Self-portrait photography is all about capturing the essence of who you are in a photo. It can be a fun and challenging way to express yourself and a great way to learn more about how you see yourself.
But self-portrait photography can be tricky—capturing your personality in a photo is not always easy. That’s why we’ve compiled this list of 21 self-portrait ideas for creatives that should help get you started.
21 Self Portrait Photography Ideas to Inspire You
In the beginning, you might feel lost taking pictures of yourself. You don’t know what poses, facial expressions, props, or decor to use. I suggest finding self-portrait photographers you admire. Try to recreate their work and ask them for advice. By experimenting with different styles, you’ll find yours.
Some of the most influential artists in my life are portrait photographers. Check out Anya Anti or Joel Robinson for ideas. Getting photography inspiration from others helps me when I lose creative motivation.
This is why I want to share these creative self-portrait ideas. They will spark your imagination, encourage you to look at things differently, or maybe make you laugh. Feel free to adopt any of these to better suit your photography style.
1. Create a Character With Props and Costumes
If you don’t want to take photos of yourself, why not become another person? By using props and costumes, you can create a whole new persona. Make an alter-ego to express your inner desires or interests.
Building characters with self-portrait photography is a fantastic storytelling device. The props and costumes you use can create new characters. They can be protagonists in wild adventures or magical fairy tales.
Jovana Rikalo uses elaborate costumes to build fairy tale characters. These characters inhabit her imaginative stories and landscapes.
2. Add Rainbow Colors to Your Face
Vibrant colors and faces work very well together. Even 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 flashlight.
Ensure your CD’s shiny side reflects as much light as possible. Move it around until you have colorful stripes on your face. Use a mirror, tripod, and remote to make this process easier.
3. Photograph Your Silhouette
Silhouettes are fantastic for those who don’t want to show their faces or want to convey some mystery. These photos work very well with a shallow depth of field. Use a small f-stop number (large aperture). The resulting bokeh creates a soft, dreamy look.
To create a silhouette, stand in front of a background that is brighter than you. Make sure you stand so that it highlights the outline of your face. Then, experiment as much as you like!
4. Transform Silhouettes Into Double Exposures
Silhouettes are ideal for taking creative double exposures. A dark outline against a bright background is all you need to make artistic self-portraits.
You don’t need a groundbreaking idea to create something fascinating. All you have to do is combine a photo of your outline with an image that complements your photo. I often create double exposures in Photoshop out of pure curiosity.
5. Use DIY Backgrounds for Self Portrait Ideas
DIY photography is cheap, easy, and accessible to anyone. Make backgrounds from fabric, bed sheets, curtains, clothes, or anything else that catches your eye.
The DIY background in the photos below is a simple curtain that I taped to the wall. Though it’s wrinkled, it gives my self-portraits an exciting texture.
6. Take a Self Portrait Doing Something You Enjoy
Take a series of self-portraits in your “happy place,” wherever that is. It makes the shooting process enjoyable and lets you make the most of several hobbies.
I enjoy playing the guitar (as you can see below), reading, and exploring. These are all interests that I can combine to show my love for both photography and life. Think about your interests, and then figure out ways to use them in your self-portraits.
7. Take Photos With Your Pet (or a Person!)
Pets are photogenic, so why not include them in your photos? If you have a pet or live next to someone with an animal that means a lot to you, take a photo with them.
Posing with a pet (or person) during a self-portrait photography session gives you comfort, warmth, and many ideas. It also strengthens the bond you have with your pet or loved one.
If your pet doesn’t enjoy sitting still, don’t force it. Experiment, be silly, and don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Experimental photos end up being the best ones, anyway.
8. Transform Your Look With Makeup, New Clothes, or Wigs
Self-portraits are an excellent way to express or explore new ways of expressing yourself. Many people avoid self-portrait photography because they don’t feel attractive enough.
Instead of feeling bad about your appearance, transform your look! Get a makeover, try new makeup, or show off a new wardrobe with runway looks.
Wigs, regardless of their quality, look great in self-portraits. A cheap brown wig looks stunning in a close-up self-portrait, even if it looks unflattering in real life. Using wigs is fun and helps you take impressive self-portrait photos.
9. Focus on Parts of Your Body
Self-portraits don’t have to be photos showing your face. They can be photos of your hands holding a precious object. They can be your feet splashing in a puddle. Or they can be your faceless figure as you admire your natural surroundings. Images like these are as valuable as standard portraits.
You can also experiment by taking smaller details of your face. Take pictures of your eyes, hair, lips, nose, or mouth. They can be standalone images or the makings of a series or collage.
10. Buy or Make an Interesting Headdress
Hats, flower crowns, and other fancy headwear look fantastic in photos. If you’re feeling extra artistic, make your own headdress using flowers (like I did below), branches, fabric, or anything else. The world is your oyster when it comes to DIY photography!
11. Practice Different Expressions and Poses
Many people feel awkward at the beginning of a self-portrait session. You get more comfortable practicing different expressions and selfie poses in the mirror. It’s a good way to accept your flaws and become your own parody!
Try different facial expressions, move around, and make yourself laugh. I can’t guarantee the results will please you. But I can promise they will bring a big smile to your face.
12. Shoot Through Objects
You can take creative, experimental self-portraits by partly covering your lens. Shoot through objects like lights or hands. You can use tree branches to create a frame around your face or add an interesting photo element.
Steam can also create eye-catching shadows. If you want a fuller effect, shoot through windows for brilliant reflections or cellophane for a dreamy effect.
