Pets can be difficult to work with, but no one has ever complained that there were too many pets in a photo. If you have a dog, cat, or bird, see how creative you can get before they lose patience. If you have a fish, take your time.
Add mystery and emotion to your self-portraits with intentional lighting. Try string lights, lamps, or candles. Any light source can add something unique to your image. Experiment with the interplay of light and shadow using blinds or curtains. Capture natural light outdoors and shoot during the golden hour to let the angled sun add warm colors.
A standard feature of modern life, mirror selfies have a lot of potential as art. What new aesthetic can you capture, what story can you tell in front of a mirror? You can also get creative with the mirror itself. Consider using broken mirrors or small mirrors that fill only part of the frame. Or explore natural mirrors out in the world, like puddles or ponds.
Depth of field.
A shallow depth of field allows you to make your face or another object the focal point while blurring everything behind it. This effect requires a lens with a low f-stop, the number that designates the width of your lens’s aperture or opening. A low f-stop creates a wider aperture, and thus a shallower depth of field. If you have lights behind you, you can use shallow depth of field to create the soft, blurry bokeh background. Experimenting with depth of field can help you experiment with composition and master your technical tools.
Most equipment is optional.
Many DSLR cameras now come with Wi-Fi, so you can use an app on your phone or tablet to close the shutter. “I have my shutter on a two-second delay to get into my position. I do that fifty times and slightly change my facial expression or position every couple of times,” Marcella says. But you can use any camera with a timer, and even the camera on your phone can produce excellent self-portraits. (For years, great self-portraitist Robert Mapplethorpe used a Polaroid instant camera.)
A tripod can help set the camera at eye level and create space between you and the lens. If you’re focusing manually, a second tripod can give you something to focus on while you set up your shot. But you can also make do with whatever you have on hand, like a ladder or bookshelf. If you’re outdoors, look for a conveniently placed tree nook or rock outcropping.
Tips for eye-catching self-portraits.
To create successful self-portraits, you have to begin with patience and self-acceptance in mind. Don’t spend a lot of time comparing yourself to other photographers or other models, but do give yourself a lot of time to take the photos. Without help, it can take a lot of time to find the right camera settings, position, and expression.
Give yourself permission to get stuck creatively or run out of ideas. Getting stuck can actually help you develop strategies for getting unstuck. “It’s okay sometimes to feel like you’re not at your creative best, but don’t give up. Work to get back to it, but understand and be kind to yourself,” Marcella says.
Though self-portraiture can be completely solitary, and you can be your own art director, photographer, model, and possibly makeup artist and costume designer, you can ask for help.