Friday, October 21, 2011

muse university - 10 tips for getting started with self-portraits

getting started with self-portraits
by christy of urban muser

The self-portrait--or selfie. You either dread them or you love them. I used to be squarely in the dread camp, but with some practice over the past year I've gotten a little more comfortable on the other side of the lens. Let's face it, one of the nice things about shooting a selfie is that you always have your subject with you, you have complete artistic and technical control, and you can shoot, delete and edit multiple images until you are satisfied.

I often get comments and questions on my blog from people saying they are too timid to take a self-portrait. And since that used to be me, it got me to thinking about my own journey and how I was able to overcome the fear (for the most part--I am still working on it!) of seeing myself within the frame. So let's get started--remember, I am no expert, these are just a bunch of different ideas to try out if you've been thinking of exploring the world of self-portraiture...

1. Keep it simple--try a selfie with your mobile phone.

hiding in shadows and light

Sometimes the thought of a fancy DSLR with a big lens and a tripod can be a little daunting. So if you have a mobile phone, try turning it on yourself at arm's length and just snapping a simple, no pressure photo of yourself. If your mobile phone's camera doesn't have a self-timer or a press anywhere shutter, look for an app that will provide this functionality. And of course, if you are shy about showing your face, there's nothing like processing your photo with a few good apps to ease yourself into slowly showing the world your beautiful face.

Da Vinci Self-Portrait
{da vinci self-portrait by red kiwi photography}

2. Keep an eye out for your reflection.

cucina de pesce.

When I first started taking self-portraits I ended up with a lot of reflections (come to think of it, I still take many reflective selfies). Mirrors, store windows, puddles, building facades--these are all great places to begin. These photos can be a fun and easy way to slide into self-portraiture, especially if you have an interesting background or a unique reflective surface.

Staying busy in the carwash.
{staying busy in the carwash. by keenemomma}

3. Don't be afraid to go undercover.

polar pants

Self-portraits don't always have to show exactly who you are. Use creative angles and crops--focus in on your feet, purposely cut off your head, obscure parts of yourself here and there. Remember, you're in charge. These photos can show all of you, or just a little piece of you. It's OK to be anonymous once in a while and keep the mystery alive!

{l'oreille by picture this / patty}

4. Big world, tiny you.

the arches

Self-portrait doesn't always mean close-up. You can still be the subject of the photo without dominating the entire frame. If you find a beautiful background, landscape or open space try a distant or wide angle shot and subtly insert yourself somewhere in the scene.

"absence is to love what wind is to fire; it extinguishes the small, it rekindles the great." ~ comte debussy
{"absence is to love what wind is to fire; it extinguishes the small, it rekindles the great." by 6ftmama}

5. Send a message to the universe, or yourself.


Self-portraits are a great way to express how you are feeling. Sometimes a facial expression or scene can convey an emotion. Or you can go a more direct route and tell your viewers exactly what you are thinking.

{22/52 by thelucaszoo}

6. Play a character, or use a prop!

purple hair day {1}

Just because we're not 8 years old anymore doesn't mean we can't play make believe. Sometimes it's easier to take a picture of ourselves if we are not exactly ourselves. Role play, dress up, wear a wig, or add a fun prop into the mix. Just try it, you may be surprised with the results!

{bite! by manifeisty}

7. Say something about yourself.

i could just eat her up :)

Take a portrait of yourself with someone or something that you love. Remember, selfies aren't just about what you look like on the outside, but who you are inside.

Magdalena & Violín I
{Magdalena & Violín I by Maky Magdalena}

8. Have some fun!

the lake

If you are nervous about getting in front of the camera, try doing something silly to take your mind off of how you look. A jump shot can usually do the trick here. Try jumping with you arms outstretched, turn your body a little to the side and kick your heels as hard as you can to you butt so it really looks like you are high off the ground. I had to practice this for a while before I got a good one, but it definitely made me forget about all the reasons that I DIDN'T want to be on that side of the lens. Oh, and twirling works really well here too :)

twirling chucks
{twirling chucks by vi.llette}

9. Hide within the blur.


Who says your self-portraits have to be in perfect focus? While you are getting used to seeing your gorgeous self in your images, try softening the blow by adding a little blur--either when you take the photo, or in post-processing. When you begin taking self-portraits you may even find yourself out of focus by mistake. Before you delete these images, take a second look to see if perhaps you've captured a happy accident!

