When I was a beginner in self-portrait photography, I often struggled with indoor photography. I found walls and ceilings dull to be quite honest. And this made me hate bad weather and yearn for summer all the time.
The outside world, filled with nature, space, and spontaneity, was what truly felt like home.
All of that changed when I gave indoor photography a small chance to become more than just a creativity-killing limitation.
The seasons no longer restrict my portrait photography. Whether it’s pouring, hailing, or snowing outside, I can fulfill my artistic needs by going to places that don’t rely on the weather.
I’d like to share 7 of these places with you so that you can take your self-portrait photography skills to the next level whenever you want.
1. Thrift Stores (For the Rare Finds)
Second-hand stores have great deals, we know that. But they’re also great locations for indoor photoshoots!
The lighting may not always be perfect, but the clothing, accessories and even furniture can inspire your photoshoot. On top of that, you could find a gorgeous and irresistible item to take home with you!
If possible, ask for permission to use some of the store’s items as props for your photos. In exchange for using the location, you could advertise or mention it online.
It’s important to note that many shops are very strict when it comes to cameras. It’s likely that you’ll get a few rejections. Don’t take them personally and don’t get discouraged.
Once you find a store that embraces your skills, you’ll discover a brand new world of opportunities, great deals, and maybe a few valuable connections.
Thrift stores tend to be quieter on weekdays, which is when I’d recommend visiting them. If you don’t have any in your area, try visiting an antique store. Keep an eye out for interesting and inspiring props!
2. Greenhouses (For the Nature Lovers)
Greenhouses merge the vibrancy of the outside world with the warmth of home. This creates a cozy atmosphere that could perfectly fit into any portfolio.
In addition to being welcoming, they’re usually well-lit. Taking self-portraits in an open space like this will give you lots of great light to work with.
It will also provide you with a comfortable, peaceful space to practice your art in. You’ll be able to roam freely, surrounded by flowers, while the weather rages on outside.
Plants in a greenhouse can be used as subjects, foregrounds, or backgrounds. Their exquisite colours alone are bound to give you ideas you’ve never thought of before.
But with an abundance of details and colours, there comes a new challenge: getting the right focus.
If you use auto-focus for your self-portraits, make sure that your camera won’t focus on any plants in the foreground.
If you use manual focus, place an item where you’d like to stand and focus on that first. This will guarantee relatively sharp results.
Every greenhouse has its own rules about touching and photographing plants. Make sure you’re familiar with the restrictions so that you don’t have to deal with unnecessary stress later on.
3. Transportation (For the Travellers)
Buses, cars, trains, and airplanes can all be used to take fantastic self-portraits. The ever-changing scenery and light will allow you to experiment as much as you want.
But as fun as this can be, taking photos among strangers can also be intimidating.
If you want to take photos in a vehicle but don’t want to lose your equipment, take photos in your (or a friend’s) car.
If you want to take self-portraits on public transportation, keep this in mind:
- When you take self-portraits, make sure the location isn’t too crowded. Go out when there aren’t too many people around so that you don’t have to worry about awkwardness, lack of space, or theft.
- Make sure you keep your camera close at all times(preferably in a safe camera bag when you move from place to place), even if there aren’t many people around.
- I wouldn’t recommend using a tripod. Instead, use an empty seat, your knees, or just your hands when using a timer.
- Don’t take self-portraits when you’re rushing somewhere else. You’ll increase your chances of leaving valuable equipment behind.
This photo was taken during a rainstorm. The raindrops on the car window inspired me to take out my camera and experiment. The result, a diptych, proved to me that interesting photos can be taken anywhere, no matter how bad the weather is.
4. A Friend’s House (For the Really Bad Weather Days)
A friend’s place is familiar enough to keep you comfortable but unknown enough to give you outstanding ideas.
In this new environment, you can get to know your friend better, spend quality time with them, and take cozy self-portraits. This is an opportunity to not only get better at indoor photography, but to celebrate your friendship!
Another benefit of taking photos in a friend’s house is the lack of boredom you’ll experience. Taking photos at home can often result in creative blocks, distractions, and tiredness.
Taking photos at a friend’s place will replace all of these obstacles with a flow of ideas, pleasant distractions, and energy.
