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This Is How You Take Self Shots

Bakari Chavanu 16-09-2013

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 Don't Look Silly: 4 Tips For Taking Great Self-Portraits, And What To Avoid By no means am I a male model. So, it is not without some hesitation that I embark down a road giving people advice on how to take a better self portrait. Then again, having... Read More , iPhone apps for taking self-portraits 5 Apps For Snapping Self-Portraits On Your Mobile/Tablet [iOS] Taking a self-portrait with your iPhone or other camera-supported iOS device is probably one of the easiest ways to capture yourself in a photo. Tap the little camera icon in the upper-right side of the... Read More , 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 From The Default iPhone Camera To The Better ProCamera For Serious Shutterbugs For the last several weeks, I've downloaded over a dozen camera and video apps for the iPhone, and though each has something unique to offer, I was particularly interested in finding the most practical camera... Read More 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.)


Turn camera around

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.


Camera tripod sefie

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.

Bakari chavanu


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.

Self portrait 3

Remote Trigger

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.

Remote trigger


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.

Have Fun

Taking self-portraits can be lots of fun and a very useful project. By using the tips above, along with basic Beginners Guide To Using The iPhone Camera If you haven't used the iPhone Camera app much, or if you’re a new user of the device, you may not realize just how close the app is to literally being a point-and-shoot camera, and... Read More and advanced A Beginners Guide to Advanced iPhone Camera Features A few weeks ago, we published a Beginners Guide To Using the iPhone Camera, which explains how to use the default features of the camera app, including the how to frame, expose and focus a... Read More  smartphone camera and digital photography A Beginner's Guide To Digital Photography Digital photography is a great hobby, but it can be intimidating, too. This beginner's guide will tell you everything you need to know to get started! Read More 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.

Related topics: Photography, Smartphone Photography.

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  1. Meagen
    November 29, 2013 at 1:13 am

    I don't have many pics of myself as I usually walk away if I see a camera pointing in my direction. However, there are lots of places we've been and I don't appear anywhere so sometimes, very occasionally, I'll take a shot of me with a nice view in the background - to make the photo somewhat bearable and to show that I was there :)
    Thanks for the tips. You must've got sick of picking up those cards for all the shots.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      November 30, 2013 at 12:40 am

      Thanks, Meagen, for the feedback. Glad you found the article useful. And most definitely start taking photos of yourself. You'll be glad you did.

  2. Joshua Lockhart
    September 19, 2013 at 12:10 am

    Bakari... That card picture is the definition of cool.

  3. danny6114
    September 18, 2013 at 3:39 pm

    The SlingShot - Stabilize Smartphone Pictures and Videos tripod is a handy little gadget.

  4. Mjelley
    September 18, 2013 at 12:57 am

    Really good post. I had no idea how to get my eyes in my self shots to stop looking up all the time. This tip was worth the whole article. BTW. I'm in a long distance relationship and I take and send self shots often. He loves to see them but won't take any of himself for me. He won't Facetime or Skype either. He's just not that kind of guy. So the shots I take are important to both of us. Also, I suggest that when taking selfies ( I hate that word) don't just stand there. Sit or lean someplace interesting like against the car door, or lay down on the bed and shoot straight on. Changing the lighting and especially what I'm wearing is the hint to keep him asking for more. . I can't imagine asking someone else to take 25 shots so I can edit them down to "THE" one. Great article.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      September 18, 2013 at 5:31 am

      Mjelley, thanks for your feedback. Like your ideas for taking shots in different positions and settings. That could make for a follow-up article. As for your friend not sending you photos, I think you should require him to do so as part of a long distance relationship. Lol. Doesn't seem fair to you. Thanks for being MUO reader.

  5. Aibek E
    September 17, 2013 at 12:09 pm

    great post, Bakari!

    • Bakari Chavanu
      September 18, 2013 at 5:26 am

      Appreciate the feedback, Aibek.

  6. Andrew G
    September 17, 2013 at 2:48 am

    The ability to trigger the shutter with the iPhone's volume up button was quietly introduced about three iOS versions back. It works with the regular volume button as well as the one on the headphones. Works very well when taking photos in landscape orientation.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      September 17, 2013 at 4:12 am

      Andrew, thanks for your feedback and clarification. Appreciate it.

  7. Pooky J
    September 17, 2013 at 1:49 am

    Haha, my Lumia 520 has no front-facing camera
    Anyway, do you know how to make a smartphone mount for a tripod?

    • Bakari Chavanu
      September 18, 2013 at 5:26 am

      Rooky, this post might be useful. Also do a Google search for other ideas.

  8. Dave P
    September 16, 2013 at 11:06 pm

    This IS how you take a selfie, but that doesn't mean you should do so. Especially if you're going to fill social networks with countless examples of the genre!

    • Bakari Chavanu
      September 17, 2013 at 12:19 am

      Hmmm, are we being a scrooge when it comes to sharing photos? Lol. I don't run across that many selfies on my social streams, especially not of the creative kind. Flickr self-portraits groups contain photos that belong in art galleries. They typically don't show up in social network streams, unless you befriend some real creative people.