{me by kirstinmckee}

10. Make friends with your self-timer and/or remote control.

fire escape

Most cameras these days have some kind of self-timer on them, which makes self-portraits a lot easier. When I use my self-timer I sometimes put an object in the spot that I'm going to run to and press the shutter half-way down to set the focus. Then I run into the shot, quickly remove my stand-in item and voila, the shot's in focus. A wireless remote can take the running element out of the equation and that can be nice (mine's broken so I haven't used it in a while). A tripod helps too!

Hey, what are you up to?!
{hey, what are you up to?! by suki_photography-sandra}

11. Join a group or project. (I know the title of this post is 10 tips, but here's a bonus one!)

the only way to go from here is up.

What can I say? There's inspiration in numbers. Consider joining a flickr group dedicated to self-portraits. Browse through the selfies and you'll find yourself amazed and inspired by the creativity and uniqueness in all of us! I especially like 52 Weeks of BAM. It's a no pressure group that gave me just the little push I needed to take 52 self-portraits this year.

BAM! I Jig Spontaneously With My Camera
{BAM! I Jig Spontaneously With My Camera by SnapYappy}

OK, so that's all for now. If you made it to the end of this post, I thank you for sticking around! I hope one or two of these tips will help you find a little more comfort in front of the camera. Take it one step at a time, and ease yourself around to the other side of the lens. Who knows, you may like what you see.

~christy {urban muser}


Becs said...

Great tips, thank you. I always shy away from self portraits but you've inspired me to have a go - especially love the blur and the do something silly!

Gilly said...

Great post, Christy, and some terrific shots. I loathe being in front of the lens and keep thinking I should try some self-portraits and get myself over it. I keep putting it off but your article has inspired me to give it a go.

Katie said...

I'm just now figuring out how to take selfies, and gotta admit it's really fun, and these tips are great. My question is how do you get nice clear, crisp shots? Do you need to have a fast shutter speed? Any "technical" tips would be appreciated!

Happy Friday! : )

SnapYappy/Joelynne said...

What great post Christy! I'm inspired to turn the camera on myself in new ways today. Thanks again for including my shot amongst this amazing work. :)

Anna said...

Christy, thanks for sharing these wonderful tips! I'm one of those folks that likes being behind the camera, instead of in front of it. I'll have to try some creative blur for a selfie :) Love all the examples!

Ashley Sisk said...

Awesome message - makes me want to get out there and take a new selfie!

Kirstin said...

Christy, I adore this post. And even though I hate doing self-portraits, you may have just tempted me out of my comfort zone. Thank you. x

Radish 38 said...

Thanks for this great post. One thing, for subject matter you are always there, and do not have to beg anyone to model.

Anita @ GoingALittleCoastal said...

Great post Christy. I have only tried it a few times and find it hard. But I suppose it would get easier the more I try. Lovely images!

Holly ~ Soupatraveler said...

Fabulous tips Christy! You make me want to snap off a few in a new way now!

esra said...

Such a great post... I hate being in front of the camera but your post is very inspiring and encouraging. Maybe I can start with a blurry one. Thank you for sharing. And great images!

Patty said...

Christy - what a great post...and a magnificent collection of self portraits! Thanks for including mine :)

Anonymous said...

This is a wonderful post! I've been thinking about doing self-portraits,in an effort to not think I'm ugly (this aging is really tough. But also to see me from the other side.
You've selected some great selfies that are very inspiring. Thanks!

christina said...

this is an absolutely fabulous post!! i will refer to it often. what an awesome group of photos!

Lisa Gordon said...

These are great tips Christy.
Thank you so much for sharing!

Anika said...

Great post Christy and an inspiring one! All your portraits look fabulous and do seem to have great variety. Your picks for each point are great as well. Enjoyed the post!

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