Capture yourself pretty / Self-Portrait 101


Posting your own face in front of eyes of possible millions of people of Instagram is in my opinion one of the most vulnerable thing. First of all, you are attaching real human face to your other work and everything becomes much more personal. And secondly, it is your face. Something, you can do very little about if others dislike it. If you would ask me a year ago, I would never in a million years thought I would put my face out there, especially as an introvert with tons of insecurities. I always thought it was shallow and only something teenagers do. And here I am today, even enjoying my self-expression through photography! There are more layers to the self-portrait then how to set your timer right, and it all starts with how you see yourself and how do you want others to see you.

The technical parts of self-photography is the easiest, so I will cover it last. Because if you have never taken any proper self-portrait except the one to send to your mom, you might need a bit of mental practise first. I don’t want to make it all sound too serious, but posting yourself on Instagram, you have to think about consequences. Your face might get less likes then the picture of your flowers or your cat, someone might even comment something you won’t appreciate. Are you ready for all that? The best prevention to feel stressed out later I use myself is to really love the photograph you post. That way, you won’t really care about anything, you will be proud and happy to have the picture in-between the others. And that is truly my best trick, not a particular confidence or skill, just persistance to take the selfies until I like one so much I dare to post it and don’t care.

Importantly, don’t let anyone or anything push you or challenge you to post yourself out there without wanting it yourself. You don’t HAVE TO post any self-portraits if you don’t feel like it, okay? I know there are tons of theories out there about people connecting the brand with face making deeper connection and blah blah. But if it makes you feel sick in your stomach, where is the point? I know several brands I follow and love and with some I am not even sure if it is a man or a woman behind it but because their amazing job I could not care less. I will write another article about how to make your pictures more “human” and “personal” without having to show your face next week, so if you don’t feel like a “selfie”, we will find another ways together, don’t worry!

The beauty of self-portrature is, that you are by yourself. I hate being taken pictures of, unless I do it myself. I am the most comfortable with myself, I know “my angles” and I know how to take the portraits I will love. Especially with sharing your own face, it doesn’t matter what others thing, don’t ask your friends or partner which one is the best. Choose the picture you feel the most comfortable with, you like yourself on it and it feels like you. Try to capture the essence of you, don’t copy anyone else, don’t do trendy (unless you want to;)

How to take a gorgeous portraits by yourself

How to set your camera: You will need a some kind of device with timer. Most of the smartphones have that function and most of the cameras as well. If you are a bit more fancy, you might have a remote control to your camera, which helps! I found though that my pictures were never that sharp using that, so I use a timer and run! You can also set a face priority and then the camera will try to focus on your face. What I do it to set my timer on “sequence” timer, meaning I push the shutter button, have 5 seconds to settle and then the camera takes 3 shots within a couple of seconds. More, better. I often get asked, how do I do it that my pictures are in focus? I don’t. I just take so many and usually about 50% is okay when it comes to focus. Also, very sharp photos are totally overrated, so if you like the result but it is a bit blurry, just go for it. Oh and one more thing! If you shoot on your phone, never use a front camera, always use the regular one as the quality of the picture and the angle is so much better.

Where to set your camera: That can be a bit tricky. If you have a tripod, you can use that. I find it sometimes more relaxing because I don’t need to focus on holding the camera right and have more space to focus on looking decent. If you don’t have anything like that, you can try to put your camera somewhere high up at home, like a shelf in the bookcase, chair on the table, there are tons of options. I often combine chair, boxes and books to find a perfect hight. If you need to hold your camera in you hand (for example outside), try to make it look like you don’t. Don’t take a picture from too much above unless there is a reason, it often looks a bit too teenager-esque.

Where to shoot: I find it the easiest at home, because it is a familiar environment and you can take as much time as you need. To feel even more comfort, make it a whole event for yourself! Make a lovely cuppa, wear something you enjoy and find your favourite spot. Maybe you can sit in your most beloved chair or hold your pet? Make it as pleasurable as possible, it is fun after all! Of course you can shoot outside, but it can be a bit more advanced and a bit more scary. Who knows, maybe it is your thing? If you don’t feel like it at home, find a peaceful place out!

