Meaningful self-portraiture photography is no small feat. It involves focus, persistence, and an endless openness to improvement. As both the photographer and model, you’re in charge of posing, lighting, and camera settings.
As challenging as these responsibilities are, they’re more than just extra work. They’re opportunities to become a better photographer in general.
I started taking self-portraits because I was simply drawn to the genre. I had no idea that the challenges I faced would shape me into a more empathetic, expressive, and observant individual. But when I started taking photos of other people and things, I realised how much self-portraiture had affected my photography.
Thanks to self-portrait photography, I was able to give better directions to models, bravely work on challenges, find beauty in unexpected places, and more.
This article will take you through the ways in which self-portrait photography can make you a better photographer.
[Note: ExpertPhotography is supported by readers. Product links on ExpertPhotography are referral links. If you use one of these and buy something, we make a little bit of money. Need more info? See how it all works here. — Ed.]
What You Will Need
To make the most of self-portrait photography, I recommend investing in these items:
- A remote
- A sturdy tripod
- A portrait lens (I’ve been using Canon’s affordable 50mm 1.8 lens for years, so you don’t need to spend too much money on new equipment!)
Self-Portraiture Will Make You More Patient
A little impatience is natural. But it can get in the way when you have to run back and forth to check your photos, change your camera settings when a cloud hides the sun, and carry all of your equipment back home.
All of these tasks can turn a pleasant photo shoot into a stressful chore. Fortunately, such challenges have a limit. The more you work on them, the more patient you’ll become.
When I first started taking self-portraits, I was much more likely to give up on difficult creative projects. All of this disappeared when, after a few months of self-portrait photo shoots, I took photos of someone else.
The amount of relief I felt was unbelievable. I didn’t need to worry about my expressions, angles, or clothes. I could focus exclusively on giving clear instructions, finding great light, and making my photos look sharp.
Switching from one genre to another was like a breath of fresh air thanks to the challenges that self-portraiture had provided me with.
In addition to making other types of photoshoots easier, self-portrait photography made me appreciate patience. Now, when something goes wrong during a shoot, giving up is no longer my first option. I consider that a great improvement.
It Will Make You More Empathetic
Standing in front of a camera is often awkward, especially if there’s no one standing behind the camera. You have to be okay with learning from your self portrait photography mistakes and looking strange.
This might seem quite fruitless, especially if you don’t consider yourself a model, but it’s beneficial for several reasons.
Once you experience photography from a model’s perspective, you’ll have a better understanding of your subjects’ feelings during a photo shoot. Your ability to empathise will make others comfortable in your presence.
Comfort will lead to better photos, and better photos will lead to a fantastic portfolio and great relationships with your clients.
To develop empathy, all you have to do is:
- Be open to mistakes
- Don’t be afraid of feeling awkward
- Know that all of your hard work will result in better social skills
You Will Be More Confident
The more “you” time you spend with yourself, the more comfortable you’ll be with every part of your being. Experiencing failures, finding your best (and worst) angles, and being patient will all lead to more self-compassion.
This, of course, will result in more confidence, more openness to failures, and less self-doubt.
Artistic self-confidence is contagious. The more you accept yourself, the likelier you’ll be to accept others. This will affect every photography genre you focus on, be it portrait photography or something that doesn’t feature people at all.
Self-compassion will also lead to a better life outside of photography. No matter what you’re struggling with, you’ll find the strength to deal with your emotions gracefully.
You’ll come to realise that you’re under no obligation to listen to every thought and feeling, especially if it’s negative. This will affect your professional life, your relationship with loved ones, and most importantly, your relationship with yourself.
You’ll Make the Most of Insignificant Details
Something I’ve purposely emphasised in my other articles is the power of details. Many of my portraits are filled with items that almost anyone can acquire. Petals, hands, sheets of paper, etc.
These are all indispensable tools in my professional life. Using them, I can add a unique spark to every portrait I take, no matter how simple it is.
