Creative Self-Portrait Photography Ideas & Tips

A self-portrait can show you and others the beauty of who you are. The photoshoot allows you to explore your creativity and learn more about the way you view yourself. 

Creative Self-Portrait Photography Ideas & Tips

Self-portrait photography can help you practice your shooting abilities, use your imagination, and add new shots to your portfolio.

However, even though it has a lot of advantages, self-portrait photography can be challenging. It can be hard to come up with ideas that capture your character. 

If you can relate, you’re in the right place!

We’ve come up with some creative self-portrait photography concepts and included them in this post. These are sure to make you feel inspired and help you on your photography journey. 

Try Different Angles

Self-portraits don’t always need to be taken straight in front of the lens. Try a few angles out to keep things engaging. 

Take shots from extremely low or extremely high angles. Try taking a photo through an item, or using reflections to create an artistic shot. Experimenting with angles will make your self-portraits seem more interesting. 

Use Lighting And Shadows

Light is a useful tool that can elevate the way simple portraits look. Once you become familiar with using light, you’ll find that your photography improves to a higher level.

Snap some shots outside and inside, looking at how different types of light affect your pictures. 

Artificial lighting is also an option, but you don’t need professional lighting tools to work with it! Any indoor light source you have can help you take inventive self-portraits.

The advantage of artificial lighting is that you don’t need to rely on time. As long as you have a light source, you can shoot day or night! Shine a lamp at different angles around your face and see which styles you like best. 

Experimenting with shadow play can create some impressive self-portraits.

All you need is an object to cast patterns and a light source. Lace curtains, hands, plants, and sun hats can form some interesting, artistic patterns on your face. 

Shoot Or Recreate A Movie

Film stills are images that are captured off or on a movie set. These can also be screenshots captured during a film. This is a nice option for anyone that loves cinematic pictures.

You can come up with your own movie idea, or recreate an existing movie scene. 

Visualize the scenes in your head, then shoot them with your photography. Your movie doesn’t need to be too complicated to be effective. Simple ideas can look just as stunning on camera. 

You can edit your pictures later to look like film stills. This doesn’t involve a lot of work either.

Simply crop the images so they resemble film stills, then add two bold, black lines below and above your pictures. It’s a good excuse to rewatch your favorite films for inspiration too! 

Experiment With Props and Accessories

Self-portraits can be a great way to express who you are, but they can help you escape reality too. You can use costumes and props to become an entirely different persona.

This may be a fictional character from your favorite book or film, your alter ego, or a real-life historical figure. 

Self-portrait photography doesn’t have to involve vivid, noticeable props. You can use accessories to subtly change your look. Temporary tattoos can make your portraits look artistic, while jewelry and glasses can give your photo extra depth. 

If you’d like to change your appearance more drastically, you can use wigs, face paint, costumes, and carnival masks. You’ll have lots of fun playing with these and coming up with ways to showcase them in your photos. 

Take Photos Through Items

Partially shrouding your lens with an object can lead to some interesting, artistic self-portraits. 

For instance, smoke and steam can form unique silhouettes, while tree leaves and branches can form a nice frame around your features. Other examples include hands, translucent plastic, and lights. 

For a deeper effect, capture pictures through cellophane to evoke nostalgia, or through windows for striking reflections. Think about how using areas of the object, or the whole item changes your pictures. 

Use Rainbows

Rainbow colors and self-portraits always look wonderful. You can use a prism to reflect a rainbow light onto your face (see also “How To Photograph Rainbows“), illuminating different areas in vibrant colors.

If you cannot purchase a prism, you can use a flashlight and a CD to replicate the effect. 

Take your CD and use it to reflect light, ensuring its shiny face receives as much light as it can. Keep shifting the CD until you see colorful lines on your skin. As you’ll be using one of your hands for this method, it’s best to have a tripod, mirror, and remote at the ready.  

Use A Single Color Scheme

Restricting your options means your brain needs to work harder, helping you create original, unique pieces. You can begin by restricting yourself to a single color, or one color scheme. 

For instance, you could stick to white, pastel shades, or primary colors. Keep in mind that if any unwanted shades creep up in your pictures, you can edit them later on to remove them. 

Shoot A Faceless Picture

Self-portrait pictures don’t have to involve the face! You can shoot your silhouette, the back of your head, or a particular area on your face. These all qualify as a self-portrait, as they are pictures of you.

You won’t be able to express yourself with your face, so you will need to use other elements to make your shots interesting. 

Capture the scene in a unique location, using backgrounds and foregrounds to make your portrait stand out.

