The camp of self portraiture is divided into those who love, and those who loathe selfies. Personally I love ‘em, it is a great chance to tell your own story and express a vision no one else can possibly imagine. Those that loathe them may well have been over exposed to far too many Myspace profile pics, but hey, that is just my opinion.

When it comes to taking a good ‘selfie’, it is vitally important that you avoid the shallow waters of vanity, and instead thrust yourself into the depths of self discovery and artistic licence. Admittedly, we all want to make ourselves look great in a picture, but that should not be the main objective of a self portrait.

Having said that, for a lot of people the act of self portraiture is a way of accepting their own appearance, and it can take a whole heap of courage to decide to share that shot, so of course you want to look good. It is also important to remember that nakedness in portraiture is unavoidable, whether you are clothed or not - a successful selfie is deeply revealing, and honesty is the key.

So, without further ado, here is what you should consider when setting up a selfie…

The Audience

Don’t have one – being on your own whilst shooting will invariably lead to more experimentation, and a more relaxed atmosphere. Plus, having someone else around means that they will add their own artistic opinion – which defeats the point of a self portrait entirely.

The Theme

Why are you taking a selfie? What is it you are trying to achieve? Once you know this, you are one step closer to a great photo, and remember – be honest about why you are taking the picture. If it is to document a moment in your life, a feeling that you are experiencing, or to capture and preserve beauty before it fades, being clear about your intentions will help you relax and get a better shot. Maybe you want to tell a story, live out a fantasy, or experiment with arty aesthetics, in which case – you’ll need to consider props and a setting.

The Aesthetic

What look are you going for? Documentary style photography? Go black and white and maybe grainy – great for capturing emotive selfies. Fantasy and dreamlike,? Soft and super saturated is the way to go, great if you are going to be using props to add depth to your scene. The accidental shot? Consider using a phone camera and catching yourself ‘off guard’, or using a random timer while you act out your shot. Banal? Super sharp, well composed, carefully lit and perfectly timed. Revealing? Careful with this one – pick out portraiture that you admire, and see what happens when you emulate the aesthetic. Too detailed can look trashy, too aloof can make the shot look forced, and posing often sucks the honesty out of what you are trying to do.

The Number of Shots

Millions. As many as you can. If you are using a digital camera, choose a continuous shot setting and experiment with angles and poses. If you are capturing your selfie on film – experiment with a digital camera first until you know roughly what angle and action looks best – then make your way through a whole roll of film working all variations of your best take.

Angles and Framing

This is where you really need to think outside of the box to ensure that your self portrait is interesting. Before playing around with angles and framing, remember that a self portrait can be of any part the body – feet, hands, legs from above and from below. Lie on the floor, put your legs in the air, hang upside down, do a roly poly, pretend to be a cat, stretch, crunch and shake your booty until you run out of ideas. The shot doesn’t even actually have to have your body in it – reflections and shadows make great subjects for a selfie. Mirrors, windows, puddles, baths, spoons, car bonnets, ticket machine screens – any surface that reflects light is a viable candidate, and your shadow thrown across a memorable location, or personal belongings can add depth you may not be able to reveal in an expression alone. Another important point about angles is that the world is your tripod. Rest your camera on the floor, hang it from a rope, put it in a bowl, put it on your lap, on a shelf, hold it between your toes over your head, turn it upside down and on its side etc etc until you have run out of ideas for that too. When you mix and match posture and angles, you often discover that the framing takes care of itself.

Lighting and Focus

This depends on the type of look you are going for – but bear in mind that it is difficult to light a subject that you can’t see, or focus on a subject that isn’t in the picture yet. With lighting, it is best to keep it simple and stick to the basic rules of lighting to achieve the right aesthetic. Once again, experimentation is going to be the key. When it comes to focus, believe it or not, the type of lens you use has the power to make you look much better, or much worse than you actually are. Varying focal lengths distort reality to varying degrees, and depending on your anatomy, some lenses will be more flattering than others – so – experiment with lenses too. To ensure that you are going to be in focus, opt for auto focus, take some test pictures, then use the same settings in manual – or just stick to auto. Make sure you mark the spot where you need to be on your return!

And finally… Passion

I firmly believe that everyone should spend at least a day in his or her life perfecting the art of a selfie – it is an exciting journey of self discovery. Make sure that you have fun, that you experiment with every possible angle and body part and find out what works for you and for your shot. Look to others for inspiration, and appropriate great ideas where necessary. Do not be scared to dress up, or forgo clothes completely – and remember, these are for your eyes only – whether you decide to share the results of selfie indulgence is entirely up to you. Finally, each self portrait will show a different ‘you’, so keep experimenting, documenting and refining.

Selfies are not for the vain, they are for the curious.

This has been a post from Kerry McCarthy, our resident photography blogger. Read more from Kerry in the coming weeks.

June 7th, 2012
Nicely said Kerry, and a fine choice of selfies.
June 8th, 2012
Very timely post. I just tried this for the first time & completely agree with "don't have an audience". ;)
June 8th, 2012
ok, I am game, this should be fun! I love myself!! LOL
June 9th, 2012
I normally hate selfies, but I think this will really help me get "into" them more! I'm actually looking forward to spending a bit of time doing some selfies now :D Thank you!
June 10th, 2012
Great post, shame about the spam @Scrivna.
June 12th, 2012
I normally cringe at the thought of doing a selfie, but you make it sound like it could be fun and creative - way beyond finding the nearest mirror.
June 12th, 2012
Thanks for the blog post.after reading..I may even try some selfies now!
June 12th, 2012
Thanks for the info... I finally got around to trying my first selfie last week... It was harder than I thought, bnut now I think I may hooked. Ijsut went out again yesterday and tried another one and will be posting it soon... FUN STUFF!
June 13th, 2012
I admit selfie can be fun. They also teach you not only how to use your camera but how to instruct people when you get back behind the lens.
June 13th, 2012
WOW! Thanks for sharing my photo! You can only imagine how happy I am!!!!!! :DDD
June 16th, 2012
I am happiest behind the camera, but will give this a try. Easy to follow, and sensible advice. Thanks.
June 20th, 2012
Thanks for the advice...
March 27th, 2013
great advice. I hate shot's of myself. used to be so photogenic and now with age I cringe when I see myself...who is that?
June 4th, 2013
Wish I had found this a week ago. :o)
July 18th, 2013
Great post but I'm still having trouble with the focus thing. I put the camera on 10 sec timer but it doesn't know what to focus on when I'm not standing in the frame so my eyes aren't in focus. Any tips?
January 3rd, 2014
wonderful words - thank you so much for sharing
March 22nd, 2014
Great advice. I plan on doing a month of selfies soon!
March 22nd, 2018
Great suggestions. Great ideas. Thanks.
Post a Comment
Sign up for a free account or Sign in to post a comment.