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15 Tips for Creative Self-Portraits

By Des Sinkevich on January 30, 2024

Girl using tripod and self-timer to take a selfie.

A self-portrait is taken of you, by you. Is that scary or intimidating? Awkward, maybe? It doesn't have to be — it can be a fun, creative process to think of different ways to portray yourself in images over time.

First time doing more formal self-portraits or aren’t sure where to start? Take a look at our tips on how to take self-portraits!

1. Document yourself in a vulnerable state

There can be something emotionally appealing about photographs that capture the subject in a vulnerable state. Images of people crying, angry, in awkward places all evoke particular feelings in the viewer and can make for great art. The same applies to yourself; while it can be uncomfortable, try capturing yourself in a state you wouldn’t normally share with the world. Besides being a compelling photo, it can also allow you to connect more with your clients and those who view your work.

Document yourself in a vulnerable state

2. Use props to express your personality

Pull in elements that you love, whether it’s a camera, ice cream, a hammer or a car. Posing with an object that you like or use every day shares more about you with the viewers.

3. Self-timers rock

Find a stool or table to place your camera on, and run into the shot. It's fun to jump or pull a face, and it’s another opportunity to be creative instead of just standing and posing. It’s real life in action.

Self-timers rock

4. Look up to the sky

If you are extending your arms to grab a face shot, always look up towards the sky for the best angle. Looking down produces chin rolls, which don’t look good on even the most slender person.

5. Don't look at the camera

Looking away from the camera can give your self-portrait a more candid feel, capturing what feels like an authentic moment in your life.

Don't look at the camera

6. Have a focus when using a self-timer

If you want a clear shot, you'll need something to focus on before you hit the button and run. A stuffed animal, doll, or other object can be useful as a stand in and help you hit your mark when you’re trying to beat the timer.

7. Set your camera to take multiple shots

When running into a timed shot, don't just take one — set your camera to take a few! This way, you can pull faces and act crazy in real motion, and pick your favorite from the candids. You also don't have to keep running back to take one shot at a time.

8. You don't have to show your face

Take a picture of you without the most recognizable part. Maybe you are wearing your favorite shoes or shirt and want to document that.

9. Find a reflective object

The mirror selfie is a classic by now, but there are other reflective surfaces you can take advantage of that can give your self-portrait some flare! Think windows, the door of your oven, the shiny lid of a metal pot. There are so many possibilities!

10. Creatively crop

Whether the camera is tilted funny or you cropped it that way, a unique cropping of an image draws the viewer in.

11. You don’t need to look happy

It’s reflexive to smile when our picture is being taken but that’s not real life. We’re not happy all the time. Show a range of emotions in your self-portraits and, instead of smiling, try capturing a moment when you’re angry or sad.

12. Use creative lighting

Get creative with your lighting to give your self-portraits a different feel. You can use the light from your phone, a laptop, or a flashlight to change things up.

13. Write out words

Using a pen, chalk, or marker, share words to your favorite song, poem, or movie quote. Write it on your skin, a piece of paper, or a chalkboard behind you.

14. Grab those you love

Self-portraits don't mean you have to be all alone. Include your children, your spouse, or a pet in the image you create of yourself.

Grab those you love

15. Look straight into the lens

Looking away from the camera can be a great technique to give a photo a candid feel, but close-up self-portraits, with the eyes fixed on the camera lens, share a depth much different from the playful candid images.

Look straight into the lens

Taking self-portraits can be a great way to express yourself as an artist, show the world who you are, and build a portfolio! When creating your selfies, aim to not just capture you, but to tell a story.

Bonus: If you want to learn more about photography and taking better photos, try an online online photography course from NYIP today!