Try a few poses out, or add some props to the shot. Some examples that work well include bicycles, umbrellas, trees, and flowers, but you can use any items that you like!

Make a Collage

Self-portraits look stunning on their own, but grouping them can give them a stronger effect.

A photo collage is useful for this, as it tells several stories at one time. You can use as many pictures as you want in your collage, but most people stick to four to six images.

If you’re not a fan of several images, you can try diptychs. This is a term for two images that are positioned adjacent to each other. Depending on the pictures used, diptychs can look even more impressive than collages.

The advantage of diptychs and collages is that they are unique and versatile. Some pictures may look dull individually, but they may look incredible when placed together.  

Record Seasons

Every season has different elements that add to its beauty. Spring brings new flowers, summer has warm blue skies, fall sees burnt orange leaves, and winter has icy snowflakes

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If you live in a seasonal climate, a fun exercise is capturing a self-portrait every season. You’ll look back on the results fondly at the end of the year, making for a beautiful addition to your portfolio.

If you’re not interested in a long-term project or don’t live in a seasonal location, try taking self-portraits in your existing surroundings. 

Think about the things you like about the current season. This could be bright green grass, frozen lakes, or large flowers. Consider these characteristics and how you could include them in your self-portrait. 

Make Some Photography Backgrounds

You can create different backgrounds with clothes, curtains, bed sheets, or any other piece of fabric. Keep an eye out for interesting patterns, lines, and textures. These will affect the way your self-portrait looks later. 

For instance, a plain white background is great for general headshots, but patterned, slightly wrinkled fabric gives your self-portrait more depth. 

Make sure that your clothes work with your background before shooting. Wearing a similar color or pattern to your background can make your body disappear in the picture, resulting in the ‘floating head’ look. 

Use Motion

You can use movement to create some eerie, dream-like images. You’ll need a remote trigger and tripod for this one. Move around as you capture your shots. Wave your arms about, or shake your hair back and forth. 

Try different shutter speeds and various light techniques to see their effects. A tip is to try a longer exposure. This will make it seem like several people are drifting in a single shot. 

Pose With A Pet

Taking pictures with a pet can help you feel more comfortable posing for a camera, and they always turn out adorable as well!

The best self-portraits with a pet occur when you get lost in the session. Instead of thinking about your pose, just have fun with your furry friend!

Try not to think about looking directly at the lens. This will help you achieve candid pictures that display genuine love between you two. 

Remember that you don’t need to stay with traditional pets! Dogs and cats aren’t the only options. Birds, snails, lizards, and reptiles can result in very unique, interesting pictures. Just remember to keep your pet comfortable, as they should be enjoying the session too! 

Look At Details

Self-portraits don’t need to capture a face. You can take detailed pictures of your hands holding a nostalgic possession, an interesting side parting, or feet splashing in rain puddles. These details can be just as effective as a picture of a face. 

Experiment with different focal levels and see how they make your hair, eyes, hands, and feet look. Sharper pictures are great for picking up texture, while defocused images create a soft, dreamy look. 

Capture A Silhouette

A silhouette is the dark, solid image you notice when an object has a strong light behind them. This is a nice option for anyone that doesn’t want to photograph their face, as the silhouette won’t show your features. 

To capture your silhouette, either stand in front of a light source, like a window, or in front of a light background. Double-check that the background emphasizes your face’s outline.

Next, try a few angles and snap some shots. Remember to make sure that your camera’s flash is off before shooting! 

Double Exposure

Silhouettes are also great when using double exposure. You can use several exposures to create interesting, creative, and impressive self-portraits. 

The method is simpler than it looks! Either use your camera to merge two (or more) exposures into a single photo, or use editing software. 

This effect tends to look best when using a darker outline against a brighter backdrop, but feel free to experiment with different shades to see which ones you prefer. 

Single Location

If you’re struggling to come up with creative ideas, limiting your options may help. 

Try taking your pictures in one location, but aim to make them look like each photo was taken in a different place. This is a fun exercise that makes you view your environment in a new way. You’ll start concentrating on features and details that often go unnoticed. 

The single-location exercise will improve your capability to view things in everyday places, which will help you in future photoshoots. 

Deliberate Defocus

Most photographers try to avoid out-of-focus images, but deliberate defocus can lead to some beautiful images. 

This blurry style can create a dreamy effect, forming a mysterious-looking image. Use your camera’s manual focus setting and play around with a few styles. You may be astonished at what you come up with! 

Black And White Photography

Black and white photography is a stunning genre that speaks for itself. 

If you’d like to highlight a particular emotion in your self-portrait, try shooting in black and white. The contrast emphasizes your feelings, increasing depth in areas you may typically overlook. 

