5 Tips for Better Self Portraits

 

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Self portraits can be a little intimidating, especially if you need to get a new photo for a certain occasion or deadline. Over the years, I've taken hundreds of self portraits (yikes!) for blog posts, craft projects and to entertain myself, of course! When you don't have a camera savvy friend available it can be fun to take your own portraits. Here are five easy tips for getting the best photos you can...

 

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The first thing most people try when taking self portraits is a photo at arms length. This is when you hold the camera out as far as you can and try to snap a photo of yourself without looking into the viewfinder. These photos sometimes have an awkward looking arm (the one holding the camera out) and or unflattering on-camera flash because they are taken so close to the face. When taking arms length photos I usually use my wide angle lens (see my complete camera/lens list here). Since a wide angle tends to distort the outer edges of the frame I usually crop the photo quite a bit. 

 

Remember, one of the best things about taking self portraits is that you can look at what you have and take more if you want to. Check the angle and lighting and find the most flattering position. I like to sit facing a window when I take photos (with the flash turned off). window light can be really nice on the skin.

 

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Reflective self portraits are really fun to take. Most of the photos I chose for this post were taken in a mirror. Here are my tricks… Look into the mirror at your camera lens and you'll appear to be looking at the camera in your photo (never look at yourself in the mirrow when taking a photo). Turn the flash off (I almost never use my flash). Try a lot of different angles. You can hold the camera really low or high so that it isn't seen in your photo. I always take a deep breath before firing the camera so that I can hold it as still as possible. Reflective photos can be lots of fun! Be sure to try different rooms in your home to find the best lighting. 

 

 

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Contrary to what some people say, a downward angle isn't the only flattering way to photograph yourself. I actually don't really like being photographed from above. As I experimented with my self portraits I learned that I like to be photographed straight ahead or slightly from below. I am comfortable with my profile so I like photos where my face is slightly angled better than facing forward. Try some different angles and figure out what you feel most comfortable with. There's no right or wrong angle since every face is so different. Find what works best for you! 

 

 

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A couple years ago I tried to do the 365 self portrait challenge where you take one every day for a year. It was super fun at first and I learned a lot. But after the first month I started to get really bored with doing the same thing every day. It's easy to fall into patterns and stick within your personal comfort zone. Try challenging youself to experiment with something brand new. It can be lighting, styling, posing or location, just to name a few. Try something you've never tried before! 

 

 

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Self portraits can be so much more than a flattering or pretty photo. They can tell a little story! You can capture memories by creating a series of self portraits about your everyday life, your personality or your quirks. Think about the things that make your life unique that never get captured in photos. It's easy to overlook everyday things, but try incorporating them into your next self portrait! 

 

 

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Have fun playing around! I hope this post has been helpful and encouraging. XO. Elsie 

Dslr basicsWant to learn more about photography? Check out our latest e-course!

 

  • very helpful stuff

    i usually get
    about 2 good shots
    for every 10 i take

    love the mirror tip too

    thanks!

    alison

  • Valerie Tan – Hello, I write to enquire about the price for a famliy portrait? May I know how much it is for:1) indoor shoot2) outdoor shoot3) with makeover (if applicable)4) without makeover?May I also know whether the price includes prints, and/or digital copies? If not, how much is that?Thank you,Valerie

  • Angie Walker – Shaun, We love the photos so much. We had a great time and I apitpceare your patience with Trinity. I know she can be a handful sometimes and can be hard to photograph, trust me, I know, I’ve been taking pictures of her for 8 years now :-), but by allowing her to be herself you were able to get some amazing photos! You are a truly gifted photographer and we will treasure our photos and the experience forever. We will most certainly be calling you when we plan to have more taken. Thanks again!

  • Wow you really carupted genuine expressions and love in these! The ones with mom are amazing. I would love to have images like that of myself with my girls!!

  • Tara – Jazmine, I have always known you were a beuatiful girl inside and out but these pictures absolutely prove my point ..Gorgeous! Awesome job Celeste!

  • This is a fantastic article! I am so glad to have came across it! Thankyou for sharing!

