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Self Portraits, like regular photography is something that can be learned. I cannot wait to have a photographer on retainer, but in the vein of doing what you can, with what you have and not necessarily being on someone else’s time schedule, self portraits have become big for me. Outside of a photographer, my husband would normally take my photos, but our schedules don’t always align and when I’m ready I’m ready.
I was inspired to do this post after a well known photographer mentioned how hard self portraits were since she is usually behind the lens. That said lets get into 5 tips for better self portraits.
Better Self Portraits Require A Tripod + Bluetooth Remote
The first thing you need for better self portraits is the right tools. A tripod and Bluetooth remote are essential; whether you’re filming a vlog or taking self portaits for your blog, no matter what you plan to do, a tripod and remote will go such a long way. Bluetooth remotes aren’t limited to your phone, if your camera is compatible it works for that as well. I have used the self timer on my camera and on my phone and while I don’t mind using it, it creates TOO many photos for me (the lens shutters so it takes a ton). I also feel like personally the self timer is great for stationary poses, not moving lifestyle poses.
I personally feel like I shoot better self portaits when I have a chance to control the speed at which the shutter clicks and all of that. The one thing that you will have to learn is how to pose while hiding the remote in a way that doesn’t look overly hidden. I enjoy taking self portraits; I’ve found it’s a way to learn how I move and learn how to be confident on my own so when I work with photographers who will be able to capture at a faster speed, I’m ready to go.
Lighting + Lifestyle Locations
Lighting is everything. That is the one key for photography in general, but in order to get better self portraits you definitely need to make sure the lighting is right. If you’re indoor, natural light and shooting near windows is great. If you need additional light, ring lights are great additions as well. I personally enjoy shooting outdoors, the sun is bright as can be and at the right time of day it’s perfect for getting better self portraits. Golden Hour or first thing in the morning are usually suggested and depending on where the sun is hitting I agree.
I also feel like the way my house is designed, the lighting can be tricky, so the times I have done shoots inside, I’ve had to do a lot to make sure that it is bright enough. The other reason I suggest outdoors for better self portraits is it gives your photos a more lifestyle vibe; lifestyle can also be inside and depending on the item, inside might be best, but I personally like my photos to come off in a way that gives inspiration for when you’re on the go. As a lifestyle blogger, my goal through my photos is to exude a certain lifestyle. If I’m walking down the street, or standing next to my car in a certain outfit, that feels real and exudes lifestyle. Am I going somewhere? Did I just get back home? Does the item wear well after riding in the car? All of that.
Location is key for better self portraits, whether you go inside or outside, the locations play such a huge role. Look for locations that match your aesthetic or brand color palette. Look for locations that make your outfit pop or standout. We as creators have to pay attention to locations that will ultimately help us create better self portraits.
Movement + Lifestyle Poses
Movement and lifestyle poses are the way I get better self portraits. Moving while taking self portraits creates fluidity in your poses. Walking, looking over my shoulder, reaching for something, grabbing onto an accessory (hat, purse, coats, a magazine) are good ways to do something with your hands. Lifestyle poses or movements are simply regular looking movements captured in a still frame.
Don’t get it twisted, this takes practice because unless you have a swivel tripod, the camera will not move with you, so you’ll have to know when to click. You’ll want to pay attention to when you are in the frame and when you are outside of it. When it comes to things like walking and moving in and out of the frame do it slowly, with a little bit of exaggeration, too fast, you’ll miss it. If it becomes too much to catch yourself in the frame, consider staying in frame and moving back and forth, stepping up and stepping back as if you’re walking.
Shoot with Back Camera
As much as I enjoy seeing myself on the front cam, it became more of a distraction for me. I notice that I’m watching myself, looking at my faces, focusing too much on what I can see instead of just getting to it. It’s great that Apple has upgraded the front cam and given us portrait mode for selfies as well, but I’ve found that I get better self portraits while using the back cam.
I start with a couple of test shots to see what lighting is like and how I look at the angle I’m shooting and then from there I get to work. I’m less inclined to nit pick and pick myself apart while using my back camera and since I take my self portraits with a Iphone 11 Pro Max, I feel like ultimately the back camera produces the best photos. I do recommend stopping after some time to look through the shots you’ve captured; this is how you can see what worked, what poses you enjoyed and what to tighten up or improve. If there is a particular pose you love, keep it in your arsenal as a pose to use the next time you decide to take self portraits. If you’ve been following me for a minute, ya’ll know I love to look over my shoulder.
Practice Practice Practice
All in all the real way to take better self portraits is to practice. My first lifestyle shoot, which was with a photographer, taught me SO much. The beginning of the shoot was me learning to loosen up and smile on cue (before I really knew how), by the end of the shoot I understood all of the direction she gave me. The look down, the walk, the spin, all of those things I’ve taken with me. Take a blogger anywhere and I bet you she can smile on cue, laugh on cue, it becomes second nature.
For me the point of self portraits aside from taking my own photos is being better when I work with and do put a photographer on retainer. It’s okay if you can’t work with a photographer every week or every day, but until then, you have no excuse for not working toward taking better self portraits.