What about the light:  It all depends about what effect do you want to have on your photograph, but talking about classic portrait I find it the best to shoot right by the window. In some of my portraits I just stand my camera on the window shelf and stand in front of it. Straight light from the window makes your face lovely and glowy. I often take portraits also having a window on the side to get a bit more shadows on the picture, it gives the portrait more depth somehow and in a good light condition it won’t make any dramatic shadows on your lovely face. I don’t recommend direct sunlight or artificial light for the close-up portrait since it is often very hard to balance out the skin colour right! Natural light makes you look, well, natural 🙂

How to be in the frame: The tricky part can be, that once your camera is set on the tripod or shoe box/chair/table situation, you don’t see yourself. To be honest, I can, but I don’t use it. I can flip my screen on my Olympus PEN to see myself a bit or if I use a remote, I see the view finder in my phone. BUT, that being said, I found out it is all very disturbing. You know, like those Youtubers which always look in at themselves instead of the actual camera/viewer? No? Point being, once you see yourself, there is too much distraction. I find the best way to just try, set the camera, set the chair, take a picture of empty chair, sit there and see.  Take first test picture and adjust. After a while you get so used to it that if will be easy to know where to stand to be in the frame. Promise! And I often like those imperfect pictures with my face off centre a bit even more.

How to find a right face: I think the most important part of the whole self-portrait journey is to capture you as you, hence the right face. In my case, I often look down or have closed eyes on my portraits and a mild smile. The reason for that is that this is the “face” I feel most pretty and comfortable in and I also feel it the best captures my kind essence, bit quirky and kind, hopeless romantic kind of thing. That is me. I also almost never take “laughing” photos because well, I won’t laugh by myself and to me it feels fake. But you do you! At first I recommend to try different angles and face expressions and see which one feels the most genuine. There is a great range of emotions in humans face and you can express them all through the self-portrait if you like.

What if I am too shy: As I mentioned above, next photography article will be all focus of incorporating “humanity” into your photos. But if you want to go the self-portrait a go anyway, try to hide away a bit at first. It might be much easier for you to capture since you might not have to focus so much on your face expression and you will also find some kind of safety behind the flowers, hair, favourite book, strong shadow, hat, cat, anything you like. My friend Kika wrote a great article about those kind of portraits, so have a look if you fancy more “hide and seek” portrait tips!

I used to hide myself a lot behind my hair until I shaved my head and well, I couldn’t. And there I was, “naked”.

Any other wisdom? Oh yes! Once it is all set and you know what and how, here are some quick tips to get the best out of it:

  • have a camera lens in the eye-hight. You will look the most natural and connect the best with the “audience”
  • take tons of pictures but not too many. Once you find the right setting, you sit right and all, I would think 20 should be plenty. Too many options lead to FOBO (Fear of bette option) and you will never choose!
  • take a step back. I often look at the photos briefly when I shoot to know if the setting is right. But I choose one next day, to get some distance. It helps to stay more “objective”.
  • and as always, have fun! My favourite portrait ever is totally imperfect and I love it so much, because it captures my essence so well. I was just throwing petals on myself trying to capture them flying, but it is not that easy, so I just started to genuinely smile and squint.

What about the hashtags?

Here you go! I put them all together so they are easy to copy. Feel free to browse and find out which one is the best to use and also, you can find plenty of inspiration there too!

#memyselfandportrait #humaneffect #meetmethiswinter #fridayfacelessportrait #makeportraitsnotwar #pursuitofportraits #portrait_vision #humanedge #featurecreature #ig_portrait #littlestoriesofmylife #thesincerestoryteller #fridayintroductions #momentsofmine









Author: herinternest

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  • Hi Barbara, Loved your article. I was a very camera shy person, as in I felt I looked ugly in general, but then a friend of mine was so patient with me and managed to take so many pictures of me that eventually there were a few pictures that I liked and I looked good. Since then. I like to have pretty pictures of me and I like taking portraits of other people as well. But whenever I ask someone else to take a picture of me, it’s never what I want. So I’m going to take some inspiration out of your post and take some self-portraits. Also, I found your article very personable as I could hear you reading it out or saying the words, because I love watching your stories on Instagram. That ended up being a longer than usual comment, but just wanted to say Thank You.! and keep creating 🙂