self portraiture 101 // a guest post by lucia

Hey! My name is Lucia, and in case you have never heard of me before in your life (which is more than likely), I blog about life stuff, God stuff, and photo stuff over at Lucia, Etc. Today, however, I am honored to be guest posting at the (extremely lovely) Anna Gray's (pretty dang amazing) blog. So, here I am.

Just to clear something up right off the bat: I love photography. It is one of my passions, and also one of my dreams to pursue professional and wedding photography in the future. For right now, I practice on everything and everyone I can--and when everything and everyone is not in the mood for pictures, I resort to myself. 

I'm sure you all can relate--maybe you have tons of photo ideas but no one in your family is ever available (or willing) to model them, and you have no idea how you could take them yourself. Maybe you need a new Facebook profile picture, but don't trust anyone with the camera. Or maybe you're just tired of the same old mirror pictures and arms-outstretched-like-giraffes shots. Well, I'm here to help.  

Recently, I took a large batch of self-portraits, not because I needed pictures of myself, but because self-portraiture is excellent practice for both the patience characteristic and photography experience. I learned so, so much even from the one hour session I did (all by my self), and I came away with new ideas, new confidence in myself, and a growth in my creativity. So, I encourage you to take self portraits as often as you can, if you are a serious photographer, not just for the heck of it but because it will grow you. And if you are not a photographer...well, you can still use the skill. Read on. 

Today I want to give you some of my own tips and tricks for when it comes to taking pictures of...myself. A.k.a.,  here's how to take self-portraits that do not involve mirrors, duck-faces, or arms in the camera, and most importantly, amazing self-portraits that don't look like self-portraits." I'll do a step-by-step run down, and then some helpful notes that you should keep in mind.

First of all, here are the things you will need to take a successful self-portrait:

-A camera (this is strongly recommended)
-A tripod
-If you have no tripod, a steady, tall thing-a-mah-bob ranging from a garbage can to a music stand. 
-A random branch. Or broom. Or something rather thick that you can focus on. 
-A pretty place (preferably outside, but inside works, too)
-Patience + time (this ain't gonna be easy, kids)

..Secondly, let's set up your "studio:"

-Find an area with no distractions in the background or foreground. Foliage works great for this, or a blank building wall or field. It just depends on the atmosphere you want to create. Scout out a pretty spot just like you would if you were taking a picture of someone else. Oh, it's a good idea to be somewhere far away from mankind, too. It's less embarrassing that way. 

"What in the world are you doing?!"
"Oh, you know...just smiling at the trees." 

-Set up your tripod/camera stand. Make sure whatever your camera is going to be perched on is steady, level, and isn't rickety. Don't hang your camera from a tree--been there, done that--bad idea (plus it just plain doesn't work). 

-Set your camera on timer mode--the longest possible (on my camera, that would be 10 seconds). Trust me, ten seconds is going to go by quickly. Don't trust the three second timer. Also, set it on "live view" if possible (on point-and-shoots there is always live view). 

..Now, it's time to begin.

1. Grab your stick or broom or whatever you're using as a "substitute you," and hold it out in front of your camera. This part is the hardest--you need to focus sharply on this object, because if you don't, when you are in front of the camera, you'll end up blurry. Press the shutter button halfway down, and focus on the broom/stick/whatever. It often takes several tries to focus correctly--and your arm might start to tire from holding something out and craning your neck to look in the camera, but keep trying. Practice makes perfect.

2. When your camera is focused (or, at least, when you are pretty sure it is), press the shutter button fully down, and make a dash for the spot. Now, here's the question: how do you remember where the focus spot was? All you can really do is estimate. However, I usually try to drop the branch or broom right where it was focused, then dash over and step on/near it. This usually works--not always, mind you. This is where the time + patience comes into play! 

3. While the camera is counting down, try moving a little to the left or the right. Good portraits rarely have the subject centered (of course, there are definitely exceptions--go for whatever you think looks good). Just make sure you don't back up or come forward at all, or the focus will get out of whack. 

And finally, a few tips to keep in mind once you get the hang of it:  

1. Keep taking. Experiment. Review. Delete. 
Try new poses, try some creativity. In the photo above, I decided to show the lower part of my face only. It took a while to figure out where to stand, because I didn't want to crop, but after a few (hundred) tries, it came out just as I had envisioned. 

2. Don't be afraid to get dirty.
I was using a prime lens (35-mm f/1.8) for these shots, so I was having a hard time getting a good close-up while I was standing (my cheap tripod is pretty dang short). So, for the above shot, I knelt in front of the camera, focused center-weight, and took it without the timer. As a result, my jeans got a little dirty, but hey--you gotta do what you gotta do, right? 

3. Don't fall prey to the duck-face. 
I don't know about you, but something about the cliche pursed lips and "I'm so cool" expression used by so many girls out there who are attempting at self portraits drives me cah-ray-zay. You can do so much better than that, woman! I mean, it's one thing to have a little fun with friends and do that pose once in awhile, but quite another to make that face on every.single. profile picture/Christmas card send out. Look natural, pose sweetly and not coolly (unless you need to look like a waterfowl for some reason). 

4. Keep going.
Even if it seems like nothing is focusing right, your head is getting in all the wrong places, your angles keep going awry and people are looking at you funny, keep pressing onward. You will eventually get at least one shot that you like, guaranteed, if you keep at it. 


This post is getting long, so I guess I'll cut it here. If you have something to add to this post (new tips, notes, or even some things not to do?), please add your comment! I always love to hear from other photographers and experimenters. 

Thank you so much for allotting me this space on your blog for the day, Anna! Happy shooting, friends. :) 



  1. really great tips! i have pictures of myself, but i may try a few selfies. :)

  2. Those photos are breathtaking!! Great tips!

  3. Love these tips, Lucia! So helpful. :) Tip not to do: on my camera, there is a multiple shutter 10 second timer. As in, after 10 seconds, it takes about five pictures in a row. I used to move around a lot to get different poses in one "batch"...yeah, don't do that, unless you want blurry, awkward moving pictures. :)

    {{hugs}}, bree

  4. thanks so much for theses lucia!!

  5. GREAT tips :) you are an awesome photog :)

  6. awesome!!!! thank you!!!

  7. This post is beautiful, girl! In love with the photos. Self-portraits can be so frustrating, but you did an amazing job. :)

  8. oooh, you've inspired me to try this out! thanks for the tips, lucia :)

  9. Awesome tips Lucia! :) I love the way your self portraits came out! :)


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