After asking what you guys wanted to see yesterday over on Instagram, this post won by a landslide and so here it is… my top tips for taking self-portraits.
I love taking self-portraits, they are empowering for me to shoot but it also gets me to be super creative in a new and exciting way. Since lockdown, I have been taking loads of self-portraits and so I have been learning what works and what doesn’t, which I am going to share with you right now!
The correct tools
You don’t need a super snazzy camera to take self-portraits, you can take them on your phone if you want. What I do recommend though, is that you use something like a 50mm lens or portrait mode on your phone, as they both allow you to have that blurry background. It also means that you don’t have to sit so super close to the camera as the lens won’t be as wide.
I shoot on the Canon 4000d and it is honestly a dream for me to use. I also don’t use the kit lens it comes with, I use a 50mm prime lens. But like I said, if you are just starting out, you could try portrait mode on your phone.
Another tool that is essential for portraits is lighting. It is up to you what sort of lighting you want, but personally, direct natural light works best for me. I think it looks the most natural and it has an unpredictable nature which I like.
If you are struggling to get natural light then I’d either recommend using a mirror to reflect some light onto yourself when you shoot or get a white light video up on youtube and hold that up behind the camera.
Finally, I also think that it is super important to shoot portraits in front of a minimal background. Obviously, this is a personal preference and it might not apply to you but it is important that you remain the focal point of a portrait. Maybe you want to shoot outside and interact with some greenery but I’d still try and keep the background simple. You can probably tell, but I like shooting in front of a white wall. I find that it allows me to work with different colours and shapes without it looking overwhelming.
Don’t take it too seriously
Starting out, this can be really difficult because it feels a little odd. I’d suggest starting out by just getting comfortable in front of the camera. But you just can’t take it seriously. My best portraits have been super spontaneous and experimental. Sometimes forcing it is the worst thing you can do so just act natural and just have fun with it.
I tend to shoot my portraits very intuitively, so I will pose in a way that feels very in tune with myself and the way I’m feeling. So I’d recommend just doing the same and get used to seeing yourself up close. When I first started shooting portraits, I felt really insecure about the fact that you could see all of the details on my face. The texture, the freckles, anything really, but the sooner you get used to it, you’ll start to feel more comfortable.
Use your arms
It is so much easier to shoot portraits if you are doing something or interacting with a prop. Like I said earlier, I like to keep my portraits super simple so I love using my arms to create shapes and some extra details. You could be holding a drink, interacting with your jewellery or playing with your hair. It doesn’t matter what, but doing a little interaction will make everything feel a bit more natural.
I was terrible at this when I first started shooting self-portraits, but it is so important. You are the focal point of the picture and so staying central will help the eye get drawn to that point. It doesn’t matter what else is going on but your face should be in that centre area of the image.
Mix up the facial expressions
This can be super difficult if you are new to being in front of the camera, but experimenting is always useful. We all have facial expressions that feel natural to us, and when someone takes a picture, we all have that go-to expression. Personally, I apparently love to smile with my eyes closed. Just look at my Instagram. But my point is, push the boundary a bit. Try something new. A super sharp facial expression, or change where you are looking.
It sounds cringe but pose in front of the mirror, it will help you feel comfortable and discover some new poses. Also, use Pinterest to find general inspo. You will get endless ideas by just having a little scroll, and encourage yourself to recreate some of your favourites.
I think this is so essential when taking portraits and that is to just bulk shoot, back to back. After you take one shot, take another, and another. Just keep going until you feel like you have a nice variety or your memory card has run out of storage. Either way, you are going to have so many more options and ideas to play around with.
I probably take 30 pictures per portrait shoot and I probably keep 5-10 which is good going but it just shows that not every picture is a winner. Taking the pictures back to back, I find, keeps me in the mood. It keeps me natural and experimenting just for the fun of it, and that is where some of my best pictures have come from.
I hope you have found this post useful and learnt something new. I’m thinking of doing a little post showing different types of self-portraits you can take, so let me know if you want to see that! I’m also posting a lot of self-portrait tips and tricks on my TikTok so I recommend checking that out too!