10 Tips to Make Pro Level Selfies at Home

No studio? No problem. Here are ten tips for taking affordable, creative self portraits from inside your home.

One of the staples of photography is the self portrait. While Instagram and Facebook has championed the art of the selfie, there are still endless ways to get creative with the idea of taking your own photo. In the video below, there are a few ways you can try out that might help you learn a thing or two about photography and maybe a little bit about yourself in the process.

Gear Used

For this video I used a Sony a6500 with a Zeiss 16-70mm f4 lens, with a Godoz TT350S Mini Flash. The lights used were natural light coming in from my bedroom window, and an Aputure 120D. But, you don’t need a light, mirrorless camera, or flash to replicate these images. You can do everything on your phone instead. Plus, we’ll talk a little bit later how to do some of the more intricate stuff later on in this article.

Long Exposure Selfie

Long Exposure Selfie

This classic format is easier than ever now that we can take them with our phones. First lower the lights as much as possible. Whether you close all the windows or turn off the lights, the darker the better. Make sure you have a little bit of light on your face, as you want to be able to distinguish a few key features.

I recommend shooting with a shutter speed of about five seconds, an aperture of f/18-f/22, and an ISO of 800 or less. That should give you enough time to swivel your head around and pull off that trail effect that you’ve seen so many times before.

Long Exposure on Your Phone

Long Exposure on Your Phone

One feature new to phones is long exposure capabilities. Whether you have an iPhone or Android device, most phones have “Night” mode in some form or fashion. For this video, I used my iPhone 11 to take the photo. To take a long exposure portrait, turn the Live button on. Now, set a timer for three or ten seconds and hit the shutter button. Get in position, then pose for the shot. Once you’ve taken the photo, open it in your library and swipe up. Now you’ll see four options; Live, Loop, Bounce, and Long Exposure. Hit Long Exposure and you’ll see your new photo!

If you’re using a Pixel, the team over at Moment released a Nighttime tutorial for taking long exposures. Check it out below:

Using a Flash with a Gel Attached

Using a Flash with a Gel

This is a very popular look thats super easy to replicate. Stick a gel or any translucent colored material over your flash and keep the shutter open for at least one or two seconds. It’s important to note that once the flash goes off, you’ll want to be in a position that shows your face clearly, as this is what will be in focus for the bulk of the image.

Using a Portable Light

Portable Lights

To replicate the light from my phone screen (your actual phone screen won’t be powerful enough) a small, portable light can provide enough exposure on your face while still remaining hidden behind your phone. You can also try this out with a book, iPad, or any type of screen you’d be looking at in the photo.

Creating Light Trails

Light Trails

You can also use these lights to create light trails with long exposures in your selfie. For this video, I kept the shutter open for twenty seconds, spun the light around in different shapes for the first ten seconds, then put the light on my face for the remaining ten seconds. This just allows your face to be seen. This one might take a few tries, so don’t give up if you can’t get it on the first take.

Body Parts

This might seem obvious, but is it? Self portraits can be anything, which is the beauty of taking these types of photos. They just have to represent you. So in the video I featured a quick little montage of different parts of my body that I’d never think to photograph. This is a good way to experiment with depth of field, composition, and figuring out creative ways to take photos of the human body. It’s more difficult than you’d think!

Props

Props

This can be even more personal than body parts. A prop in a self portrait can be a way to show off what makes you, you. Hold something close to your heart or something that represents you and figure out a way to feature it in the photo. You don’t even have to be in the photo with it, just have it be the subject! Like I said before, there are no rules with self portraits. Just do what you want.

Double Exposure

Double Exposure

In film photography, the double exposure can be one of the most visually stunning types of photos you can take. The idea is simple — take two photos on top of each other. Take a photo of something generic, a wall, water, plants. The first photo just has to be something that won’t distract the viewers from the subject, you.

Lower the Opacity

With digital cameras, it’s as easy as taking two separate photos, bringing them into Photoshop, and then decreasing the Opacity of the top image. This is just one more way to spice up the image of yourself.

Dramatic Lighting

Dramatic Lighting

Perhaps my favorite type of self portrait is using dramatic lighting to create a dark mood. To do this, simply place your light at a 90 degree angle to your face. This will cast a shadow across the far side of your face, leaving it in darkness. If you find that there’s too much light in your room to pull this off effectively, you can always bring the image into Lightroom, use the Brush tool, and Lower the Exposure on the shady side of the image. This should help with the moodiness.

It can be daunting to step in front of your camera for the first time, but I can confidently say this is an excellent way to learn more about photography and how your future subjects might feel the next time you point a camera at them.

Cover image via Benevolente82 & Vitaliy Holovin.

Discover more secrets of portrait photography with these articles:

From Painting to Photography: Choose the Right Background for PortraitsHow to Create Dramatic Portraits with Shadow Photography5 Quick Tricks to Spice Up Your Portrait PhotographyIain Campell’s Inspiring and Inclusive Video PortraitsShooting Portrait Photography That’s Anything but Ordinary

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