If your friend is open to being photographed, you could have an indoor photoshoot together. This will give you both self-portrait and portrait experience, which will make future photoshoots with other people easier to manage.
Most importantly, it will give you and your friend wonderful memories to keep for the rest of your lives.
If you’re a beginner in self-portrait photography, taking photos with a friend will help you practice efficiently. Your friend doesn’t even have to be a part of the photo.
They could simply help you find the best lighting, pose, and expression. Instead of feeling shy or giving up, you’ll feel motivated to collaborate, improve, and evolve.
Though self-portrait photography is all about independence, the support of friends and/or family can definitely help you improve.
5. Libraries and Bookstores (For Fellow Bookworms)
If you love reading, you must have at least one self-portrait in a place overflowing with stories. In addition to being eye-opening, books are photogenic.
They make consistent yet eye-catching backgrounds, graceful foregrounds, and thoughtful subjects.
It’s not surprising, then, that there are so many beautiful book-related photos out there.
Here are a few ideas for indoor library photoshoots:
- Shoot through bookshelves
- Take a photo of yourself looking through interesting books
- Make a diptych (a collage of two photographs) made up of a detailed photo (a page, for instance) and a wider shot (a photo of you holding a stack of books)
As is the case with thrift stores, not every library or bookstore will give you permission to take photos.
If there are no locations in your area that are open to photographers, try a second-hand book store or a thrift store with a book section.
As you take photos of yourself with books, don’t be afraid to get lost in the reading experience. It’s more than possible to take great photos and find incredible books at the same time!
6. Cafés (To Stay Warm and Inspired)
Usually, cafés have great lighting, cozy atmospheres, and lots of goodies to keep you toasty during a snowstorm or heavy rain.
Many of them offer privacy and a safe, relaxing atmosphere. This is probably why so many photographers are drawn to them.
Most cafés will allow you to access the Internet, too. Take advantage of this by looking for inspiration and tips as you shoot.
If you want to take it a step further, create a mood board a few days before you go out. Fill it with photos you love, empowering quotes, and photography-related memories that energise you.
Save the mood board as a PDF file, e-mail, Pinterest board, etc. Once you arrive at your destination, all you’ll have to do is look at your phone to feel inspired.
If you feel uncomfortable in coffee shops bustling with people, ask a friend to tag along. Having someone next to you will make you feel supported. In that comfortable state, you’ll take the most incredible self-portraits possible.
Most cafés have large windows that can be used to take great photos of reflections. I often use them to enhance simple self-portraits. I highly recommend doing the same thing during your next shoot!
7. Studio (If You Love Experiments, You’ll Love This)
Even if you’re not familiar with studio photography, try this out. Studios are a fantastic opportunity to refresh your perspective and reach new creative heights.
Renting a studio for a few hours (or days) will give you access to a space where your ideas can grow. You’ll have all the privacy you need to focus, photograph, and learn.
If there’s a natural light source nearby – or if you have access to simple lighting tools like a torch – you won’t even need to use professional lighting equipment!
If you can’t afford to rent a studio or if there aren’t any in your area, you can make one at home. There are a lot of affordable backdrops available online (some of them are as cheap as $5!) that could turn a boring corner into an exciting little studio.
I often use backdrops that aren’t even professional. Curtains, large sheets of paper, or simple white walls all have the potential to spark your imagination.
The decision to give indoor photography a chance offered me plenty of opportunities to create new and exciting things.
I discovered the beauty of indoor lighting, found endless potential in confined spaces, and strengthened my ability to enhance details. This was immensely different from what I was used to. It shaped me into more than just an experienced self-portrait artist. It turned me into a better, more detail-oriented photographer in general.
I’m confident that if you give at least one of these locations a chance, you’ll find a whole new world of possibilities too.
Indoor self-portrait photography will introduce you to new challenges and photography locations. It will shape you into a creatively agile photographer.
And you’ll expose yourself to new clothes, books, friendships, snacks, and more. What’s not to love?
If you’re after even more creative photography ideas, check out our article on having fun with double exposures, creative street photography or trying a photo walk.
A note from Josh, ExpertPhotography's Photographer-In-Chief:
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