12 min read

27 Creative Self-Portrait Photography Ideas & Tips

12 min read

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self portrait photography

Self-portrait photographers are in charge of many things during their photoshoots. This includes lighting, camera settings, posing, and the list goes on. With so many things to juggle, is it even possible to come up with creative self portrait ideas? The answer is yes!

What is self-portrait photography? It can be a simple photograph of your face, but it can also be a piece of art that tells a meaningful story.

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The tips and ideas that we’ve prepared for you will help you:

  • Feel inspired and confident in front of the camera
  • Transform your photographs using simple portrait props
  • Tell a meaningful story through your pictures

Let’s get started!

Creative Self Portrait Photography Ideas

27. Take Self-Portraits From Different Angles

Portrait of girl looking into the distance while holding a bouquet of tulips.

You don’t always need to stand directly in front of the camera when you take photos of yourself. Experiment with different angles to keep your pictures interesting.

Take photos from very high or very low angles. Shoot through objects. All of these things will add a creative touch to your self-portraits.

26. Use One Colour Scheme as Inspiration

Self-portrait, taken on a wide aperture.

When you limit yourself, your imagination has to work harder than usual. This gives you a lot of room to come up with original ideas.

You can start by limiting the colours you use. You can pick a colour scheme or use only one or two colours in your work. You can use pastel colours only or use shades of a specific colour. Remember, you can always edit your images later to get rid of unwanted colours.

25. Take a Faceless Self Portrait

Faceless self-portrait outdoors in natural light taken during sunset.

Don’t want to take photos of your face? Faceless self portrait photography will make this possible for you. You can photograph the back of your head, your silhouette, or even a specific part of your face. You can do all of these things, and your results will still fall into the self-portrait category.

Since you won’t be able to use facial expressions to tell a story, you need to rely on other things to make your photographs stand out. You don’t need to stand in front of the camera all the time.

Experiment with different poses. Use props. Take photographs in interesting locations. Create foregrounds and backgrounds that add depth to your portrait.

24. Shoot Through a Folder

Dreamy close-up taken through a folder.

This might be considered one of the strangest self-portrait ideas in this post, but trust me, it works! Do you have a folder lying around at home? If you can see through it, even a little, you can take photographs directly through it.

Let the camera focus on your face first. Then, hold the folder in front of your lens. Make sure you don’t cover the lens completely because that will result in underexposed portraits. Your results will look colorful and hazy, a combination that works very well in creative portrait photography.

Behind-the-scenes self portrait photography example.

This is a tip that I talk about in my online course: Self Portrait Photography Indoors On A Budget. In the course, I teach you how to take your self-portrait photography to the next level, all in the comfort of your home. You don’t need expensive equipment or supermodel looks. All you need is your imagination and a desire to learn.

23. Use Accessories to Change Your Appearance

Edgy self portrait of a girl with long hair and round sunglasses.

Creative self-portrait photography isn’t always about dramatically transforming your appearance. Subtle changes can have a great impact on your photography, too. You can use accessories to achieve this.

Temporary tattoos, jewellery, glasses, etc., can make you look more interesting. I love using temporary tattoos because they make simple portraits look very artistic. Glasses are always a good idea because they add depth and a little bit of light to minimalistic photos.

Feel free to experiment with other items in your home. If you want to change your look completely, consider using these items:

  • Wigs
  • Carnival masks
  • Costumes
  • Face paint

22. Create Fake Film Stills

Cinematic portrait of a girl looking over her shoulder.

Film stills are usually photos that are taken on or off a movie set. They can also be screenshots taken during a film. I love to take photos that look like screenshots from a movie or TV show. They make my photographs look creative and cinematic.

How do you achieve this look? First, look for inspiration. (Use this as an excuse to rewatch all of your favourite films!) You’ll notice that most of them are wide and almost look like panoramas. You’ll have to crop your photographs in an editing program to create this effect, so keep this in mind during your photoshoots.

Next, come up with a story. What kind of scene do you want to create? What is the atmosphere like in that scene? You’ll be able to enhance this with the help of colour correction later on. For now, focus on storytelling.

21. Get Really Close to Your Face

In portrait photography, it’s usually not a good idea to get too close to your subject. If you do, you’ll get distorted (and sometimes unflattering) results. In the world of artistic self-portrait ideas, you can ignore this rule.

Self-portrait close-up of the model’s eye. Taken on a sunny day through a curtain.

The point of this idea isn’t to make you look unflattering. Even if your face looks distorted in your image, you can crop your images in a way that highlights your best features. Feel free to experiment with different cropping styles.

You can crop everything out so that only your eye is visible. You can choose to focus on a strand of hair or your mouth. There’s a lot you can do here to take amazing self-portraits, so experiment to your heart’s content!

20. Create a Self-Portrait Collage or a Diptych

Self portrait close-ups featuring a collage.

Some photographs look stronger together than on their own. This is when collages come in handy. A photo collage can help you tell multiple stories at once. I like to create collages using outtakes, which I like but don’t want to post separately. You can include as many photos as you like in a collage, but the standard is 4 or 6 photographs.

