There’s an art to taking the perfect self portrait, and it sure isn’t easy. You’re playing both the subject and the photographer, which means there’s going to have to be a lot of planning involved, and it’s all going to fall on you.
Of course, it doesn’t have to be a huge ordeal. As long as you have an idea in mind and these must-have items, you’ll have your next self portrait in no time.
1. A tripod or selfie stick
Whether you decide to do an impromptu shoot with your phone or go full-on professional with a nicer camera, it’s important that you have a solid, stable surface to set your camera. A tripod or selfie stick are a must — not only are they quite literally made for the occasion, but it’ll be a lot easier (and safer) than trying to make your own makeshift stand for your camera.
2. A good lens
If you’re using a professional camera, you’ll want to make sure you’re using the right kind of lens for this project. For instance, you’re probably not going to want to use a wide angle lens, but a standard lens works perfectly for nearly any portrait. If you’re using a phone, you might even be able to find an attachable lens that’ll give the photo a better quality.
3. Reliable lights
You don’t necessarily need professional lighting, but you do need reliable lighting. Lamps or overhead fluorescent lighting often don’t do the trick, so invest in some sort of fixture that’s made especially for taking photos, whether it’s a professional grade studio light or a selfie light.
4. A beauty dish (or another light attachment)
If you decide to go with the professional light fixture, a beauty dish is a must-have. It’s a modifier that attaches directly to the light and is meant to help focus the light direction on the model, helping them stand out from their surroundings. It’ll give the photo more drama and give you the spotlight you deserve. (You can, of course, check out other light attachments if you want to play with the lighting — this photograph is all about you!)
5. An outfit that portrays who you are
A self portrait should portray who you are, and what does so more than the clothes you wear? Instead of investing in fantastical costumes or over-the-top outfits you wouldn’t normally wear, instead put on something you feel comfortable — and confident — in. Maybe it’s your favorite dress or your go-to winter sweater. Maybe it’s a uniform you compete in or wear to work. Wear whatever you believe tells your story.
6. A prop that tells a story about you
Your self portrait should reflect your interests. What do you want yours to say about you? Maybe you like to bake and you want to involve a whisk or spatula; maybe you’re a voracious reader and want to hide part of your face behind a book. Think about what you want your portrait to tell the world about you.
7. A Mirror
Taking a self portrait is difficult because you’re not just the subject, you’re also the photographer. There’s no one there to tell you if you look awkward, if your arm is covering your face, or if your smile looks less than genuine. Luckily, there’s an easy fix: set up a mirror somewhere behind the camera so you can see what the camera sees. This way you can properly plan your pose and compose your facial features exactly how you want them, without taking hundreds of pictures just trying to get it right. (Bonus points if you manage to actually involve the mirror in your self portrait, but by all means not necessary.)
8. A DIY background
If you want to add variety to your portrait, instead of just relying on the scenery at your disposal, create an easy DIY background. Use paint, fabric, curtains, old clothes, or anything else you find lying around the house to put together a subtle but interesting backdrop for a more diverse range of photos.