If you’re a beginner, black-and-white self-portraits can help you gain more practice in B&W photography too. 

Do Something You Love

Self-portraits are a nice way of showcasing your hobbies and interests (see also “Photographing Your Child’s Hobbies And Interests“). Think about your happy place. Is this in a particular location, or are you doing a particular activity? 

For example, if you love hiking, take your tripod and snap a few shots of yourself on your favorite trail. If you like to read books with a cup of coffee, try a shoot with your latest read at the breakfast table. 

It can be helpful to write some of your interests down, then brainstorm how to include them in your photo later on. 

Silly Poses

A lot of people feel uncomfortable when they start taking self-portraits. One way of getting over this is by practicing some silly poses. 

Move your face around and see what expressions you can come up with. This can help you feel relaxed, leading to better pictures later on. 

You never know, one of the sillier pictures may end up being your favorite! 

Self-Portrait Photography Tips

Now that you’ve gone through our ideas, here are some tips to help you take some striking self-portraits!

Camera And Lens

If you want to take some no-fuss self-portraits, a basic setup, like a smartphone camera, may be all you need. If you want the best results, however, you will need a decent camera and lens. 

An interchangeable lens camera, like a mirrorless or DSLR, is significant here. The model should be able to handle tack-sharp, high-resolution shots. 

These cameras don’t come with integrated lenses, so you’ll need to buy a separate lens to use with your camera. 

If you’re just starting, look for a 50mm f/1.8 lens. This is a basic option that’s relatively affordable and delivers natural-looking pictures. 

If you prefer wide-angle shots, like full body images, a 35mm f/1.8 lens may be better. 

If you’d like to take several shots with various focal lenses, like tight headshots, consider investing in a 24-70mm f/2.8 zoom lens. This will cost a lot more than other lenses though, so be prepared. 

Tripod And Remote Trigger

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After you’ve gathered the right camera and lens, you’ll need to buy a tripod and remote. These are very important tools when it comes to self-portrait photography. You could position your camera on some books or a table, but a tripod will save you a lot of effort.

In most cases, most well-made tripods will be enough for a regular self-portrait photographer. There are just two things to think about before you choose one. 

If you want to shoot self-portraits outdoors, you should check to ensure your tripod is robust and sturdy. If you are thinking about taking self-portraits in several locations, you should ensure your tripod is portable and lightweight.

You’ll also need to obtain a remote trigger. This is a remote control that lets you take pictures from a distance. 

It’s small enough to hide in your hands as you pose and lets you take pictures without a self-timer. This is a lot better than trying to get into position every ten seconds! 

These triggers are usually affordable, but they are a very worthwhile tool! 

Consider Your Light Sources

Lighting is always significant in photography, including self-portraits. If you’re a beginner, start by using window light or shooting outside. 

If you’re outdoors, aim to take photos a little before sunset, or on cloudy days. This light will help prevent harsh shadows, creating flattering, soft photos. 

Window light can help you create more dramatic shots. Try taking some pictures near a window with a few lighting angles. See how the picture changes when the light is straight in front of you, at a 45° angle, behind you, etc. 

If you’ve mastered lighting basics and want to take your self-portraiture a step further, you can purchase a light stand, a speedlight, and potentially a softbox.

This ensemble usually costs between $100 and $200, though you can find a light stand and a flash for $50 to $100.

Use Your Interests And Hobbies

The list above can help you when it comes to self-portrait ideas, but if you’re finding it hard to come up with some more, use your hobbies and interests! 

Themes and props from your hobbies can make for unique self-portraits. Interests-wise, think about how the things you like, whether that be cars, board games, space, or literature, can translate into a self-portrait. 

It’s also helpful to view other artwork. Don’t replicate the image, but use paintings, TV, movies, and other photographs for inspiration. 

If you’re out and about and notice something that you find interesting, write it down for later. You’ll soon have a lengthy list of potential portrait ideas. 

Work With Themes

If you’re new to self-portrait photography,  you may have started by getting your camera, choosing a pose, and taking pictures. You may end up with some stunning images, but this process will get tiring after a while.

Working with themes can help you stay inspired while you take your pictures. Use your hobbies and interests (as described earlier) to create these. 

Different backgrounds, props, and potentially other people can form pictures that correspond with your theme. These may tell a story, portray a larger idea, or deliver a message. 

Your themes don’t need to be serious, as you can use your creativity to form fun, amusing images too.  

Clothes Matter

Your clothing can also make a difference to your self-portrait. If your outfit doesn’t match your self-portrait’s theme, the result can look perplexing. 