  • Thank you for this article. I´m from Czech Republic and I´m learning (or I have lernt?…) english now on the holiday. I will try leave hear comments. But my english is awful, so… I´m sorry 🙂

  • WOW I love these tips.. I have been taking self portraits for years. Frankly because Im not too confident and having others take my pictures REALLY makes me a wreck:)) I try to post daily weekly photos on my blog mostly for myself:)) I just adore your work.. Thanks..K
    Blog URL http://intentionallyinspired.blogspot.com/

  • I always find stuff on your blog that I never find anywhere else. Useful stuff. Fun stuff. Interesting I-wanna-try-that stuff. 🙂 Thanks.

  • #6: use instagram or another free filter to give a 60s look for everyone to see how cool you are and make it the default all over your blog. Every photo will look awesome with a free instagram 60s filter. Believe her.

  • Being as pretty as you helps when taking self-portraits! I am inspired to take the 365 challenge!

  • I’ve been wanting to get a better self-portrait photo of myself these days! These are really helpful tips, Elsie! Thank you!

  • This is a wonderful tip! I’ve never been very good at self portraits and this helped a lot:) Thanks.♥

  • Great tips 😀

    I usally use a tripod and a wireless timer when i take my self-portraits – its a little hard but superfun 😛

  • Inspired to just take more pics in general. I’d like to experiment with taking shots of the everyday ordinary stuff. Thanks Elsie!

  • Brilliant! I especially love your #3 shot. My self portraits neeed improving…thank you for the tips.

  • Your posts are too cool – well done! I was posting about blogging-photography self portraits today and I have this linked, for inspiration!

  • Thank you for this post! I recently decided to use my tumblr blog (http://tiranaki.tumblr.com) for something other than just re-blogging what other people posted so I was looking for some tips on self-portraits and having a frustrating time until I came across yours. I already had some experience taking self-portraits but I moved some months ago and just wasn’t able to get shots like I used to. After reading your post though, I decided to think outside of the box and put my tripod aside and USE some boxes as tripods and mirror-stands instead. The results look promising! Thanks again!

  • very useful tips. taking ones own pix can be daunting. especially if photography is not your area of expertise, so thanks for keeping it simple and making it fun!

  • http://www.guccibagsjapan.com/ 25日午前10時半ごろ、北海道白老町の白老港から南東約10キロの沖合で、登別市の登別マリンクラブ所属の遊漁船「MIHO7(ミホセブン)」(全長7.3メートル、定員14人)が転覆。乗っていた船長の沢田行雄さん(63)=登別市千歳町=と釣り客4人が海に投げ出されているのを、近くにいた漁船が見つけて4人を救助したが、2人は死亡。1人が行方不明になった。

  • i feel really inspired by your work.
    its all very wonderful & lovely.
    thanks for all the pretty stuff that i saw & appreciated today…
    🙂

  • Dear Elsie,

    Great blog post, we featured it this month in our photography webmagazine (see http://didyousayeager.com/magazine/en/201203/article/education/tips-better-self-portraits).

    The reason is that we started an international quest for the longest conceptual photo series ever, consisting of self-portraits with a red line. And in our magazine we referred to your tips for some help 🙂

    May we also challenge you and your blogpost-readers to make a redline-selfportrait and join in? The rules are simple, please refer to our website below for all instructions and lots of cool self-portraits already for inspiration!!

    All the best,

    Jessica van der Burg and Petra Oldengarm
    the Netherlands
    http://www.redlineportraits.com/

  • Awesome blog!!Thanks for sharing amazing tips .I would love to see more posts from your side.keep sharing

  • These are some awesome ideas! I’ve been so intimidated by the idea of taking self-portraits, but you really break it down nicely. Thanks! 🙂

  • I love taking pictures but I am really bad for self-portraits. Thank you for the tips, they are pretty helpful! I ll give it a shot 🙂

    By the way, you have such a nice blog, love it!

  • I’ve been getting into photography, I am so going to try that challenge, thanks so much!

    xo sarah

  • Great tips! Myself, I used a tripod and remote to take my header pic then went messed around in lightroom (picnik is also fun)

    alisha
    amswphotography.wordpress.com

  • This is good stuff. You’re right, I can’t get away from that awkward arm. I notice that my best self-portraits are when I’m in the best mood on the inside. Def matters.

