Mix it up. I also suggest that you don’t always have to look at the camera. If you DO look at the camera, a smile usually looks less professional than a beautiful stare. I have a rule, if I want to smile, I can’t look at the camera! Try it and see if you like the results better.
Alyssa (sometimes going by Aly) is a hobbyist photographer who loves to teach. Her love of photography started before she ever had any kids. Now a mom of two, she loves to photograph her kids, flowers, and landscape. She specializes in capturing her everyday life. She loves to teach fellow beginner photographers how to take control of their cameras and get the images they dream about getting.