If you don’t want to include that many photos in a single file, you can create diptychs. Diptychs are two photos that are placed side by side. Sometimes, they can be even more visually impactful than collages.

The beautiful thing about collages and diptychs is that they are versatile and unpredictable. Photos that might look boring on their own can look amazing together. You can use multiple self-portrait photography ideas from this list and include all of them in a single collage.

19. Take Self Portraits With a Pet

Black & white self-portrait of a girl smiling and holding her cat.

It’s safe to say that taking photos with a pet is always a good idea! It can make your photoshoots really fun and make you feel more comfortable in front of the camera.

To take creative self portraits with a pet, consider getting lost in the moment. Try not to pose too much. Instead, have fun with your pet, and don’t worry about looking straight at the camera. This will help you take candid portraits that tell an authentic story about you and your pet.

You don’t need to take the conventional route and take photos with dogs or cats only. Snails, lizards, and birds can all help you take unique self-portraits. Of course, always make sure that your pet enjoys the photoshoot as much as you do!

18. Use Direct Sunlight to Create Shadows

Portrait of a girl’s face holding a curtain. Her face is covered in shadows.

Direct light can look harsh on your face. You can solve this problem by creating shadows with direct light. Light shadows are very fun to work with. All you need is a lot of sunshine and something textured to create the shadows with. Here are some objects you can use:

  • Sieve
  • Straw hat
  • Lace curtains or doilies
  • Window blinds
  • Glass filled with water

Feel free to get creative. Find something in your home or outdoors that has a pattern. If it lets light through, chances are it will look amazing on your face.

17. Take Out-Of-Focus Photos on Purpose

Creative out-of-focus portrait of a girl posing behind a cherry blossom branch.

Most of the photographers I know (myself included) are terrified of blurred photographs. Out-of-focus shots can be frustrating. But what if you took blurred photos on purpose?

Focus blur creates beautiful bokeh. It can add mystery to your portraits. It might be exactly what you need to take your next best self-portrait. I encourage you to try this self-portrait idea at least once in your photography journey. Your results might surprise you!

16. Create a Self-Portrait with Motion Blur

Self-portrait featuring motion blur. The model is turning around and her face isn’t clear.

Move around in your next self-portrait. Wave your hands in the air. Whip your hair back and forth. If you want eerie results, you can use a longer exposure. This will create the illusion that multiple people are floating in one image.

15. Take a Mysterious Photo of Your Silhouette

Cinematic self-portrait of a silhouette. Looking out of the window while holding her cat.

If you stand directly in front of a light source (e.g., a lamp), you’ll automatically create a silhouette. If there are no other light sources around you, this silhouette will look intense. This is a fun idea to experiment with, especially when you use artificial light indoors. Make sure to include props in your self-portraits to tell an interesting story. These props can be:

  • Flowers (a single flower can look eye-catching in a silhouette)
  • Umbrella
  • Bicycle
  • Tree

If your background is plain, you can still use your results to create a cool self-portrait! This is when double exposure photography comes into the picture. If you merge your silhouette with a colourful photograph (this can be anything), you’ll get some pretty impressive results.

14. Use a Fan

Self-portrait close up photo. Hair is moving in different directions.

Interested in creative summer photography ideas? This one’s for you. Stand in front of a fan and take photos as it blows your hair in different directions. This might feel funny at first, but I’m certain you’ll get at least one shot you’re proud of!

13. Use a Diffuser to Take Ghostly Self Portraits

Ghostly self-portrait of a silhouette holding flowers. Taken through a diffuser.

This takes the folder tip to the next level. Diffusers usually come with reflectors. They’re semi-transparent objects that are perfect for making your creative ideas come to life.

Take photographs through a diffuser. Make sure there’s a bright source of light behind you, such as a window on a sunny day. Get close to the diffuser so that your profile is visible. This will give you some pretty interesting results.

12. Use Bubbles

Outdoor portrait of a girl looking down while bubbles float around her.

This might sound like a childish idea, but it works well in my self-portraits. I don’t use bubbles often, but when I do, I have a lot of fun with them!

Ideally, someone should be there to help you blow the bubbles. Make sure your background isn’t white, or else the bubbles won’t be visible.

Self Portrait Photography Tips

Now that you’ve been introduced to different self-portrait ideas, it’s time to focus on improving your general self-portrait knowledge. These tips will introduce you to tips and tricks that can help you overcome common obstacles in this genre.

11. Take Self-Portraits in a Safe and Comfortable Space

Photo of a girl taking self-portraits indoors.

This is something I learned early on. You don’t always need to shoot outdoors. If you’re starting, take photos in a place where you feel very comfortable. This will give you all the room you need to come up with original photography ideas.

If you feel nervous in front of the camera, your photos will reflect that. To avoid having a bad association with this genre, start small and take photos indoors.

How to Make the Most of Simple Locations Indoors

A lot of self-portrait photographers struggle with making the most of indoor spaces. Sometimes, it’s simply not possible to take photographs outside. When this happens, you should know that you can still take incredible self-portraits.

