Friday, March 29, 2013

Tips for taking better self portraits

I don't claim to be a pro, or a writer, or even a inspiration... in fact, I don't really like writing at all. However, after emails, messages, comments, and requests I have finally brought myself to making this post in order to share the things that I have learned and find helpful when it comes to self portraits. I pretty much taught myself how to shoot seniors, engagements, and weddings by shooting selfies. Being in front of the camera helps you relate to your clients, posing helps you figure out what works and what doesn't, experience helps you to know your camera. I could go on and on about this point but I will just leave it at that and let you in on some of my secrets ;)

This to me is a *huge* deal when it comes to selfies. The first part of this tip is a rule of thumb for me, not only for taking selfies, but for any shoots I have; Unless you absolutely have to (to clear space on card or something , do not delete photos straight from your camera. This photo above has two, what I consider to be,  mistakes 1.The eye that should be the focal point is out of focus 2. The remote is *totally* visible with no real way to get rid of it ( in lightroom 4 at least). My first thought was, this is unusable....But, there was something in me that wanted to try to remove the remote from view and work with the emotion/feeling of the photo. Needless to say after a couple different edits nothing was really satisfying me until I tried a more severe B&W....I love it. To me the photo expresses such a strong mood and I am SO glad I decided to use my mistakes to make the photo more expressive than I normally would have with a "to the book" image. So the first tip is to not discard a photo because at first glance it isn't technically sound, try to look past the technical to the emotion.

Fake laughing, as funny as it sound, will result in a more sincere laugh (pun intended). You will feel totally ridiculous cackling to yourself in an open field all by yourself that you will end up truly laughing. It works. (*hint* use this same concept for clients if they tend to not be very smiley or a little scared to show their teeth)
You have a gorgeous location, rolling hills, overgrown weeds, and muck beneath your feet .... you get the idea ;) Step back and let the view compliment you! I *love* close-ups of people. I always have to fight against my natural tendency to stay close to the tripod but it always proves worth it when I embrace the location. Embracing the location also helps provide a bit of diversity, interest, and uniqueness to your shoot. Go find yourself a place that expresses what your trying to convey and use it!

This is SO important! Most people I see attempting to take self portraits stand in front of the camera with the same expression, doing the same pose, with the same concept.  If this is you no worries at all! Just stop trying so hard and start having fun! Take a jump there, a bow here, a funky face then. Your trying to express who *you* are through these photos, move around. laugh. run. dance. be extravagant . Be YOU! When you do this your self portraits will go from normal to excellent and the more you take the more comfortable you will be.
(*tip* flirt with your camera. I promise you'll get some good shots from this!)

Same picture, different moods. One is warm and rustic, crisp and colorless, cold and clear. It is all preference as to which one is the "best" edit and your the judge. It's your face that you can edit however you like.... Now that is an exciting idea! Go for it, try 2-3-4 different edits and choose *your* favorite for the feel your trying to get across!
Everyone has there "good side". whether your chin is tilted up or down, looking straight on or from the side, above or eye's length, it's just a fact that some poses and angles are more appealing than others.  Find the best angle and pose for you! Try different hand positions, stand for some and crouch for others, try looking behind your left or right shoulder.... there are countless options just find the things that work and don't work and remember them for future shoots!

 This is where things get a little sketchy.... I mean *look* at that middle photo above, yuck! Don't make the mistake of over touching your face, it won't look prettier it will take away so much beauty! So the original photo isn't bad, but with a little airbrushing, lightening and contrast increase on the eyes, and clarity of the lashes, I brought a little more emphasis to my strong-points. Don't be afraid to touch up your photos, so often I swear people think it is fake if you do that (well, maybe if you touch up like the middle photo) but really all your doing is polishing the photo. The point of  touching up should not be to look different but to draw the eye to the features you want to emphasize and distract from your "flaws"!
This might seem a little out-there but I find this to really help when taking self portraits. Who do you look up to, someone who has absolutely captivated you with their style, personality, and looks? Ok as an example Audrey Hepburn (as many of you know) is a person who has inspired me in so many way. So when I'm in front of the camera I try to think like her; slender and sweet, innocent and playful, classic and just plain lovely! If you don't feel beautiful (or attractive if you're a guy) in front of the camera most likely your photos will show it.

