Self portrait photography has no limits, and most of the time that’s great. But creative freedom can also make you feel paralysed and unmotivated.
How is it possible to come up with creative self portrait ideas every time you start taking photos? And how can you do that without running out of motivation?
Getting photography inspiration from other artists often fixes this problem for me. This is why I’d like to share 21 of my creative self portrait ideas. They will spark your imagination, encourage you to look at things differently, or simply make you laugh.
1. Create a Rainbow Effect (This One Is Super Easy!)
Vibrant colours and faces work very well together. If you don’t want to spend money on a prism, you can still create a stunning rainbow effect. All you need is a CD and a torch.
Make sure the shiny side of your CD gets as much light as possible, and move it around until you have colourful stripes on your face. To make this process easier, use a mirror, a tripod, and a remote.
2. Photograph Your Silhouette
Silhouettes are great for those who don’t want to show their faces or those who simply want to look like someone else. These types of photos work incredibly well with a shallow depth of field because the resulting bokeh creates a soft, dreamy look.
To create a silhouette, simply stand in front of a background that is brighter than you. Make sure you stand in a way that highlights the outline of your face. After that, fearlessly experiment!
3. Transform Your Silhouettes into Double Exposures
Silhouettes are ideal for creating double exposures. A dark outline against a bright background is all you need to make artistic self portrait photography. I often create double exposures out of pure curiosity.
You don’t need to have a groundbreaking idea in mind to create something fascinating. All you have to do is combine a photo of your outline with an image that complements your photo. If you’d like to learn this technique, check out this article.
4. Create DIY Backgrounds for Self Portrait Photography
The background in the photos below is a simple curtain that I taped to the wall (it didn’t take long for it to fall back to its place). Though it’s wrinkled, it gives my self portraits an interesting texture. DIY photography is cheap, easy, and accessible to anyone. Use it to make backgrounds out of fabric, bedsheets, curtains, clothes, and anything else that catches your eye.
5. Do Something You Really Enjoy
Take photos in your happy place, wherever that is. It will make the shooting process enjoyable and allow you to make the most of several hobbies at once. Personally, I enjoy playing the guitar (as you can clearly see), reading, and exploring.
These are all interests that I can combine to show my love for both photography and life. Think about what your interests are, and then figure out ways to combine them in one photo.
6. Transform Yourself Using Wigs and Costumes
If you don’t want to take photos of yourself, you can temporarily become another person. Something that I’ve learned is that wigs and costumes, regardless of their quality, look great in self portraits.
A cheap brown wig, which appears unflattering in real life, will look stunning in a close-up self-portrait. Using costumes and wigs is a great excuse to have fun and take impressive self portrait photos at the same time.
7. Focus on Details
Self portraits don’t have to be photos of a face. They can be photos of hands holding something beloved, feet splashing in a puddle, or a figure admiring its surroundings out in nature. Details like this are just as valuable as a photo of your face.
Look around, find a detail that catches your eye, and interact with it while taking photos. Other details you could take photos of are parts of your body like hair, hands, or eyes.
8. Acquire an Interesting Headdress (Or Make Your Own!)
Hats, flowers crowns, and other fancy headwear look fantastic in photos. If you’re feeling extra artistic, make your own headdress using flowers (like I did), branches, fabric, or anything else. The world is your oyster when it comes to DIY photography!
9. Be Silly with Self Portrait Photography
Those who enjoy funny photo ideas will love this one. Since you’re in charge of every part of your shoot, it’s easy to fall into a pit of intense concentration. Refresh your creativity by taking silly self portrait photographs.
Pull faces, move around, and make yourself laugh. Though I can’t guarantee that the results will please you, I can promise that they will bring a big smile to your face.
10. Shoot Through Objects
Covering your lens partly (or entirely) will result in experimental and creative self-portraits. If you want to cover your lens partly, shoot through things like lights, hands, and branches.
If you want to have a fuller effect, shoot through windows (for brilliant reflections), cellophane (for a dreamy effect), bokeh filters (to transform your bokeh into hearts, stars, and more), etc. Almost anything can be used in a composition, either completely or partly, to make creative self portraits.
