Self Portrait Photography Tips for Inspiration

When thinking about your intended self portrait, take a moment to think about how you want to be portrayed in your image. We all have more than one side to us. What kind of emotion do you want to convey? You may know how to say what you want to photograph in words, but putting it into visual images and communicating is a different story. Remember that you’re creating a visual story with your picture.

self portrait

Photo captured by Charles Chen

Creative Visualization

Be creative. Daydream for a while. Even meditate if necessary. In this state of mind, you may see images as a primary means of communication instead of words.

Reflect on your experiences. How do you see yourself? How do you think the world sees you? How do you wish the world could see you? Draw from your life experiences—good, bad, or indifferent.

Visual Communication

Your self portrait photography should be a means of visual communication. You are, in a sense, creating a personal symbol. Remember your self portrait is all about you. Don’t make the mistake of including other people in your image. When you do this it is no longer a self portrait. This should be all about you. In other words, when thinking of your creative image, if you are a mom, taking a picture with your child or of your child, for example, is not considered a self portrait image.

When creating a self portrait, think about expressing who you are at that moment. What is it that you want to say? There are many ways of telling the viewer of your self image something about yourself. Many people think that when they’re creating a self portrait, their face has to be in the picture. This is not always the case. Think about other ways that you can convey a message about yourself.

capturing self portrait

Photo captured by Eduardo Gorghetto

Trying Your Own Self Portrait

Let’s say, for an example, you think of yourself as a drama queen. Theatrically speaking, of course! You might want to put some sort of crown on the top of your head. Put on some very form fitting clothes, or maybe, a big, fluffy full length ball gown. You can sit in a chair, showing a profile view of yourself or stand near a wall. Place a bright light or two, such as a flood light, direct the light onto the wall. Place your camera on a sturdy tripod. Set the self timer on your camera and pose yourself in a dramatic fashion so that your shadow shows up on the wall.

Pose in a way that there is some portion of your body, along with the shadow on the wall, that will appear in the frame of the picture. For example, it could be a hand or your head, etc. Be creative. Stand still while the camera takes the shot of you and your shadow. This may take several shots before you get the one that gives the message of the drama queen that you’re trying to portray.

creative self portraits

Photo by Kyrre Gjerstad.

Keep in mind when creating your self portrait photography that your face does not have to be in the picture, or it can be, it’s up to you. But, a true image of yourself, should tell the viewer something about you, and show something of your personal self included in the picture frame, even if it is only your hands holding a book. What ever you do, have fun with it!

About the Author:
Mary E. Foster, MFA, is a professional photographic artist. She enjoys teaching as well as working with all aspects of photography, from developing film and making black and white prints in her darkroom to shooting digital imagery and editing it on the computer. You can find many more helpful photography tips, ( resources, and lots of inspiration by visiting her website.

Here is a helpful video on the topic:

This tutorial shows us just how easy it is to set up and take a self portrait.

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