Seattle Photographer | Self Portrait Tips

Taking a self portrait with a DSLR can be challenging, but it’s a great way to boost your skills and understanding of your camera, as well as to learn posing. If you spend any amount of time on Flickr, Viewbug, Focussion, or 500px, you will be absolutely amazed by some very creative self portraits. I highly recommend checking out these sites, especially 500px.


Over the last couple years I’ve taken a few self portraits and I’m amazed by everything that I have learned by this simple task. Below is just a small list of tips that I’d like to share:

1. Start with a plan. When creating your self portrait, start with an idea of how you want the image to look by taking into consideration things such as natural and artifical light, composition, background, white balance, depth of field, etc. Your final image may not turn out quite as how you had planned and it may turn out even better than you originally thought, but starting with a plan on how you want to achieve your self portrait will get you going in the right direction.

2. Use a tripod. I recommend using a tripod over placing your camera on a table or hand-holding it. The tripod will easily allow you to adjust height and angel, and any standard tripod will do the trick. I currently use a tripod made by Manfrotto.

3. Manually focus your lens. Switch your lens to manual focus and adjust it to focus on something that you will be standing directly next to. If you won’t be standing next to anything, place a chair or something in front of the lens where you plan on posing and focus on that. While auto focus is great, it’s not always accurate and I’d hate to get everything else right in the shot, but have the image out of focus.

4. Understand depth of field and choose an f/stop accordingly. Remember how we started with a plan in the first tip? Well, part of that plan was to know your desired depth of field (DOF) ahead of time. Photography is an art and it’s up to you to decide what you would like in and out of focus. I would most likely choose f/4 or around there, so that my head is in focus. But DOF is also determined by how far away your subject is, so a good understanding of DOF is needed.

5. Use a wireless remote, shoot tethered, or set your timer. Choose one of these ways so you don’t have to be touching your camera to take the portrait and this will allow you to be more flexible in setting up your shot. I like to use this Canon wireless remote, which I purchased from B&H for about $20.

These are just a few tips that have helped me along the way. If you have any more to add, I’d love to read it in the comments, and while you’re at it post a link to your recent self portrait. I’d love to see it!

Since this was the topic for my blogging group, spend a minute checking out what everyone in my little group posted about self portraits. Start with Huong of Huong Forrest Photography in Reno, NV. She is so talented, so I’m sure she came up with a great post that is really creative this week!

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[…] Now head over to my Fellow Friend Ally at Allyson Photography. Here Faceless Portrait can be found on her blog. […]

Tara ColburnApril 10, 2013 - 12:48 pm

Great tips! And ugh! Could you be any more beautiful?!

Sarah EApril 11, 2013 - 9:09 am

These are some great tips Ally. 🙂

Huong ForrestApril 11, 2013 - 11:03 pm

PERFECT tips, Allyson!!!

ChristineApril 14, 2013 - 6:50 am

I wish I had had these tips this week when I was doing a self portrait! And you are gorgeous to boot x

Awesome tips!

[…] this shot. However at the same time, it wasn’t easy!  I couldn’t have done it without the self portrait tips I blogged about a couple weeks ago, especially my tripod and camera’s self timer which was set to 10 […]

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