Self Portraits – 5 Tips For Taking Your Own Photo
Ironically enough, one of the most difficult pictures a photographer can take is a self-portrait. With self portraits you don't have the advantage of looking through the lens and carefully composing your image, so it can be real tricky to get it right.
Self-Portraits by Maiquel Borges on flickr (licensed CC-BY-ND)
That being said, there are a few little tips you can work into your next self-portrait shoot that will make the process much, much easier.
These days just about every SLR camera now has a delay timer which can come in very handy when taking a self portrait. This delayed timer will give you between 5-10 seconds (depending upon the camera) to push the timer and to run into the picture area just before the shutter releases. Although this isn't ideal, it will work if you have no other options.
self portrait3 by BlackburnPhoto on flickr (licensed CC-BY)
Remote Shutter Release
A remote shutter release will allow you to activate your shutter without having your finger on the trigger. They come in many varieties (including wireless) and work with most newer cameras and are the best option for taking serious photographs of yourself.
They come in price ranges starting at about $30 and can go up to around $50 for wireless releases, or you can try building one yourself if you're tech savvy.
Recruit a Friend
Unless you're at a level where you can measure the distance from your lens to a target and set your focus accordingly, you're going to need a stand-in to make sure your camera focuses in the right spot.
For someone sitting in, a patient friend who is roughly your height will usually work fine, or you can position an object in the same position and height as where you'll be. One of the toughest part of self portraits is focusing, so you make need to take a few shots to get it right.
Self-portrait with vintage hat by sachac on flickr (licensed CC-BY-SA)
Remember that a photographer's job is to tell the truth. It can be tempting in self-portraiture to only shoot images that show us in a positive light, but in all circumstances the integrity of the final image should take precedence over our sensitivity.
This doesn't mean you can't take flattering pictures of yourself, but just consider the technical perspective instead of just considering the most complementary one. If the image tells the story you wanted to tell, whether or not you look "good" in it is secondary.
Light it Up
It can be quite difficult to get perfect lighting on a self-portrait. If you have someone stand in for you, they will likely not have the same skin tone as you, so you will need to make adjustments throughout the shoot to get your ideal lighting.
Self-portrait by malcolm.debono on flickr (licensed CC-BY)
The best strategy here is to set your camera to full-manual; this will allow you to purposefully modify every photograph you take without being at the mercy of what the camera's internal sensors decide is right.
When it comes to using lights, you can use natural light, desk lights, floor lamps and even your camera's flash to create the lighting that you want. Don't be afraid to spend a couple of hours on your shoot; messing with the little details can be one of the most fun parts of self-portraiture.
Use Your Creativity
Just like with other types of portraiture, taking your self portrait requires a bit of creativity and thought. Think of ways that you can present yourself that are outside the norm of "person in a picture," and try to have as much fun as possible in the process.
Self-Portrait 3/12 by Paul Stevenson on flickr (licensed CC-BY)
Try using props like costumes or dynamic lighting and interesting backgrounds that will help make your self portrait stand out.
Fun Contrast and Light by D. Sharon Pruitt on flickr (licensed CC-BY)
So, have fun taking your self portrait as it can be a fun break from the demands of other portraits. With self portraits, there are no pressing deadlines so take as much time as you need to get it right. In fact, because the only person you have to deal with is you, the only limit on your self-portrait shoot is your own imagination.