How To Take Good Self Portraits (Steal My Ideas)

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Surely it has happened to you that you get bored of your profile picture on social media and you don’t have friends who will do you the favor of taking a new one. Or maybe you’re a photographer and have a great idea, but before calling someone to take the photos you want to test if it works. 

If you identify with these situations, I will give you simple and practical tips for more creative and better-executed self-portraits.

First things first. Before you start, make a checklist of what you need, which isn’t much:

  • A camera with a timer option: nowadays almost every camera or phone has the option to put a countdown before it takes a picture.
  • A tripod or stable support: basically it is a surface on which you can rest the camera. It is very important that it is stable support. Keep in mind that you will press the shutter button, you will run out to position yourself and the last thing we want is that the picture taken is the trajectory of the camera falling to the ground. Think of a surface wide enough to support the entire camera body.
  • A space with natural light: take advantage of the hours when natural light is most beautiful in the place where you will take the photo. The examples I will show you below are all taken in my apartment, with natural light coming through the windows. A good exercise is to observe how natural light behaves throughout the day in your living space. Every scenery counts!
  • A good outfit: take the opportunity to try new things! Experimenting with clothes generates contrasts, creates textures, and above all, it’s a lot of fun.
  • Lots of creativity: go for it, lose the fear of ridicule and shame, and play with all the possibilities.

With this checklist, we can start this simple step-by-step to achieve a top self-portrait. There are four verbs: program, place, adjust, and photographs. Here we go.

Use timer

Why is this the first step? Because it saves you the unexpected selfie with an “I forgot the timer!” face.

I recommend that you use the 10-second option.

sony camera setting up timer
I recommend that you use the 10-second option.

That gives you enough time to press the shutter and go to your spot without rushing.

There are also apps for your phone that can be programmed with the camera to trigger the photo. Whichever option you like best will be the best.

Place your camera the right way

Remember that if you don’t have a tripod you should look for stable support. Almost anything will do the job, always bear in mind that the whole bottom of your camera or phone must be supported, we don’t want flying devices.

If you rest the camera directly on the ground, you can elevate it using books, boxes, a cushion: anything goes.

Aprende a tomar autorretratos con tu cámara o teléfono siguiendo estos cuatro sencillos pasos.
Camera on pillow

#ProTip about the stability of your camera: if you use it with a strap, when you rest it either on the tripod or on a surface, retrive the strap! That’s ancient wisdom: camera straps, like frying pan handles going inward on the table.

Hans Schmeltzer

Adjust the focus

To adjust the focus you should look for an object and place it more or less in the place where you will make the self-portrait. The important thing is to have a reference, even if it is not 100% accurate, on your spot. If you are using a camera I suggest using manual focus.

Aprende a tomar autorretratos con tu cámara o teléfono siguiendo estos cuatro sencillos pasos.

I drew a smiley face on a piece of paper and attached it to a mop. You can also use a pillow or whatever you have around you.

Photograph: take the picture!

Once the timer has been set, the camera is positioned and the focus adjusted, all that remains is to create the image. And remember that you can make as many as you want.

If you take a lot of selfies, this is the easiest step. But if you’re like me and prefer to be behind the camera, this step may block you a bit.

Fear not because, as a friend of mine always says, “we’re always learning”.

So take it easy and don’t be afraid to play.

Summary and tips!

You’ve seen how easy it is to prepare for self-portraits. Remember the checklist, you need the four keys: timer, place, set, and shoot.

Self-portraiture can be a great experimentation exercise for projects you have in mind. You can try out framing and stage with yourself before setting them up with other people. This helps you to get clarity on what you want to achieve. What I mean is, play with your creativity – you’re not taking your passport picture!

And if you’re wondering “but how do I get started?” I’ll leave you with ideas for unlocking creativity.

Foto en el suelo

Sentarse en el suelo te ayuda a desinhibirte y a ubicarte más naturalmente en el espacio. Te sientas en el suelo, sin mucha pretensión, como quien no quiere la cosa. Fácil, ¿no? Tomemos esas fotos para ver cómo quedan.

Aprende a tomar autorretratos con tu cámara o teléfono siguiendo estos cuatro sencillos pasos.

En este caso, me ubiqué cerca de la fuente de luz natural para crear un efecto más interesante de luces y sombras. Sentarse junto a la ventana y ver hacia afuera siempre funciona.

En este primer ejemplo apoyé la cámara en el suelo. Veamos qué pasa si uso un trípode y acerco la cámara hacia mí, inclinándola ligeramente hacia abajo:

Aprende a tomar autorretratos con tu cámara o teléfono siguiendo estos cuatro sencillos pasos.

¿Ves cómo cambia el resultado con un sencillo reajuste del set?

Foto montaje

Una de las maneras más divertidas de hacer autorretratos es buscar referencias en el trabajo de otras personas. Todos los días se producen imágenes muy creativas y con las redes sociales tenemos fácil acceso a ellas.
Esta idea la tomé de una foto que vi en el perfil de Instagram de un fotógrafo que sigo. Es más fácil de lo que parece:

Aprende a tomar autorretratos con tu cámara o teléfono siguiendo estos cuatro sencillos pasos.

Para lograrlo tienes que tomar dos fotos, siguiendo los pasos que ya conoces, en un lugar con luz natural que tenga un espejo. Toma la primera foto viendo a la cámara (foto de la izquierda) y la segunda, en la misma posición, pero viendo al espejo (foto de la derecha).

Después, lo que queda es hacer magia con el Photoshop y ubicar la foto en la que ves a la cámara en la capa de arriba, borrando solamente el fragmento del espejo. Ready!

Espero que estos trucos te sirvan para animarte a hacer autorretratos más creativos ¡y que les saques el máximo provecho para materializar todas las ideas que tengas en la cabeza!

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