I talk about this in-depth in my self-portrait photography course. Here are a few tips from the course that can help you master the art of self-portraiture indoors, even if you live in a small space.

learning self-portraiture photography.

10. Use Simple Artificial Lighting

Self-portrait taken in artificial lighting indoors. Subjects face partly covered by shadows.

Artificial light can look a little ugly, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use it to your advantage. You can use lamps and torches to take haunting photographs in the dark. You can also use ceiling light to take artistic photographs in a small room. It’s all about posing and angles, which I’ll cover later in this post.

9. Face the Light

Portrait of a girl looking into the distance. Her face is lit by blue and red artificial lights.

If there’s a light source right above you and you look straight ahead, a lot of unflattering shadows will appear on your face. You can avoid this by directly facing the light sources you work with. You don’t always need to look at the light. (Actually, I advise against doing that because you’ll hurt your eyes in the process!)

Face the light but don’t look at it. If you’re working with a ceiling light, lift your head. If you’re using a torch, make sure at least one side of your face is lit by it. This way, you’ll have an even amount of light on your face.

8. Don’t Worry About Unflattering Colours

Before & after example of self-portrait photography editing.

Artificial light doesn’t always look great on skin. It can be too yellow or too blue. In my opinion, you don’t need to worry about this during your photoshoot. You can manually adjust your color temperature to tone down the colours and take care of the rest during the post-production process.

7. Use a Wide-Angle Lens

Wide shot of a girl resting on her arm and looking at the camera.

A wide-angle lens captures more space, which makes it the perfect tool for shooting indoors. I often use a wide-angle lens in small spaces because it allows me to photograph myself and my surroundings easily. There’s no need to take thousands of steps away from the camera, thanks to this!

I use the Yongnuo 35mm f/2 lens, a budget-friendly alternative for Canon users. It’s definitely not as powerful as other wide-angle lenses. However, for its price, it’s an incredible option that’s worth considering.

6. Rotate Your Images in an Editing Program

Self-portrait of a girl looking at the camera. Surrounded by colourful string lights.

You can use this simple post-production trick to take any of our ideas to the next level. When you edit your photographs, play around with different rotations. Turn a photo upside down. Do something that you’re not used to.

Our eyes expect to see faces a certain way. When you go against that expectation, you’re going to get fascinating results. This isn’t something you should do all the time, but it’s worth trying a few times!

5. Remember That You Don’t Always Need to Use a Very Wide Aperture

Atmospheric self-portrait taken outdoors in natural light.

Self-portraiture and portrait photography often comes with an expectation: the wider your aperture, the more eye-catching your results will be. This isn’t always true.

Use the portrait ideas in this article as guidelines. If you want to take sharp photos of yourself, use a narrow aperture like f/8. If you don’t limit yourself, you’ll be able to take cool self-portraits and get really creative!

4. Use a Remote or Wi-Fi

camera remote pointing at a DSLR camera.

If you rely on your self-timer to take self portraits, you know how difficult it is to run back and forth. There are two solutions to this problem.

If your camera has wi-fi, you can connect to a mobile app for controlling the camera remotely. This will let you control your camera settings from a distance. There are undoubtedly many perks to using apps like this.

You can also use a remote to take photos from a distance. This won’t give you as much control, but it will still save a lot of time.

3. Convert Simple Portraits to Black and White

Mysterious black & white self-portrait featuring a freckled girl.

The right kind of post-processing can significantly enhance your photographs. If you have many outtakes that seem to be missing something, you might benefit from converting them to black and white.

This is an easy process that requires a simple editing program. I use Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom, but you can use any application or program that you like.

Black and white portraits are soulful. They can add depth to a simple portrait. So if you’re not happy with the creative self-portraits you took, don’t delete them right away. Convert them to black and white and see if the results change your mind.

2. Colour Correct Your Self-Portraits

Before & after examples of self-portrait photography color correction.

You can take any of these self-portrait ideas to the next level with the help of colour correction. There are many ways you can colour correct your photographs.

If you want moody self-portraits, you should work with dark and desaturated colours. Interested in joyful self-portrait photography? Make use of vibrant colours and higher exposures. There’s a lot you can do during the post-production process to enhance your photos.

Most editing programs nowadays offer some colour correcting options. I love using Adobe Lightroom because it has a plethora of helpful tools. You can use presets for lightroom to edit your photos and make them look like works of art.

1. Use Your Smartphone Camera as a Guide

Model with a smartphone camera in selfie mode, using shallow depth of field.

Look at yourself in selfie mode. Think of it as a mirror that can help you find your best angles and the best light.

My smartphone camera has helped me a lot in my self-portrait photography journey. Even when you start to get comfortable taking self-portraits, I encourage you to keep using your smartphone camera as a guide.

Self-portraiture is a creative and fulfilling genre. It can help you take your creative ideas to the next level and express yourself in ways you haven’t before.

Which of these self portrait ideas is your favourite?

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Taya Iv is a portrait photographer, 500px ambassador, and host of Great Big Photography World podcast.
Taya Iv is a portrait photographer, 500px ambassador, and host of Great Big Photography World podcast.

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