Put Yourself in the Spotlight with These Self Portrait Ideas
This post was last updated on July 15, 2020.
The popularity of self portrait photography is at an all-time high. Yet it's likely that you didn't even consider including this genre on your photography website. There are two main reasons why photographers don't include self portraits on their portfolios: they don't see an artistic value, and they don't like being in front of the camera.
The first reason is due to the fact that most self portraits we consume nowadays are the ones found on social media (or in other words - selfies). As for being uncomfortable in front of the camera: how much of your personal and professional growth has actually happened without stepping out of your comfort zone?
These inspiring self portrait ideas will help you expand your horizons and master this unique genre.
25 creative self portrait ideas
Find new angles
Capture your silhouette
Get closer, much closer
Create a series
Use a soft focus
Put together a diptych
Be part of the scene
Leave your face out of it
Allow your personality to shine
Shoot multiple exposures
Stitch a panorama
Let color define you
Mind the shadows
Transform into something else
Call a friend
Hide a part of you
Play with perspectives
Imagine the impossible
Become a work of art
01. Find new angles
Rather than shooting from an eye-level perspective, position your camera a bit higher or lower. This simple change in the way you capture a scene will have a huge impact on the final result and the feelings your image evokes in viewers. Make sure that the angle you choose works with the type of message you want your self portrait to convey: higher angles result in smaller subjects, while shooting from below makes them appear much bigger.
02. Ditch color
“When you photograph people in color, you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in black and white, you photograph their souls!” If this powerful photography quote by Ted Grant doesn’t convince you to give monochrome pictures a try, spend some time looking at black and white photography examples and get inspired by the outstanding results you can achieve.
03. Go outside
When thinking about self portrait ideas, most people tend to imagine a solo session in the studio. However, you might want to consider taking your pictures outdoors. Not only does this offer an endless number of potential scenes, it can also result in much more candid portraits. To make the most of natural light, pay attention to weather reports and schedule your shooting during the photography golden hour.
04. Capture your silhouette
Silhouettes are a classic self portrait idea with which you can’t really go wrong. All you need to do is find a bright, beautiful background and strike an interesting pose. Needless to say, sunsets are the most popular choice for these kinds of pictures as they provide a mesmerizing backdrop of vibrant colors and contrast.
05. Get closer, much closer
Who said portrait photography is just about faces? Get up close and personal by capturing an extreme close-up shot of a small part of your body. Ideally, you should focus on certain physical traits that make you unique. This can be anything from your unusual eye color to a close-up of your hands playing the piano.
06. Integrate reflections
A mirror, a window, a puddle, a screen… The number of surfaces on which you can catch your reflection is limitless, and all of them can make powerful additions to your compositions. You can even include reflections within reflections, within reflections… Well, you get the idea.
07. Create a series
One of the biggest advantages of self portrait photography is the fact that your model’s schedule always lines up with yours. This gives you the perfect chance to finally bring your fine art photography ideas to life and create a visual series for your portfolio.
08. Use a soft focus
Being in full control of your camera settings will allow you to capture visually intricate self portraits that truly stand out. Using a soft focus is a beautiful way to give your images a strong personality, while obtaining striking results.
09. Put together a diptych
An image might be worth a thousand words, but sometimes certain creative photography ideas require more than one frame to tell the full story. Creating a diptych will allow you to show off both you Dr. Jekyll and your Mr. Hyde by displaying two complementary shots of the same scene.
10. Be part of the scene
Self portraits focused on landscapes rather than on the human subject have become incredibly popular ever since the dramatic rise in outdoor photographers. All you need to do is find a jaw-dropping spot and position yourself in a way that allows you to immerse yourself into the scene.
11. Leave your face out of it
If you ask anyone what a portrait entails, they’ll most likely say it’s a picture of a person’s face. But when you are trying to come up with original self portrait ideas, it’s important to remember that the only requirement is that you need to be the subject.
12. Allow your personality to shine
Finding your photography style is one of the most crucial challenges you'll face as an artist. Being able to identify what makes your vision unique and bring it to life in your images will allow you to develop a brand and stand out from the crowd. Self portrait photography is a great space to work on this, as it offers an exceptional platform for you to explore your connection with your images both from a creative and technical perspective.
13. Shoot multiple exposures
Double exposures can either be captured in-camera when shooting film photography, or during the editing process of digital files. Either way, it will require a deep technical knowledge of both your gear and the scene's lighting conditions. On the bright side, once you manage to pull it off no one will be able to peel their eyes away from your self portrait.
14. Stitch a panorama
While panoramas are most commonly used to capture beautiful landscape photos, there are many other occasions in which this practice can come in handy. After convincing someone to move the camera and press the shutter for you, walk ahead to become part of the amazing composition unfolding in front of the viewer's eyes.
15. Let color define you
How many times have you been asked what your favorite color is? The significance of color theory is deeply ingrained in our daily lives, from the clothes we buy to the food we eat. Coming up with color-centric self portrait ideas will allow you to transmit specific emotions with subtle compositions.
16. Frame yourself
Natural framing is one of the less commonly used photography composition rules, but it can be an incredible addition to your self portraits. Use elements within the scene to remove yourself from the clutter and lead the viewer's attention straight to you.
17. Mind the shadows
One of the most well-known photography tips for beginners is that shadows and light are equally important in any composition. Knowing how to control them will give you the ability to choose which areas of the frame you keep in or out. As a result, people will perceive your subject exactly the way you intended them to.
18. Transform into something else
Much like Halloween, self portrait photography offers the perfect excuse to dress up and use accessories you'd never consider otherwise. Get an extravagant hairdo or cover your face in glitter for an impactful image that will immediately stand out amidst a sea of perfectly posed selfies.
19. Call a friend
Who said you need to be the only person in front of the camera? Have a friend join you to take your self portrait to the next level. This might help you feel more at ease during the photoshoot, and maybe even give you new couple photoshoot ideas to try on your next gig.
20. Hide a part of you
The parts of a scene that are hidden are just as important as those that are shown. Playing with textures and transparencies to conceal or reveal certain aspects will make your self portraits much more eye-catching and intriguing.
21. Play with perspectives
Reality is not always what it seems. The way in which you choose to position yourself and the camera can completely alter how the audience perceives your images. Experimenting with perspectives and switching vertical and horizontal elements is sure to draw people into the photo as they try to figure out what is so interesting about it.
22. Include movement
Motion is not usually present in portraits in general, let alone in self portraits. This is one of the main reasons why it can be such an amazing addition to your images. Furthermore, you’ll be putting both your creativity and technical skills to test, which in turn will allow you to grow as a professional photographer.
23. Imagine the impossible
Since you don’t need to follow the directions of a client, self portraits photography offers the perfect chance to let your imagination run wild. Learn how to use Photoshop or any other photo editing software available online and start creating compositions that could be displayed at the Dalí Museum.
24. Have fun
Having a good time during a photoshoot is always important, even more so if your happiness is actually captured on camera. Candid shots have been one of the biggest photography trends of recent years. In order to appear as natural and approachable as possible it’s important that you are feeling comfortable and enjoying the experience.
25. Become a work of art
Break away from any preconceptions of what a self portrait should look like. Let your creativity roam free and bend the rules to become your own masterpiece. Finding the middle ground between classic portrait photography and other art disciplines, such as painting and sculpture, will result in visually powerful compositions.
By Judit Ruiz Ricart
Editor of the Wix Photography Blog