  • I’d love to try taking a photo every single day of the year! Great idea, Elsie!

  • your photo taking skills are outstanding. Thanks alot for sharing this information.Was really on the lookout for a post like this. I’m going to try definitely what you suggested. amazing! thank you so much 🙂

    http://glamagem.blogspot.com

  • I’m new to your blog and absolutely love it! I’m a photographer myself and a crafty gal as well, so all your tips and tutorials are fabulous. 🙂 Keep up the great work!

  • you have so many beautiful photos.. i love them all.. 🙂 i can definitely use your tips.. thanks!! 🙂

  • Great post! I’ll definately try these tips and hopefully my self-portraits will look better!

  • Hi! I just found your blog and I love it! You are so inspiring and making me want to run out and take tons of pics of myself! haha never thought I’d say that 🙂 But thanks for all the awesomeness on your blog,

    Jen

  • Thank you so much Elsie !!
    your tips are so helpful and I just LOVE you ideas
    you have one of the best blog I have ever seen
    thank you so much you should be proud
    of yourself !!

    Virginie Savage

  • Oh it is so ambitious and scary to think about taking a different self portrait every day. There would be about 360 days out of the year that I was not in the mood to be photographed! Your photos are really stunning, you’re a very photogenic person; it’s tough to follow in your footsteps, but I am excited to start! I love the idea of telling a story with photos.

  • what’s your camera of choice these days? i’m in the market for a new one and love the look of your pics 🙂

  • Thanks for such a divine and well-thought-out post Elsie! The photos are beautifully done and I can’t wait to use some of your helpful tips.

  • These tips are awesome! I just found your blog in blogloving and I am LOVING it. I love having my picture taken but, as you said, I don’t always have somebody around to take it, so I am putting this post to use this morning! Thanks so much!

  • I love the pictures & the focus and the clarityyy!!! what camera do you use?

  • Love this, you’ve inspired me big time. New portrait project to start soon!

    Thanks

  • Incredibly helpful! I never have a clue how to do this. Thanks for the tips!
    My Blog

  • What a pointless post. Aimed at people trying to capture a good hipster facebook picture. Lame

  • Great tips thanks so much for sharing! I feel like I’m constantly learning how to use my slr. Self portraits are a tricky thing!

  • Great tips, thanks!! I’m a little confused on the mirror thing… you sit facing the mirror, with the camera between you and it? Then how does the reflective surface help?

  • Thank you so much for this. I always struggle trying to take self-portraits but you’ve given me some wonderful ideas <3

  • I just found your blog and I really like it. I’m the worst at taking self-portraits so thanks for posting these great tips! Sharing this on my weekly show & tell post 🙂

  • wow! such great tips! thank you for sharing
    I think I’m going to give the 365 self portrait challenge a go. and apply all the rest.

  • Great tips on the angles. I like to take pics panned to the left or right of the object and then either go black & white with it or partially black and white on the back ground with some color extraction.

  • Tips 1 to 3 are very basic, #4 is important to keep in mind, but I really, really liked your tip #5. Just taking pictures of yourself trying to look pretty or to show off your clothes can become boring, but adding more personality or personal background is what makes a picture interesting. I will definitely try more of that.

    Cool blog! This is my first visit here, I will come back for sure…

  • I am new to your blog (followed a link from an Unravelling fan). This post is invaluable because I both hate being photographed and taking a photo of myself. Perhaps with your tips, I will find a way to manage both. I appreciate your tips. Blessings, lydia

  • Haha thank you so much! that will help me a lot with my profile pictures on facebook haha.

  • Thank you for the tips! This is very helpful and your photos are always lovely! XO

  • Great post great idea, I now some people are quite negative about self portraits but it can be part of photography where you explore techniques you can then try on your models. this is the post where I uploaded some of mine http://vasare.wordpress.com/2011/06/19/self-portraits-2011-june/ I do feel a bit bad taking photos of myself but if its for a project and and you want to experiment why not… hehe. I will bookmark this think a 365 project would be fun, though I probably have done it unconsciously already by taking photos on a photo book nearly everyday..ups

  • Thanks for these tips! This is something I really struggle with. I often try to model my latest knitting project & have a difficult time finding the right way to do it as a self portrait.

