5 Tips to Better Self Portrait Photography

August 25, 2017

Self Portrait Photography | No More Ugly Camera Bags

Taya is a photographer from Russia who has established a strong portfolio of mesmerising and beautiful self portraits. It all began from scouring DeviantART when she was 12 for inspiration to now being the source of inspiration to others as she honed her craft in self portrait photography over the years. Her 500px profile is now 179k+ follower strong. 

Read her creative journey into discovering the art of taking self portraits and her 5 best tips to get started on exploring self portrait photography

Written by Taya Iv

I discovered self-portraiture at the tender age of 12. The biggest fan of anime, I hungrily and relentlessly searched for art inspiration online. A community called DeviantART satisfied this hunger, but it also presented me with other forms of art I had never really paid attention to before.

One of these forms was self-portraiture, a genre I stumbled upon while looking for drawing references. There, I discovered the most surreal and breathtaking photographs, creations so amazing I couldn't believe one person had made them. What fascinated me most of all was how one individual could be in charge of their appearance, their camera, lighting, and more to create a masterpiece that didn't even look like a self-portrait. This and many other factors compelled me to get into self-portraiture. 

Self-portraiture entered my life at the perfect time. I was a very shy child who would rather stay at home than ask someone to model for her. Intrigued by the endless possibilities this photography genre offered, I began to take photos of myself with the only camera I owned: a very old phone.

Self Portrait Photography | No More Ugly Camera Bags

Taking photos of myself provided me with a chance to understand myself better. Working on personal projects strengthened my independence and allowed me to appreciate my hard work (without being arrogant about it, of course). Most importantly, it led me to a world that has been filling my life with joy, inspiration, and uplifting memories for years.

It has been 8 years since I picked up my old phone and started to take photos - during this time, I've learned a lot of valuable lessons that have helped me take compelling and genuine photographs.

Here are a few tips Id like to share with you on what I learned about self-portraiture.

5 Tips to Self Portrait Photography

1. Work Closely with Light

Self Portrait Photography | No More Ugly Camera Bags

In my opinion, light is the most important part of any photograph. Understanding it on a deep level will help you take incredible photos of yourself. Familiarizing yourself with it at the beginning will provide you with a powerful foundation for your future portfolio. The more you experiment with light, the easier it'll be to find potential in any lighting condition. If you befriend it, you'll earn a tool that will lead you to success. In turn, learning how to use it will make you an incredible photographer in general. 

2. Be Okay with Awkwardness

Self Portrait Photography | No More Ugly Camera Bags

Being alone, especially when taking photos of yourself, might feel quite awkward at first. Unlike casual snapshots, self-portraits aren't always comfortable to make. Regardless of this, think of what you want to express and imagine yourself inspiring other budding artists in the future. A little awkwardness is worth it if it means you'll get to motivate others one day. Choosing persistence during a time of awkwardness will allow you to build character, find confidence in your creative decisions, and become a more open-minded artist.

3. Join a Friendly Community

Self Portrait Photography | No More Ugly Camera Bags

I'm exceedingly grateful for the photographers I had the chance to befriend when I first got into photography. Many of them were professionals who were kind enough to give me constructive criticism, inspiration, and support when I needed them most. Being a part of a community will help you overcome creative obstacles. Even better, it'll stop you from feeling lonely as an artist. Find someone who could support you and whom you could support in return. You will not only gain a valuable friendship, but also an artistic companion for life.

4. Find Inspiration Everywhere

Self Portrait Photography | No More Ugly Camera Bags

Another advantage of being in a warm community, be it online or not, is inspiration. Familiarize yourself with other forms of art - even if self-portraiture is something you're truly passionate about, explore other genres. No matter how different a certain style is to yours, it has the potential to play a significant role in your creative life. Watch a variety of tutorials, read all kinds of books, and be open to learning new things every day. If you want to thrive, never limit yourself. 

5. Be Kind to Yourself

Self Portrait Photography | No More Ugly Camera Bags

It's a given that criticism can't be avoided. Don't let the fear of being judged stop you from doing what you love. I often receive mean comments - never are they personal or directly related to me. Acknowledge the importance of understanding this negativity and rise above it. Also, never be afraid of going to your friends for comfort.

Having said all this, I'd like to highlight the value of constructive criticism. Advice given by professionals and friends alike will inevitably help you grow. Don't be afraid of asking for feedback - treat it like a lesson that will do nothing but strengthen your work.

Behind The Scenes - The technical stuff

Though equipment isn't everything, it's definitely an important part of the shooting process. I use a Canon 5D mark ii with a 50mm 1.8 lens (a wonderful and affordable lens), both of which are a dream to work with. I used to shoot with a Canon 60D, whose flip screen helped me take sharp portraits without messing up all the time. Cameras with flip screens are absolutely incredible tools for self-portrait photographers. While many will argue that such a feature makes the shooting process too easy, I believe it's a fantastic start for beginners and experts alike. Don't be afraid of embracing it. :)

If your camera supports remotes, I'd highly recommend investing in one. With a remote, you won't have to worry about running back and forth and getting blurred shorts. Tripods are also a plus, especially if you're interested in taking conceptual photographs outdoors. When I first started taking photos, anything flat and stable was my tripod. However, that proved to be an obvious challenge. Because of this, I'd recommend using a flexible tripod - in addition to getting rid of an abundance of creative obstacles, the tripod's flexibility will let your intricate ideas come to life.

Having a sturdy tripod and a remote will help you a lot. If neither of those are accessible, however, don't give up on self-portraiture. These tools are just pieces of equipment that will enhance your shooting workflow. Lighting and persistence are what you should focus on most of the time; if a shoot isn't going well, experiment with a different technique or go to another location. Persistence will allow you to create inspiring and breathtaking self-portraits you’ll be proud to have.


Before I finish this article, I'd like to give you a challenge: work with different kinds of light. Try shooting both indoors and outdoors. Work with shadows, artificial light, or graceful natural light. Choose something that's challenging and fun. I'd love to see what youre up to and encourage you along the way.

Share your results on Instagram and tag me in them!  @taissiaiv

Keep learning and inspiring :)

Where to find Taya's work:

500px Profile - Tayaiv
Instagram - @taissiaiv

Extra Resources:

'Best Camera Settings for Portrait Photography' - Photography Talk

Want to learn more about Portrait Photography? Check out Photography Talk's Article - Best Camera Settings for Portrait Photography to further your learning on essential camera settings to master portraiture. 

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