Getting A Good Self-Portrait

OK — Why would anyone want a “self-portrait”?   Aside from the ego overload I mean.  Well, I have some ideas of not only why a person would want a self-portrait, but how to go about getting a good one.

Those creations that come from the “image in the mirror” are just about the worst possible pictures you could get.  In fact, about the only way to get a worse one is pull out your driver’s license or ID card, and see if you can recognize who that image might be.  Don’t know about you, but I have no idea who the picture is that the state put on my license.  Not sure I want to either.  (I’m just kidding, governor).

The best possible thing you can do for a self-photo is to become very good friends with the timer on your camera.  Without that, well, just click on the escape button and refresh yourself with another media creation, or maybe just go and get in the recliner and turn on the tube.

First things first, self-portrait can be one or more than one person, but all without someone to take the picture.   Plan ahead where folks will be and what the situation is to represent.

Check where you will be taking the shot as seen through the camera.  See a blank wall but in front of an outside window?  You know better than to do that with someone else, what makes you so special?  No, it’s not a good choice.  Make sure you check the background, including lighting.

Figure out what angle you should be in relation to the camera.  One thing for sure, most of the time you never want to face the camera head-on but rather standing somewhat sideways (about 45 degrees is the best).  Experiment with the pictures, stand facing left for a half dozen shots, then turn the other way and get 5 or 6 more.  If you want, go ahead and take the head-on shots just to have something for comparison.  It won’t cost you anything but time, so take lots of shots because if you are anything like me, in my opinion, I never take a good picture.  First of all, I have no idea who that old man is that keeps getting in my pictures.

Don’t try to pose in any form.  Just be yourself as much as possible.  Think of something pleasant, maybe a good friend, or something that is special for dinner, something very nice.  Then, with that thought, smile as though you mean it.  Very important – while smiling, open the mouth and show your teeth.  If you’re smiling at someone, you show your teeth, so why not do the same for the camera.

In setting up the place for your shots, remember that you will be using only the head and shoulders, so plan accordingly.  Taking a full body shot is poor taste when you are going for the self-portrait.  If you have fancy shoes and you want to show them in another photo close-up, but if you want to show yourself, show the face and top of the shoulders only.  The exception to a facial shot might be something else, such as you are very proud of how much weight you lost, or maybe to show off a new blouse you or someone special to you made for you.  The point is to define what you want in the picture.

Don’t necessarily look directly at the camera.  Not a great idea to look down, but make an effort to spot something to look at on the wall behind the camera.  Be sure you know what you are looking before, plan it out.


 OK, let’s pick this one apart ……  the picture behind me is very distracting, should have never been there.  For a self-portrait, it isn’t centered, and it should be.  The rule of thirds does not apply in pictures of the head and shoulders.  There’s some reflection on the glasses, but it’s almost impossible to get them out without professional help.  Can’t take the glasses off, it just doesn’t look like me without them.


Not many things right about this shot.  To start with, it should have been cropped or clipped to get more of the faces and less of the surroundings.  I do admit, we gave the image of working outside over lunch because of the lap-top, but it doesn’t show unless your actually looking at it.  Failure to portray the image.  Centered on me, camera too high, colored glasses, not close enough for good people shot, shadows from sun and shade, should have used the flash – and more I’m sure, but you get the idea.

 Why do you even want a self-portrait?  Well, we could start with a social media shot if that suits you.  I use one on “facebook”, but it is a terrible picture.  I’m just too lazy to change it.

 If you get the angles and other requirements right, there is the photos for the passport.  You might be able to use them instead of those terrible commercial photos.  That one is a gamble.  Where we live, you would never get the state to use one of your photos, they seem to be very fussy that way.


 Maybe you just wanta do it, for whatever reason.


About royandsherry

Roy is retired military as a radar controller, both Airborne and Ground. Spent 9 years as a Radio Announcer and retired from the corporate world after 14 years as an information analysist, working with classified information for a computer chip manufacturer. Roy is a commercial pilot (ASEL) and has a degree in Interstate Commerce Commission law. Sherry worked as an aircraft parts inventory specialist as a government employee, later as a scheduler and coordinator for a large flight school and retired from the corporate world as a legal administrative assistant for a very large computer chip manufacturer.
This entry was posted in Photo Tips, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s