  • experimenting can be fun,thanks for the info . never thought of even taking pictures of my self that way.

  • Great tips, you have to change angles and such even more as we age. I need to try something new. Thanks for the inspiration.

  • Great tips! Its hard to do, as I can feel shy just doing it on my own but I shall give these a go! xxx

  • I would certainly LOVE more tips on photography on taking photo shots of etsy items or self photography.

  • You are really generouse to share all this with us! tnx a lot! xoxo

  • this post is so wonderful, really nicely written and gorgeous SPs.
    I have taken quite a few self portraits (I did a 52wks) but I wouldn’t consider myself great. I have taken things away from this post and will return before my next self portrait taking.
    In fact, it’s inspired me to try to take some over the weekend.
    Thanks, Elsie!

  • Thanks for the tips I’ve always found it difficult to take self portraits…I always come out looking funny…lol.

  • these are great! hee, and i feel it should be mentioned: always wash your mirrors before taking photos of your reflection! 😉

  • Thank you for sharing, i hope i’ll have enhough courage to try, practice and post something on my blog 🙂

  • I only got my first ‘real’ camera last October and have been playing around pretty much every day ever since. I don’t like to read manuals, rather figure out how things work on my own. The disadvantage: it can take quite a while before I figure something out. Advantage: it is so much more fun and a nice surprise when I do figure something out! I only have one lens and I am looking into investing in a new lens for my camera so I can experiment some more. So thanks very much for your camera list! 😉

    Also for the 5 tips for the self portraits. I am lucky enough to have my boyfriend taking pictures of me, but I can imagine that he won’t be so patient and willing to do this forever…

    http://thesignaturebow.blogspot.com/
    NEW OUTFIT POST: A Touch Of Pink

  • Thanks for these! I think my biggest obstacle to overcome is feeling self-absorbed when I take photos of myself. I love your ideas!

  • Thanks for these tips! I do not have a skill of taking great self portraits, so this is very helpful! I will be trying this soon :]

  • This post inspired me to take a few pictures of my birthday makeup. Very good and useful tips, thanks so much!

  • I am looking forward to giving it all a try…! I need some new self-portraits. I’m off to find a mirror! How do you always know when I need help and inspiration..

  • These are some great advice, thanks!

    XO,
    Lucija

    withlovelucija.blogspot.com

  • PERFECT self portraits and great tips! I was just wondering about the idea a couple of days ago and this helped me a lot! Thank you! 🙂

  • Excellent excellent post! I always have so much trepidation about taking my own pictures: they always look awkward or teenagerish, but you have the best ones I’ve seen. Off with me camera now! 😀

  • such a good post! i think i’m gonna have to take up that challenge. thanks for the tips!

  • What great tips! Seem so simple once you explained them. Thanks for sharing!

  • I just started reading your blog and loved this post! I’m definitely going to try your tips. 🙂

  • oH! You look fantastic, beautiful like a actress in the pic #5!! Like Audrey Hepburn!!!

  • I adore this post. I am thinking about trying a 365 project to practice my photography but also to help improve my self image. Thanks for these tips

  • This was really inspiring, I immediately tried taking a cool picture with my web cam but tip number 6 should be make sure your hair is washed and you don’t look like death warmed up. Can’t wait to try again tomorrow when I look a bit better!

  • Hey Elsie!

    I just need to tell you how much I love your blog! It’s amazing and you inspire me so much. I’ve now spent a few hours reading through your blog and I will be back to read the latest.

    And I also need to ask you about your design, it’s amazing! How did you create that?

    Have a great life!

  • Lovely tips, I have been looking for something like this. So helpful! Thanks xoxoxo

  • This is the first blog post of yours I have read. Great tips that I want to try out soon 🙂

  • This was a really fantastic little tutorial. I am trying to become more comfortable with self portraits and being in front of the camera, and I really hope to take these tips to heart. Love it.

  • I don’t like asking other people to take my picture, so these tips are awesome! Thanks!

  • These were great tips, Elsie! Self portraits are a lot of fun! Can’t wait to try them out on my blog 🙂

  • Great post! The last tip is particularly helpful, I’ve never thought about photographing details like that.