For example, if you’re going for an ethereal, dreamy vibe, bold colors and harsh lines will have the wrong effect. On the other hand, if you’re creating an energetic, spirited shoot, pastel shades and floaty fabrics will look out of place. 

Consider your photo’s theme, then select garments that correspond to it. You won’t need to come up with an entirely new outfit (unless you want to!) but think about the areas that will be visible in the image, then choose clothes to match. 

Think About Your Background

As you’re taking self-portraits, it can be easy to get caught up with the subject in the foreground, along with a couple of props. 

Remember that your background is also significant. A strong background can make your images look striking and effective, but a bad one can do the opposite, detracting from the subject’s beauty. 

If you want to highlight your subject (you!), choose a neutral background. Neutral shades aren’t too bright or bold, so they won’t draw attention away from your face. 

If you want to take a picture that highlights the emotion on your face, try a black background. Use lighting to draw attention to expressive areas, like your eyes, brows, and mouth.

The contrast between the dark and light areas will have a dramatic effect, creating a visually striking self-portrait. 

As you experiment more with self-portraits, you can try using colorful backgrounds, or an environment that delivers context. Examples of these include trees at a park, rainy weather, or tall city buildings. 

Natural backgrounds like these can have effective results, but controlling these elements is a lot harder.

If you find that these settings distract you from the subject, try using a wide aperture and a long lens. This will blur the background, showing the viewer the scene without being too prominent. 

Composition Matters

Before you start taking your self-portrait shots, ensure you understand where the sides of your frame are, as well as how you fit inside the frame. The composition can have a huge effect on the photo’s general feel, separating successful images from bad ones. 

Think about how placing yourself in the center of a frame looks compared to standing to the side. When you’re in the middle, the picture can look strong and intense. If you’re on the side, you won’t appear as antagonistic, leading to a friendlier picture. 

Try out a few different composition ideas and see which ones you prefer. However, keep in mind that every photographer has their own style.

You don’t need to compose your images one way just because others are using that technique. A good shot is a good shot – regardless of the way it’s been taken! 

Display Feelings

If you’re just starting, it’s easy to stand in front of the camera with a blank expression. This will only lead to boring photos. Face and body expressions have a huge effect on the way your self-portrait looks. 

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Everyone photographer will have a different preference regarding emotion in photos. Try experimenting with various levels: mild, medium, strong, and extreme. Look at the photos later and see which ones you prefer. 

Remember that you don’t need to replicate the same effects in every photo. Some themes might need a subtle emotion, while others may need a more intense feel. 

For instance, A gentle expression may look weird if your backdrop is fiery, while a furious look may look perplexing if you’re at a yoga retreat. After you’ve decided what your photo’s theme will be, think about the expressions and emotions that would relate best. 

Evaluating Work

The best way to make your self-portraits better is through critical reflection. 

After you finish a shoot, wait a couple of hours to get some distance, then have a look at your pictures. Think about the things you like about every picture, then think about the things you don’t like. 

As the shoot is still fresh in your mind, make a note of the things you want to change for your next session. As you continue evaluating, you’ll have an idea of what you want to include and leave out in your self-portraiture. 

If a picture didn’t turn out amazing, you can try and retake the picture on a different day. If it went very well, give yourself a pat on the back! Write down what went well and aim to recreate some of these elements in your future pictures. 

Final Thoughts

Self-portrait photography is a worthwhile exercise, but if you’re a beginner, it can be hard to come up with some creative and inspirational ideas. 

The self-portrait examples in this post can help you get started, but feel free to try out some of your own ideas. Remember to go over the tips above before you start shooting, as these will help you create better self-portraits. 

We hope you have fun on your self-portrait photography journey! 

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is A Self-Portrait In Photography?

A self-portrait in photography is a picture that aims to display the photographer and their identity. To qualify as a self-portrait, the subject and the photographer have to be the same person.

This means that the photographer captures the picture of themselves by themselves.

What Is Portrait Vs Self-Portrait Photography?

A portrait is the term for a painting that displays a human figure, while a self-portrait displays the person that created the painting.

Self-portraiture can be produced in both photographic and painting mediums, but they will always depict the photographer or artist that made it. 

Is It Hard To Do A Self-Portrait?

Creating a realistic self-portrait requires the artist to depict their facial features on paper in the correct proportions. This is quite difficult as generally, humans are unaccustomed to looking at their faces as a whole.

Instead, we tend to narrow our focus to areas, like the teeth, hair, or brows. As it’s a very hard exercise, a self-portrait is considered an essential milestone for an artist to perfect their craft.

Laura McNeill
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