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Photography

100 Seriously Cool Self-Portraits (And Tips to Shoot Your Own!)

This post is part of a series called Portraits.
How To Achieve the Perfect Portrait Pose
10 Ways to Shoot Stunning Portraits With Only One Light

The self-portrait has been a popular form of expression ever since man first saw his own reflection. Much like Narcissus, it's often the case that we need not look beyond the tip of our own nose for a muse worth studying.

Today we'll walk you through some simple steps for taking your first self-portrait, followed by a huge collection of inspiration from photographers who have gone before you. Let's get started!


How To Take a Self-Portrait

I recently ordered a product for my camera that I couldn't wait to try out. Unfortunately, when it came in the mail, there was no one around to use as a good subject. Not to be stopped so easily, I decided to simply use myself as the subject.

I wanted to take a portrait with a shallow depth of field and very little detail in the background, so I grabbed my tripod and stood in the very center of my yard, away from trees buildings or any other substantial object. I setup the camera, looked through the viewfinder, and immediately realized this wasn't going to be as easy as I thought.

Below you'll find some helpful tips that I had to learn the hard way.


1. Bring Something to Focus On

The problem that I saw when I looked through my viewfinder was that I didn't have anything to focus on aside from the items in the far distance. This of course would make for a perfectly blurry photo of me, which isn't at all what I wanted.

One easy solution to this problem is to bring something to stand in your place. Height doesn't matter so much as distance, but try to match it to yourself as best as you can for accuracy. If you have an extra tripod or light stand, these make perfect substitutes that will stand upright exactly where you need them. I was out in my yard so I grabbed a shovel from my shed, stuck it in the ground, focused and then moved the shovel. Rudimentary, but it worked perfectly.


2. Try Standing By a Corner

As an alternative to standing in the middle of nowhere, you might want to actually use a building or wall in your shot. In this circumstance your first instinct is to focus on the wall, but that might not work too well depending on your depth-of-field.

One trick that I discovered is to stand next to the end of a wall or at a corner. This way you can position yourself even with the wall and achieve a solid focus. So if you focus on the wall, then stand next to rather than in front of it, your focus should be much better.


3. Use Both Auto and Manual Focus

A good practice to get into when you're taking self-portraits is to use a mix of auto and manual focus. First, focus on your stand-in object using auto focus. Then, with the object still in focus, switch your lens to manual focus.

This will give you the freedom to tweak settings, re-meter for changing light and anything else you need to all without screwing up your established point of focus. Just make sure you stand perfectly on your mark each time you take a photo.


4. Set the Timer High and Use Burst Mode

Obviously, you don't want to have to haul all out and run into the frame just as your camera takes the image. Give yourself plenty of time to get in position and figure out what you're doing. Most cameras let you vary the length of the timer, check your manual for how to set yours.

In conjunction with the timer, you can usually set your camera to take multiple photos in succession. Even if all you need is one photo, it's not a bad idea to have your camera snap five or ten so you can vary your pose/expression. This will give you much more variety when it comes time to choose the image. Just make sure you have your settings perfect before turning burst on, otherwise you'll have a card full of unusable shots.


5. Capture You

My last tip is to use the images below only loosely as inspiration. A self-portrait should be a very personal expression, not simply a mirror of something you've seen elsewhere. Think about who you want to be and how you want to say that. Use props, scenery, pose and lighting conditions to convey your personality. And most of all, have fun!

6. Apply Minimal Effects

With effects, it's best not to overdo it. But the right effect, applied minimally can transform your photo. If you’re looking for a quick way to professionally enhance your self-portraits, then browse through our high quality Photoshop Photo Effects. Get stared with Pro Photoshop Actions Bundle or the Premium PS Actions Set. Both include a variety of action effects to work with.


100 Seriously Cool Self-Portraits

It's easy to dismiss self portraits when all you see are selfies on Instagram and Snapchat but they've long been a rite of passage for artists. Everyone from Van Gogh to Ansel Adams have done them!

