I am not a professional photographer. I am an amateur that sometimes gets lucky, and half the time I don’t follow my own advice. (Last week’s knitting post comes to mind, when I could have used my own self portrait tips.) But when I want to, I can take a pretty good self portrait, in my opinion. It makes me a little sad when people have no good pictures of themselves. Everyone should have those pictures to look back on, pictures where you controlled the situation and didn’t have your mouth hanging half-open or the top of your head cut off by whoever snapped the pic.
Therefore. Here are my self portrait tips.
First off, if you want to put makeup on, feel free to do so. Any blemishes or redness will come through in a photo, so feel free to cover it up. Do whatever you want with your hair and clothes, keeping in mind that purple can be difficult to photograph. Really busy prints can be difficult as well.
Secondly, you do not need a fancy camera. What you do need is a tripod of some sort, a halfway decent camera, and nice lighting. The tripod (or stack of books, whatever your camera is sitting on) should be taller than you. If you can tilt the camera in a slight downward angle, even better. Photos from a downward angle tend to be more flattering than those taken head-on or, God forbid, from below.
For a nice picture with a blurry background, I like to stand 10+ feet away from the camera. When you zoom in on your face, the background will blur as long as your aperture is big enough. (Small F-number = large aperture = smaller area of focus.) Even with a camera on autofocus, it will usually blur out your background if you zoom in from farther away. If your background is not blurry, that’s okay too. It’s just another personal preference of mine.
I gave my Microsoft Paint self some sassy hair. For the pictures in this post, that was about where I stood, with the camera zoomed in only on my face.
Lighting is key. I do not like fluorescent lights, or artificial light in general. I like outdoor portraits when the wind is messing with my hair. (Personal preference.) Also, avoid bright sunlight. When I took these pictures, the sun was filtered through clouds. For indoor pictures, try to face a big window. (Filter the sunlight through a curtain if you like.)
If you have a remote control shutter release, now would be the time to use it. You can focus the camera and take the picture all from a distance. If you don’t have one, then you must become friends with your camera’s self-timer.
Then, start taking pictures! Not all of them will be good. Accept it. Here are some outtakes of mine. One must take many horrid pictures to get that good one.
Know your angles. My face looks much rounder from the right side, so I prefer the left. I’m not very smile-y, so when I smile in pictures, I tend to look like a serial killer. A good glare is better for me, or a half-smile.
If you wear glasses – be careful! From certain angles, the portion of your face seen through the glasses can be distorted. For me, my undereye area gets jogged over the to right. It’s weird.
The last step is to not be afraid of editing. All of the above pictures were given a filter in the Microsoft Photos app. For more editing, I use GIMP. Here’s the difference between a shot straight out of the camera and one that I edited.
A slight crop, a white balance correction, and then I played with curves and layers. This might be too much for your tastes. You don’t have to do that much, but even adjusting the lightness, contrast, and saturation can make your photos pop.
To be clear – I edit all photos on my laptop, and have no idea how to “photoshop” something. No airbrushing, no trying to hide a double chin. I know what my angles are and I use them. That is all. Also, these are the self portrait tips that work for me. You might find that you like head-on pictures, or pictures taken from an entirely different angle. Find what works for you.
I took 77 pictures in about 15 minutes. After deleting all the really bad ones, I had about 10 that were good. In focus, no weird faces, good hair. And now I have some good self portraits from the summer of 2016 to look back on, and a nice picture in the sidebar of my blog to greet new visitors.
Go forth and selfie.