    Thanks!
    Stephi Dee

  • these are great tips! i have the hardest time taking self-portraits. i usually make my lips look funny or even close my eyes (haha). hopefully, with some practice i can get some better self portraits.

    -erin

  • Thanks for taking the time to post this. I just bought my first professional camera so I am excited to start using it. I have short little arms so taking pictures of myself is always a challenge 🙂

  • i love love love the photos you accompany your tips with and i love this list of tips. I like doing lists in my blog too and this tip about self portrait is wonderful 🙂

  • I don’t think I have ever tried to take a self portrait of myself, I just wait for other people to take photos of me, and then they don’t so there aren’t any. Thank you for inspiring me to practice.

    http://thenakedrose.blogspot.com/

  • Beautiful blog, beautiful blog. Thanks for sharing your art. What a gift to us.

  • Love this post! My self-portraits always turn out awkward and my face ends up looking bigger than the moon! Thanks for the tips!

  • Amazing! I always have trouble with self portraits because I am too judgmental of myself behind and in front of the camera!

  • Love it! I would never have guessed that those pictures were all taken while you were holding the camera…except, yknow, maybe the one where you’re holding the camera. Beautiful.

  • Fabulous post with great tips. I struggle with this all the time when I want to share a photo of a new new headband or eye makeup. My photos just look like poo! Taking these tips into account ASAP!

  • Thank you for this! I tend to shy away from taking pics of myself but this has inspired me to try new things 🙂

  • Really interesting post, I’ve just started blogging & I want to improve my photography skills, so this post is really useful for me. Thank you Elsie 😉

  • Very fun post! Thanks for sharing, definitely going to have to put these into practice

  • Gahhh! So good! I suck at taking self portraits….well I don’t particularily enjoy it either haha. But these are awesome tips!

  • Great! It’s true, I hate the results of self portraits, because I make the mistakes you tell, but I’ll try these new ideas! Thanks!

  • Awesome tips! I am very inspired after reading this. I’ve been trying to find great photography tips to use for myself and to help others learn how to do self-portraits and have had no luck. On other sites there have been good tips, but it can be like learning a foreign language, but this truly helped a lot. Thank you so much!

  • Great tips Elsie. Always wanted to know how you took such great photos of yourself.

  • Yay! Thanks Elsie! I am just about to start my ‘proper/real’ blog, and these tips are amazingly handy!! You’ve inspired my confidence 🙂 I’m off to harass my camera now!
    Thank you so much!!!
    Luvluv,
    Sway)

  • Really great, helpful tips, Elsie! Self-portraits always intimidate me because they always come out really awkward or really unflattering. You’ve inspired me to start playing around with it though! =)

  • Great tips Elsie.
    And nice to see some older photos of you with different hair styles
    x

  • I think that comment above (from Alcie) is a little ridiculous. Why on earth would you read a personal blog without pictures of the person on it? I infinitely prefer blogs with glimpses of people’s lives to endless ‘inspiration’ posts. I think you strike a really sensible balance of Elsie, ‘inspiration,’ and other things like DIYs.

  • Thanks Elsie! I’m redesigning my blog and I need some new self-portraits. I’m off to find a mirror! How do you always know when I need help and inspiration? : )

  • great tips, I think these are very important specially for bloggers that share tons of pictures in their content, Also a good camera takes you to long places! Wide angle lens I love <3

  • I love the tips especially when its just you yourself and the camera : )

  • Great tips!
    I always use a tripod and remote when I take self portraits. The extended arm thing is hard when you have a DSLR!

    ♥ Gina Michele
    CrochetClouds.com

  • Thank you. These are wonderful tips. I can’t wait to try it out the next time I feel camera happy. I’ve always preferred taking pics of myself so this is definitely helpful!

  • What great tips. I especially like your last point …

    Kelly @
    Elegantly Academic

  • This post came at the perfect time for me! I just bought a new DSLR (my first one) and had no idea how I was going to manage taking a self-portrait with it. I only have a larger lens 18-135 right now so I think it’s going to be a bit tricky getting used to holding the camera away from my body, but I’ll definitely use your tips and give it a whirl! Thank you so much – your photos are inspiring and beautiful.

