Self photography is an art. While some would argue against this by pointing out the poor quality of many “mirror photographs” or “extended-arm-myspace-pictures,” these arguments can be easily refuted by proving that these are simply examples of poor art. Just like there can be poor quality dance performances or poorly painted art pieces, so can there be poor self photography. The self-promoted neo modeling industry that is emerging through online social fashion communities is proof that good photography can aid in success; for many users on these sites adequate skills in self photography are crucial. While some may have friends or family available to shoot pictures of them, most have to come up with creative ways to capture photographs of themselves. For anyone who finds themselves having to take their own photographic portraits, here are a few great guidelines.
1) Remember that no part of a photograph is unimportant. This means that the background may be of almost equal importance to the rest of your picture. Because of this, take special care to pay attention to where you are shooting at; if you want to put an industrial feeling with your photo then shoot within a city scene or indoors in a businesslike environment (not a house). For models, this type of background would generally be coupled either with a trendy fashion forward outfit or more professional attire. On the other hand, shooting a portrait in front of a brick background or a field (or woods) is best coupled with a photograph featuring yourself in more vintage attire. In general, photographs shot inside a house don’t tend to showcase the best qualities in a background unless they are done extremely creatively. If you want a very clean, professional looking self photograph then I would suggest shooting in front of a solid colored (either black or white) curtain or sheet. This way the background will hold no distractions whatsoever to your portrait, and you will have a very focused photograph. However, if you choose to shoot in front of a dark background/black sheet, be sure to use proper lighting techniques (including flash) in your photo shoot. Overall, a good photograph should have a background that complements its main subject (you) without detracting from it.
2) Know that your hair can either add or distract from your purpose for your photograph. Even if you are simply showcasing an outfit, your hair will still impact the overall effectiveness of your photograph. The does not mean that your hair must be perfectly kept and smoothly brushed in order to take a quality picture; your hair can be free flowing and wild if you want it that way. In general, well kept and brushed hair tends to bring a more professional/businesslike look to your portrait while more free flowing hair tends to have a more carefree spirit. Do whatever you want with your hair, but know that whatever you do will affect your picture just as much as your outfit will.
3) The angle that you take your portrait at can also influence how your picture turns out. If the camera is far above your head, then your head will be showcased more than the rest of your outfit. If you take a photograph from far beneath you, then you may end up with a picture that makes you look more powerful and intimidating. Personally I like self portraits taken around the level of my own head, as they tend to shy away from all extremes.
4) Finally, there is no “correct” facial expression for a self portrait. In general, there are some expressions that are clearly better than others, but technically no expression is “incorrect.” (I would strongly advise against the little “kissing” face that so many middle schoolers tend to make in their social networking profile pictures). With that in mind, however, I would suggest that you keep your expression complementary to your outfit. If you’re going for a professional and serious look, then keep a straight face; just remember that you do NOT have to be looking at the camera for a good photo. You can take great self portrait photographs laughing to the side or gazing into the distance. Additionally, laughing photographs can be a great way to do a more carefree picture; more relaxed and natural looking than smiling photographs, laughing pictures can be a great alternative.