There’s nothing vain about taking photos of ourselves. In fact, we can often be our best subject because with digital photography, you can take as many selfie shots as you want if you have the time and patience to do so. We’ve all seen those self-portrait mirror shots with the camera in the foreground and the subject trying to pose like a model in the background. They’re fun shots to look at, but we can do better with a few tips and creativity.
We’ve published other articles on tips for taking self-portraits, iPhone apps for taking self-portraits, and doing a year-long self-portrait project; in this article, I will focus on how to actually take self-portraits using either a smartphone camera, a regular point-and-shoot or DSLR camera.
Use A Front-Facing Camera
Most contemporary smartphones have a front-facing camera, so taking self shots with one is a cinch. However, there are a few things you should keep in mind. First, look towards the lens on the phone when you take the photo — not the screen — so your eyes appear to look straight ahead.
Secondly, to get a sharper photo, use a timer to trigger the shutter rather than tapping the shutter button while pointing the front facing camera at yourself. On the iPhone, camera apps like ProCamera have a very useful timer feature.
Turn the Camera Around
If you’re taking a self shot without a front-facing camera, stand in front of a mirror and face the camera lens towards you. This way, the camera won’t appear in the photo and you’ll be able to see the reflection of the live view screen in the mirror. Just extend your hand out as far you need to frame the shot. (Thanks to LifeProTips for posting this tip.)
Again, use the self-timer and look at the lens itself and not the live view screen. Be prepared to take several shots until you get the one you like best.
Although you can take a self-portrait using the front-facing camera of your smartphone, you should keep in mind that the resolution of the front-facing camera is not as high as the rear (main) camera. For example, with the iPhone 5, the portrait size of a front-facing camera shot is 960 x 1280 pixels (1.2 MP), which will get you a decent 4 x 6 print photo. With the rear camera, however, you can get a 8 megapixel or 2448 x 3246 pixel resolution size for much larger prints. So, if you want a higher resolution photo, you should turn your smartphone camera around when taking a mirror photo.
Use A Tripod
It’s convenient to take self shots by simply holding the camera in your hand and snapping a photo, but you can get much better shots simply by using a tripod. You don’t need an expensive tripod, just one stable enough to hold your camera. If your camera has a timer trigger feature, then you’re all set to experiment and take creative self-portraits.
By the way, there are even tripod mounts for smartphone cameras that you can use to help get steady shots, like the Studio Neat Glif Tripod Mount and Stand.
Using a tripod allows you to take creative, sharper photos from different angles, and include more background than you can with handheld shots. You can take as much time as you need (as I did with the self-portrait below, which took about 30 tries using a black refrigerator for the background) to get the kinds of shots you want.
If you don’t have a tripod, you can also try mounting your camera on a table top, fence, or the hood of your car — which is how I took the shot below, with my car parked in front of the street mural, and using the camera’s timer function.
Using the camera’s built-in timer to activate the shutter is handy, but you can do even more with a remote trigger device. With some smartphones, the shutter can actually be triggered by using the supplied earphones with volume controls. For example, the iPhone earbud’s volume up button triggers the camera shutter when the camera app is open.
For regular DSLR cameras, search for a wired and wireless remote triggers designed for your camera. There are also iPhone and Android apps which will allow you to remotely trigger the camera shutter, such as the Triggertrap for iOS and Camera Remote [No Longer Available] for Android.
A remote trigger means you don’t have to keep resetting the timer each time you want to take a photo, and thus you will be likely to take more shots until you get the results you’re looking for.
Taking self-portraits can be lots of fun and a very useful project. By using the tips above, along with basic and advanced smartphone camera and digital photography techniques, you should get great results. Also check out this Flickr group to see how thousands of people are taking photos of themselves on a daily basis.
If you have tips or questions for taking self-portraits, please share them in the comment section below.