Use a bokeh filter kit to insert hearts, stars, or other shapes into your photos for an added effect. Or make your own custom bokeh shapes.
13. Hide Parts of Your Face
Instead of taking photos of your entire face, narrow your focus to one area only. I like to cover parts of my face with curtains, hair, or blurred foregrounds. This concealment highlights my eyes and challenges me to make the most of only one feature.
The best thing about these “hidden” self-portraits is that you don’t have to go far to take them. It’s possible to take simple yet cool self-portraits wherever you are!
14. Star in Your Own Movie
If you are like me and love cinematic portraits, you’ll enjoy acting in front of the camera. Create a story, visualize the scenes, and recreate them through self-portrait photography.
Your story doesn’t need a complicated twist or a surprising ending. Add two black lines above and below your photos in the editing process to create a movie montage. You can even crop them so they look more like film stills. It’s a good reason to rewatch your favorite movies for inspiration.
15. Shoot in Black and White (B&W)
Black-and-white self-portraits are a special genre of their own. If there’s an emotion you’d like to emphasize, experiment with B&W portrait photography. It highlights your feelings and adds texture to details you might otherwise ignore. It also gives you more experience in the genre.
16. Limit Your Location for Self-Portraits
Having too many options can be paralyzing. Limiting yourself by shooting at only one location can improve your photographic work. Do a photoshoot in one room and make the pictures look like you took them in different locations.
This gives you a fun project and forces you to look at your surroundings from new and different perspectives. This challenge also makes you focus on details that you might normally overlook.
It will improve your creativity and sharpen your ability to notice interesting possibilities in simple places. What you learn during this process will be useful in every future shoot.
17. Make a Self-Portrait Diptych
A diptych is a “collage” made up of two photos. These images often contain many subjects that tell a detailed story about the photographer. This is particularly handy in self-portraiture.
You can combine a simple photo of yourself with a gorgeous photo of nature. Or diptychs come in handy when you have two photos you like a lot. Instead of choosing one, you can use them both at once!
18. Stick to One Color or Complementary Ones
Pick a single color and create a self-portrait photo series inspired by it. Though the photos don’t have to feature one color only, they should all have a complementary color scheme.
This project will refresh you, challenge your imagination, and give you a chance to unleash your creativity. Plus, you can base the photoshoot on the clothes in your wardrobe.
19. Experiment With Shadows and Light
My favorite self-portrait photographers are excellent at shadow-play. You can do so much 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, or plants to create incredible, creative self-portrait photography.
Light is a priceless tool that can make the simplest portraits look fantastic. When you become a master of light, you become a master of photography. Take photos indoors and outdoors, and don’t be afraid to break the rules as you do.
Don’t be scared of working with artificial light. You don’t need to invest in professional lighting equipment. You can use any indoor light you have to take creative self-portraits.
I often use a lamp to light my face because it lets me experiment with new angles and styles. I don’t have to worry about the time of day, which isn’t the case with ever-changing natural light.
20. Create Panoramic Self-Portraits
- I take vertical self-portraits using a tripod and manual camera settings. I don’t crop out any of my limbs and leave lots of space around me.
- Then, I return to my camera and take photos of the surrounding area I’d like to stitch in later. I ensure I use the same camera settings, keep the camera level, and have overlapping details.
- After that, I import my photos to Lightroom and select the photos to stitch together. Then I go to Photo > Photo Merge > Panormam or Photo > Edit In > Merge to Panorama in Photoshop.
- Lastly, I crop the photo and correct colors in Lightroom.
21. Document Different Seasons
Each season has something worth photographing. So, take self-portraits every season. This way, you can work on a year-long project. 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. It could be the blooming summer sunflowers or the colorful fallen leaves of autumn. Include those details for beautiful self-portrait ideas.
Essential Equipment for Self-Portrait Photography
Having the right camera equipment makes self-portrait photography easier. You can find affordable self-portrait gear that can last a while. So, investing in them is something you won’t regret.
Lighting is a crucial aspect of self-portrait photography. Natural light can look great. But you have very little control over it. So, use additional lighting gear to give yourself more creative freedom. Here are our gear recommendations for self-portraits:
- Tripod: An affordable tripod for self-portraits is an essential tool. Or spend more on a sturdy tripod to keep your camera safe.
- Camera Remote: A remote lets you use your timer from a distance. These help you save a lot of time and focus more on the quality of your work.
- Ring Light: A ring light is perfect for self-portraits. They provide soft and evenly spread light. You can use them to remove unwanted shadows on the face. Or you can use them for directional light.
- Reflectors: These are another excellent tool for light control. A mirror works well as a DIY reflector if you don’t have the budget.
Conclusion: Creative Self Portrait Photography
Like many photography genres, the best self-portrait photography ideas are meaningful. Or they convey who you are. Every photographer has a unique creative perspective. But if you don’t know yours yet, don’t lose hope. It can take some time to develop your photography style.
And don’t be afraid of making mistakes. This is how we learn! The more we practice, the easier the challenges get. Taking photos of yourself will improve your self-confidence and develop your creative eye.
Hopefully, these self-portrait ideas encourage you to explore self-portrait photography’s wonderful world. Remember, you and your camera are everything you need to take a great photo of yourself.
Do you want more creative self-portrait ideas? Check out our Creative Portrait Concepts eBook. Or look at our Fantastic Photo Adventures course or Fairytale Portraits course.