Shoot solo: How to master your next self-portrait

Ever wished you could be on both sides of the camera at once?

Composing and capturing an image by yourself is challenging enough, even more so when you are the model and the photographer at the same time. It may not be easy shooting self-portraits but the results are so rewarding. Mastering the art of solo-snapping allows you to fully realise your own creative ideas and execute them exactly as you see fit.  

Taking self-portraits is made a lot easier with a couple extra pieces of equipment and a little planning before you shoot. Choosing the right location where you have the time and space to execute your shot is vital, as is having the right props on hand to set your scene. 

We’ve compiled our top tips to help you prepare and master your next self portrait:

Support your camera

The first step in taking a great self portrait is to have something to hold or support your camera so that you don’t need to. You can sit it on a ledge, chair or stack some boxes or books but if you are actively taking lots of photos you may wish to invest in a tripod. If you use your mobile phone for photography there are many affordable versions that will do the trick. For example Creatively Squared CoFounder Ruth recently spent $20 on this model and loves how lightweight and portable it is for taking photos on the go. Of course, you can always compose your photo and ask a friend to hit the shutter for you but doing it yourself allows you more time and freedom to get it exactly right. You don’t want your creativity to be hindered out feeling like you are being watched or inconveniencing someone else. 

For more reasons why you should invest in a tripod see our blog post: 5 ways using a tripod can improve your photos

Activate the timer

Using the timer function on your phone and camera is an effective way to be able to frame and set up your shot and then get on the other side of the lens. Most timers have timings between 2 and 10 seconds which allow you enough time to get into position before the frame is captured. The only problem with using self-timer is that the autofocus may not work as well without something static to focus on. To work around this you can use a placeholder item or focus the camera on something directly behind where you will be posing to ensure that you are in sharp focus when the shot gets taken.  

Another great function of the self-timer is the burst mode which takes several photos in quick succession - perfect for capturing a range of expressions. Setting the timer with burst mode buys you more time to strike a pose and get a variety of images to work with.

Press the remote control

An even better option than the self-timer is to buy a bluetooth remote or sync your camera with your phone so that you can shoot with a wireless shutter release. These remotes are relatively inexpensive and you can purchase them online for under $10. Thanks to the remote control, you don’t have to hurry to run from the camera to the shooting location which creates a much more comfortable experience and allows you to get better results during the shooting process. When using remote control, you can pre-accurately select the focus area. Focusing will be carried out during half-pressing the button on the remote control.

Choose a beautiful background

Selecting the right background can have great impact on the look and feel of your portrait and give you something to interact with in the frame. If you are photographing outdoors, then select a flowering plant or a beautiful forest for the background. In autumn, you can capture the changing color of the foliage of trees in the background, and in winter - a brilliant combination of snow and ice. If you are shooting at home, then you can pose against the background of something interesting that will not shift the focus from you. Before shooting, make sure that there are no unnecessary objects or people in the background that may distract the viewer.

For more tips on how to take great self-portraits see our blog post: How to look less awkward in photos with ‘staged candid’ poses

Use flattering lighting

When it comes to portraiture, good lighting is the key to obtaining a high-quality picture. It is best to use soft, diffused light by positioning the light source to be facing you and just above eye level. If the light falls on you from behind, then unpleasant, hard shadows can appear on your face. To soften bright or harsh light, you can use a diffuser or even a sheet or curtain. Soft and balanced lighting will help to make your facial features softer and more attractive. Using natural light allows you to reproduce color more accurately than artificial sources. If necessary, you can make adjustments to the camera settings to achieve the desired lighting effect in the photo.

Get your focus on point

One of the main problems in creating a self portrait is achieving a perfectly focussed and sharp image. While it is easy to set the focal point through the viewfinder or LCD this is a more challenging situation when you have to shoot a self portrait. Without having something to focus on the camera can be confused as to which area or point in the frame to focus. Luckily there are a few ways to solve this problem. Firstly, the use of the remote control, as we mentioned earlier, which allows you to pre-focus. Secondly, for the correct focusing, you can put any object in the place where you plan to shoot yourself. Height does not matter here, the main thing is the distance to the object. Lastly you can experiment with auto and manual focus options to increase the accuracy of focusing. 

Even if no one ever sees them but you, taking a self-portrait can be a truly exciting and liberating experience. You have full creative control over how you would like to be seen and the freedom to execute that vision on your own terms. You can take your time to alter the lighting, change settings or experiment with your position and ways to move your body. There are no time frames or limits on what you can do, just switch on your imagination and enjoy the process.