Pinterest is a wonderful site to inspire. Take hold of that inspiration and channel it into your own idea for a shoot! There are a couple different things I look to for inspiration 1.Concepts - paint on the face, blowing glitter, tea pots spread out around you with stuffed animals sitting next to them..... These are ideas that you can make your own and personalize! 2. Accessories/outfit - tie your outfit into the concept you chose and mix different sources of inspiration! 3. Makeup - This is so much fun(Sorry guys, you're missing out)! I love grabbing makeup looks from actresses or photos and tying them in to everything... you have endless opportunities to use makeup to make your portrait unique. 4. Poses -  Sometimes you get stuck in a rut and you need some fresh ideas for posing. Pin some poses (that sounds funny) you like and have them in your mind or on hand when your out shooting just in case you run out of ideas. 5.  Props - They can bring your concept to a whole new level. Those balloons are what *make* that photo so amazing, so keep your eyes peeled when thrifting or even around your house for things that can spice up and bring an attention grabbing aspect to your image!

I have been taking self portraits for years now and let me be honest and say I was *terrible* in the beginning.  Experience and trial and error have been the key to most of my more artistic portraits and most likely that will be the same with you. I took a ton of self portraits that did not turn out and that is totally ok. You'll find out that the shoots that turn out the worst will teach you so much, don't get discouraged! Try new things, push what your comfortable with, and have fun. I guarantee your photos will get better and better!

 1. Shoot wireless remote  - Oh my goodness! This remote is the best thing that ever happened to me with photography! It's only two bucks and it has become pure gold to me. It has lasted through being submerged in water for two days and getting trampled and still works like a charm! A MUST! 2. Canon 60D -  I love this camera particularly for the flip screen! 3. Dolica Tripod - Ehh, its a tripod, not anything to rave about. 4. Lightroom 4 - Love this editing software, every photographer should own this!

Hope you found at least a few of those tips helpful! Please leave feedback, share this post, or pin away!
Thanks for stopping by and feel free to leave a comment linking to some of *your* self portraits!!


  1. PERFECTION. You are so gorgeous, and I'm taking these words of yours to heart. :) xo

  2. LOVE your selfies SO much! Thank you for this! :)

  3. wonderful post Janelle! very helpful!

  4. Thank you so much for this, Janelle! I have always admired your self-portraits, so thanks for these tips!

  5. Your so amazing Janelle and of course beautiful!!! =)

    I so want to meet you this,on my bucket list. ;)

  6. love this janelle! thank you for these tips.. which i have already taken into helpful consideration. :) xx

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  8. Right then, thanks for the tips, I'm going to buy one of those wireless remotes today!

  9. Hey! I love these tips! I can relate to most of them. :) This may sound like a stupid question, but I don't have a remote yet so I wanted to ask: Can you focus from the remote? I'm having difficulty finding a way to focus manually on my camera and then running back to a pose in 10 seconds. Generally those are severely out of focus. Thanks so much!

    1. Not sure about hers, but my remote does autofocus! It's for canons, and you can get it here :)

  10. this is SOOO awesome and SOOO helpful, janelle!! thank you so much for sharing this post with all of us! love you bunches! :)


  11. Brilliant Janelle! Thanks for the tips.

  12. Cute! How did you get the warm, rustic look?? So awesome!! :)

  13. Beautiful pictures! Thanks for the tips!


  14. Hi Janelle! I LOVED this post - thanks so much for doing it. =) I found your blog through Kiley, and have really enjoyed looking at your awesome photography, makeup 'n such.

    I was inspired to do my own self-photo-shoot today. (

    And was wondering if you could email me ( with any tips or thoughts you had. (If you don't get to it, I understand..I know how busy life gets) :P

  15. Stunning, Janelle! Your Self portraits are just amazing - thanks for the inspiration!!


  16. What lens did you use for these? Do you remember?

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