Self-Portrait Photography Tips

self portrait photography tips
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Want to start taking self-portraits? Puzzling over how to look your best and convey your personality? With our simple tips and ideas, you can make it a creative process you’ll enjoy. Whether you need a simple shot for a passport, a headshot for an acting portfolio or an artistic shot, we’ll help you achieve that perfect snap. Read on to learn how to take self-portraits you’ll love.

Self-portrait photography set-up

To get the best result, you’ll want to get your set-up right. There are a few key pieces of kit that can make shooting self-portraits a whole lot easier, as well as some key composition and lighting factors you’ll need to consider. Take a look at our top tips to keep in mind when setting up your shoot:

  • Your camera: It doesn’t necessarily matter what camera you use, just be aware that you can have more control of the outcome if you have a slightly more advanced camera, such as a DSLR.
  • A tripod: Having a tripod with adjustable legs is a great way to achieve the perfect composition for your self portrait, without any uneven levels.
  • A remote: You can pick up a wireless remote for shutter release from afar, for a reasonable price at most photography shops. Having a remote allows you to save on time and effort, meaning you can keep on looking your best. Just make sure that the hand you’re using for the remote is out of shot!
  • Composition: Think about whether you want to be standing or sitting, as you may need a stool. If you’re aiming for a close-up, it’s probably a good idea to have somewhere to sit as most tripods won’t be tall enough.
  • Lighting: Natural lighting or artificial? You can buy portable softbox lighting that will eliminate object shadows when you’re shooting self portraits inside. Or you can rely on sunlight, but you may need to test a few shots beforehand to achieve the atmosphere you’re aiming for.

How to take basic self-portraits

taking self portraits with tripod

If you’re looking to take a simple self-portrait, for example a passport photo, it’s important to consider the following:

  • Background: If you want to take a classic self portrait, the aim of the photo is to have a clear image of your face, with few distractions. Make sure you have a clear, light-coloured background so that the focus is on your face.
  • Camera settings: You’ll need to make sure that your face isn’t too over or underexposed as this could distort your face on the image. For this you’ll need to adjust the ISO settings, making them as low as you can in the light you have available. To achieve the best results, we recommend setting it to 100 in sunny conditions and 200 in cloudy weather.
  • Lighting: To guarantee the perfect shot, consider how the lighting might affect your photo. Find the optimum time of day when your house is filled with natural light for great results. If you are time-restricted, it might be worth investing in some lighting equipment such as softboxes or LED lights.

Outdoor self-portrait photography tips

self portrait photography tips


Shooting self-portraits outside lends itself to some creative opportunities. Here are some features of shooting outdoors that you can use to shape your self-portrait:

  • Weather. What mood are you looking to achieve? If the sun is shining, you can create an upbeat and friendly self portrait. Raining? Make the most of it. Cloudy, overcast weather produces flattering moody lighting that could create the perfect atmosphere.
  • Timing. The time of day when you choose to take your self portrait has a big impact on the resulting image. For example, with self portrait photography, it’s a good idea to take your photos when the sun is low in the sky (otherwise known as golden hour). This is because the shadows are softer and the angles are more flattering.
  • Backdrop. Whether you live next to rolling hills or in an urban jungle, you can use your environment to create interesting backgrounds for your self-portrait. If you live in a city for example, why not make the most of the ambient neon lighting as a blurred background? Or if you live in the country, make the most of any forests or national parks for an earthy theme.

Creative self-portrait photography tips

creative self portrait photography

If you’re looking to get creative with your self-portrait photography, we’ve got some great ideas to start you off.

  • Props: Want to get your personality across in your portrait? Try adding some props! Have a think about some objects that help to define you as a person. For example, if you’re into a particular sport, why not pose with some sports equipment? Or, you could consider getting creative with your hair or make-up for a theatrical impression.
  • Filters: If you follow our general tips on how to take a self-portrait, you can then get creative with editing afterwards. For a chic feel, try a black and white filter and feel like a classic Hollywood movie star. Or if you want to create a vintage grunge look, try amplifying the contrast settings and add a green tone to the image.
  • Lighting. Why not play around with lighting? Create some dramatic shadows on your face for a unique self-portrait. You can easily create light shapers with pieces of card for opaque shadows or play around with light fabric like lace to create a more delicate shadow on your face.
  • Exposure. To create an ethereal image, try double exposure. This will give your photo much more of an impact – just take a couple of shots and then merge them together afterwards using photo editing software.

Feeling inspired to give self-portrait photography a try? These photographs make a great addition to your professional portfolio or website. It’s a great way to show potential clients the face behind the work!


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