11. Hide Parts of Your Face
Instead of taking photos of your entire face, focus on one area only. I like to cover parts of my face with curtains, hair, and blurred foregrounds. This concealment highlights my eyes and challenges me to make the most of only one feature.
The best thing about “hidden” self portraits is that you don’t have to go far to take them. It’s possible to take simple yet eye-catching photos right now!
12. My Favourite: Pretend You’re in a Movie
If, like me, you love cinematic portraits, you’ll really enjoy acting for your camera. Create a story in your mind, visualise the scenes, and recreate them through self portrait photography. Your idea doesn’t need to have a complicated twist or a surprising ending.
In the editing process, add two black lines above and below your photos (you can even crop them so they look more like film stills). Also, doing this is a great reason to rewatch your favourite films, and get even more inspiration for future projects.
13. To Make Your Self Portraits Even More Interesting, Convert Them to Black & White
Black and white portraits are a special genre of their own. If there’s an emotion you’d like to express, experiment with b&w photography. It will highlight your feelings, add texture to details that are often ignored, and give you more experience in a genre that is loved by many.
14. Take Photos in One Room
If you’re the kind of person who works well under pressure, you’ll probably like this one. Take photos in one room and try to make them look like they were taken in different locations.
This challenge will compel you to focus on details that you usually overlook. This will improve your general creativity and sharpen your ability to notice great things in simple places.
15. Take Photos with Your Pet (Or a Person)
Pets are photogenic, so why not include them in your photos? If you own a pet or live next to someone who means a lot to you, take a photo with them. Getting support during a self portrait photography session will give you comfort, warmth, and lots of ideas.
It will also strengthen the bond you have with your loved one. If your pet doesn’t enjoy sitting still, don’t force it to. Experiment, be silly, and don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Experimental photos end up being the best ones, anyway.
16. Or Take Two Photos and Make a Diptych
Diptychs are a “collage” made of two photos. These images often contain multiple subjects that tell a detailed story about the photographer. This is particularly handy in self portraiture. A simple photo of oneself can be combined with a gorgeous photo of nature.
Diptychs really come in handy when you have two photos you really like. Instead of having to choose one, you can use them both at once!
17. Stick to One Colour at a Time
Pick a single colour and create a self portrait photo series inspired by it. Though the photos don’t have to feature one colour only, they should all have a similar colour scheme.
This is a project that will refresh you, challenge your imagination, and give you a chance to unleash your creativity.
18. Experiment with Shadows
My favourite portrait photographers are excellent at shadow-play. So much can be made with the help of a single light source and a pattern.
Give yourself as much freedom as possible when you experiment with light. Use sun hats, curtains, hands, plants, etc., to create incredible, creative self portrait photography that everyone will love.
19. Stitch a Few Photos to Make a Panoramic Self Portrait
Panoramas are fun to make and pleasant to look at. This is how I take mine:
- First, using a tripod, I take vertical self portraits that don’t crop any of my limbs and leave some space around me.
- Then, I go back to my camera and take photos of the areas I’d like to stitch, making sure I don’t move too quickly or accidentally move to another location.
- After that, I import my photos into Lightroom, select the photos I’d like to stitch, and go to Photo > Edit In > Merge to Panorama in Photoshop.
- Finally, I colour correct the results.
20. Document the Seasons
Each season has something worth photographing. If you’re interested in working on a year-long project, take self portraits every season. The results will give you pleasant memories, show you every side of nature’s beauty, and impress others.
If a long-term project doesn’t excite you, make the most of the current season. Think of what you like about it, whether it’s the blooming sunflowers of summer or the colourful fallen leaves of fall. Photograph that and include yourself in it.
21. Recreate Your Favourite Story
Do you have a favourite film, book, or painting that deeply inspires you? Recreate it! The self portrait photo below was inspired by my favourite forest and Little Red Riding Hood. All I needed was a simple red cloak and a fitting location.
Recreating stories is a great opportunity to dive into a new world and introduce yourself to fresh ideas.
When I started taking self portraits in photography, I found so much inspiration in other people’s creative suggestions. They motivated me to make the most of every detail, no matter where I was. And my self portraits creativity thrived. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes, this is how we learn!
Hopefully, these ideas will encourage you to go out and explore the wonderful world of self portrait photography.
Remember: you and your camera are everything you need to take a great photo of yourself.
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