This love for details came from limitations that forced me to look at everything from a different perspective. More specifically, it came from having to take photos in small apartments.
If you take photos in seemingly boring places, you’ll get to experiment with things you usually take for granted. For example, a favourite cup could end up being the highlight of a marvellous self-portrait. And an empty room could serve as a stunning backdrop for classic portraits.
There’s no limit to what you can do with everyday items.
Though shooting in extravagant places will never cease to be exciting, you won’t have to depend on such locations to take inspiring self-portraits.
When you do get the chance to travel, you’ll have an abundance of exciting options thanks to your newfound observation skills.
Challenges Won’t Intimidate You
We all shy away from challenges sometimes. This can even make us feel uninspired and helpless compared to other creatives. Self-portrait photography can change this by introducing you to the value of obstacles.
The more exposed you are to small challenges (like learning to pose in front of the camera), the less intimidating bigger ones will be. Also, thanks to your newfound patience, you’ll be able to try out new things without much resistance.
Understand that failure is inevitable and that every challenge comes with valuable lessons. This will give you more opportunities, help you grow, and enhance your imagination tremendously.
Another thing you can do is purposely look for small challenges to work on. A creative weekly project or an editing tutorial you’ve been meaning to watch for a while are great to start with.
These seemingly insignificant experiences will slowly shape you into a better photographer. Before you know it, you’ll be happily embracing every challenge that comes your way!
You’ll Find Beauty in Everything
In self-portrait photography, choices are very important. You can’t press the shutter randomly in the hopes that you’ll get meaningful results. Instead, you have to take care of your appearance, the location, the lighting, and your camera.
Because of this, you have to be picky with compositions. This will help you develop a sharp creative eye.
To be more appreciative, go out and look for location and items that you find interesting. Ask yourself why you find them beautiful.
Knowing your own creative taste will give you a better idea of what to look for in future photo shoots.
Expressing Yourself Will Be as Easy as Pie
As a self-portrait photographer, you’ll get better at expressing yourself in two ways. First, you’ll become a master of facial expressions. I recommend spending a few hours taking photos of yourself pulling different faces.
This will make you laugh, show you what you’re capable of, and just give you an opportunity to get comfortable as a model. Most importantly, it will teach you how to express yourself as genuinely as possible.
Secondly, you’ll get better at expressing yourself through stories. As a storyteller, you’ll have the chance to say anything to the camera and impact someone else’s life.
Even seemingly simple portraits have the power to make someone’s day. Don’t underestimate your ideas!
The most precious benefit of storytelling is how cathartic it is. If you have a struggle, an achievement, or a desire that you’d like to share with the world, grab your camera and express it.
You’ll not only feel better, but get results you’ll proudly share in your gallery.
Your Knowledge of Camera Settings Will Improve
Self-portrait photography demands a lot of technical changes. A slight change in weather will force you to get up and change your camera settings. The wrong focus will compel you to start over. The list of things you should be aware of is endless.
Once you familiarise yourself with your camera’s settings, however, your creative life will reach a whole new level. Imagine how easy it will be to quickly switch settings when taking photos of anything! You’ll have enough knowledge to excel in any photography genre.
Of course, you don’t need to sit down and memorise every setting for hours. My advice would be to go out and experiment. Shoot in manual mode and see what you’re comfortable with.
Do you like detailed or blurred backgrounds? What kind of colour temperature do you prefer? What is your favourite time of day to shoot?
Keep these questions in mind as you take self-portraits. The more you experiment, the easier it will be to change your settings in any situation. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes as that’s how we learn! Eventually, these changes will come very naturally to you.
Self-portrait photography is an opportunity to become a more appreciative, confident, and creative artist. It’s a chance to make the most of everything you have, no matter where you live.
What I love most about self-portraiture is its ability to change anyone who embraces it. My experience with this genre will be different to yours, but we’ll both be transformed into better photographers because of it.
For more self portrait photography inspiration, check out our 20 up and coming portrait photographers to keep an eye on or why not try some cool Platon inspired portraits!