  • Great post…some wonderful tips. I’ve tried the mirror self-portraits a few times but never really knew where to look. Thanks for enlightening me 🙂 Love your blog! I’m getting married next year and your wedding posts have been such an amazing source of inspiration.

    http://www.theheadlessmannequin.blogspot.com

  • Elsie! Thank you SO much!! You have no idea how much I love this post. Your photos are gorgeous and now I feel SUPER inspired to take my own self portraits! Thank you, thank you, thank you. <3

  • Such a helpful post, I could have done with this a few weeks ago when I needed to send a photo of myself off to another blog. I hate having my photo taken, but am fairly useless when it comes to taking self portraits…. but maybe this will now all change!

    Thank you Elsie!

    Love from London,

    Birdie
    x

  • Thanks, Elsie! I’ve been struggling with my little point-and-shoot to take some self portraits lately, particularyly when I’m trying to get a whole outfit in! Practise, practise…and a lot of cropping!

    PS: weird comment from someone above about how all your blog pots have your own picture in them! Er, it’s your blog, who else are you going to post pictures of?!! I’m sure you’re experienced enough to rise above that sort of negativity, but I just wanted to say, for the record, that I like the fact you include pictures of yourself, as I feel that it helps me get to know you a little better. I like to have a face to go with the name. So there.

  • Brilliant tips! I can really use these, because until now I can’t manage to take a good shot of myself, self portrait that is. Thanks for sharing!

  • hey elsie great post! which lens do you use for most of your self portraits? i only have a 50mm 1.4 and think i need to get a wider one as that one is soooo close.

  • What a wonderful five tips post. I am inspired to go out and try them right now.

    I have been working on some more self portraits and it is hard not to get frustrated.

    This post has given me a lot of good ideas.

    Thanks a bunch

    anna

  • I should try taking more self-portraits. I always end up taking pictures of my hubby and kids and no one except for my mom, whenever around, doesn’t seem interested in taking mine. This results in missing memories of my self image from family gatherings, excursions etc… A BIG thanks for the great tips and thanks for clearing out that taking your own photo isn’t smth to be bashful of.

  • This might be a bit controversial, but 99% of the time I feel like your blog is just a vanity parade, full of picture after picture of yourself. Does EVERY post really need a picture of you in it? Everyone knows you’re pretty. This post just seemed like an excuse to post a million more pictures.

  • I HATE taking self portraits – I feel so silly! But after reading this I think I’ll give it a bit more of a go 🙂 Thanks!

  • Hi Elsie

    This is one of my favourite blog posts of the year as the only person who likes to hold a camera in this house it is hard to get good snaps of myself for my blog. This post had lot of good tips that i’m going to try as I wouldlove to do more outfit posts.

    Thank you
    Nicolette xo

    http://archieandtherug.blogspot.com/

  • Great tips, thank you. I already tried out most of them but some were new to me.

  • Dear Elsie, i am a new reader but already amazed by all the creativity and great photos jammed in this blog 🙂 i look forward to read more. greetings from spain.

  • Amazing, wonderful tips! You’re right about falling into patterns, I tend to keep taking the poses that I’ve learned flatter me. I should try different things instead of the same poses and angles over and over again.

    Thanks Elsie!

    Aoife x

    http://aoife-blake.com

  • Really good tips! I hope my self-portraiting will improve now:)) as I’m always a bit worried about it.
    Your photos look great! Well, you are really pretty girl, so it isn’t too difficult but your camera must be amazing as well.

  • Thanks for sharing all your tips. I always feel so awkward having my picture taken. Maybe self portraits would be a good place for me to start getting more comfortable with the idea.

  • Oh Elsie. You make me smile EVERY single time 🙂

    Thank you for the tips!

    –S.S.

  • I’d love to see that 365 self portrait challenge you did! is it somewhere online? 🙂

    + thanks for the tips.

  • Thank you Elsie,
    I LOVE when you do awesome practical advice posts like this!
    I look forward to trying some of these tips.

  • Gorgeous photos! Self portraits can be even more awkward with cameras our size! Thanks Elsie 🙂

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