Self-portraits are a great way to express yourself. You are the model that's always around. Don't reject them out of hand; look through this list and get inspired.

monkey selfie
Monkey Selfie via Pixabay. Public Domain.
underwater self portrait
Underwater Self Portrait via Unsplash, Public Domain.
barber self portrait
Self-Portrait Shaving via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
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Self Portrait - Everyday Mirror via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
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Self portrait XXXVII_MMVIII via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
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Self-Portrait via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
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Self Portrait I via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
pattern  self portrait
Self Portrait Challenge: Pattern via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
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All of these Emotions of Mine - Chiaroscuro Self Portrait via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
 self portrait
Self-Portrait - 1st Attempt via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
 self portrait
190/365 - 90LoveYou via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
 self portrait
In the Weeds via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
 self portrait
It's raining again... via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
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Megan Leetz via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
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Entrando a las puertas del inframundo via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
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After Dark v2 *EXPLORED* via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
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L♥ve via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
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Self Portrait Series #2, 'Contemplation of'. via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
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Self Portrait via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
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Self-portrait #3 via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
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Self 2 via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
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Self portrait via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
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Self Portraits via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
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Self portrait – Got juice? via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
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Selce :: Self-portrait via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
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Negativexpositive via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
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A long hot summer via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
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Self-Portrait via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
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Self portrait - All about the Sandy's via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
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Selfobsession via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
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Self Portrait via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
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Self portrait via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
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Arnold Manillier via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
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Self Portrait with Flowers via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
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Self-Portrait in Blue via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
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Self Portrait #6 via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
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Self portrait at Old LA Zoo via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
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self portrait Napoli 2016 via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
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Change via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
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self via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
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Self Portrait via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
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Self portrait (ii) via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
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Self via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
 self portrait
Star Gazing via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
 self portrait
Self Portrait 1 via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
 self portrait
Self portrait - Conditional loverboy via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
 self portrait
Infinite Loop - Self Portrait via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
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Self-Portrait D via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
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self portrait number 1 via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
 self portrait
Self Portraits via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
 self portrait
hobo (self portrait) via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
 self portrait
me-ow via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
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Self portrait - Who's carving who? via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
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Self portrait – Self-obsession done right via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
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Self-portrait... via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
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Self portrait via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
 self portrait
self-portrait via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
 self portrait
Self Portrait at Dawn via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
 self portrait
Day 165: 2 Self Portraits via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
 self portrait
empty words via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
 self portrait
Self-Portrait via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
 self portrait
Self Portrait via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
 self portrait
John Tyler via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
 self portrait
self portrait via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
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Day 96: Free Falling - Explored via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
 self portrait
self portrait via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
 self portrait
Hotlanta Voyeur via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
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Self-Portrait 3/12 via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
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Self Portrait via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
 self portrait
Self Portrait via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
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Self-portrait with new camera via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
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Self Portrait # 2 via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
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Adam via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
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Inspiration Week (2/7) via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
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Self portrait via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
 self portrait
Looking Up via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
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self-portrait via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
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self portrait via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
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Self portrait with SB700 speedlight and D90 via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
 self portrait
ghostly self portrait via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
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Self portrait - Me first, safety last via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
 self portrait
Auto portrait - guitare via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
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Another Self Portrait via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
 self portrait
First Self Portrait of the Year via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
 self portrait
Bradshaw via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
 self portrait
Self portrait by the sunset via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
 self portrait
Self Portrait via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
 self portrait
Samantha via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
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Self Portrait via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
 self portrait
Selfie via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
 self portrait
eflon via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
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self portrait via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
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Self-Portrait #5 via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
 self portrait
Self portrait via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
 self portrait
Series of Self-Portraits via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
 self portrait
Me via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
 self portrait
FACADE 7 via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
 self portrait
self portrait 53 via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.
 self portrait
Self-portrait III via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.

Your Turn


I hope this post has inspired you to engage in some introspective photographic experiments. Turn that camera around and spend some time exploring who you are from the other side of the lens. You might just have a blast and learn a thing or two about yourself in the process!

Leave a comment below with links to some self-portraits you've done. We're constantly amazed by the creativity and talent of our readers and can't wait to see what you come up with!


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