5 Ways To Improve Your Photography Through Self Portraits

I decided to join in A Beautiful Mess’ photo challenge, which involved 30 days of self portraits. Kind of awkward, I’ve never been a big fan of self-portraits or taking my own photo. There’s something incredibly…vain and self-absorbed involved in taking selfies. Especially every day and especially publishing them…or, so I thought.

Initially, I was a bit worried that I’d come across as weird and that my instagram friends would lose interest, but I persevered. The ladies at ABM had assured everyone that taking self-portraits was a great way to improve photography, and who am I to turn down a free photography lesson?!

I used my iPad and, eventually, my android phone to take the pictures and what was, initially, a really awkward challenge, eventually blossomed into a really exciting project. The Canadian even started asking if I’d ‘taken my photo’ for the day and whether he could see it (I think it’s because he was excited, but deep down I think it’s because it bemused him).

Here’s what I learnt:

1. Everyone has bad face/hair/body/[insert whatever thing you hate] days. 
The best thing about taking selfies was discovering that I had so much to share without having to really be in the picture. This is my favourite picture, taken the day I woke up, unwell and stayed in my pyjamas all day. It was an indulgent day but it was the first time I truly appreciated how great a knee would be for a photograph, and not just any knee but MY knee!

lessons from self portrait challenge

2. Selfies allow for camera play with a subject that’s always available
I love taking photographs. For me, it’s a pretty intense hobby. I take a lot of still life and landscape photographs, not because I hate people but because I don’t get to practice taking pictures of people all that often. The Canadian is not a reliable model and there’s only so many pictures you can take of a cat. Taking part in the self-portrait photo challenge allowed me to make mistakes, try new things and experiment with lighting. They didn’t all turn out great but it was fun.
3. Developing story telling
When I started the self-portrait challenge, I just took pictures of me. That’s it. As the time went on, I realised that just taking a picture of me wasn’t satisfying. My first pictures were taken during mini time outs during the day, but I wanted more. I didn’t want ‘time out’ pictures, I wanted pictures that encapsulated my day, and thus developing a way of telling a story started. Finding ways to include meaning, background and memory in the pictures became my main goal.
4.It doesn’t have to include just you
I tried to keep the photos limited. I wanted to be the only one in them. I mean, it’s called a selfie for a reason. But the more I tried this, the less I liked it. If anyone had to sum up my life in one photo it wouldn’t just be me, there would be others (at least one other) and many cats. So, I stopped trying to limit it and just accepted the presence of other people. Have you ever tried taking a selfie with you and a cat? Now that’s a challenge that would improve photography skills!
5. Be Brave
Take a picture of yourself after you just wake up. Or a picture of yourself with no make up. For me, these are the bravest photographs. Just do it! Two of my photographs are without make up and one involves some serious bed head. These are my favourite selfies from the entire project. I loved having the courage to take them and I loved how much they made me giggle trying to take them. I felt good and I wanted to capture that memory regardless of how I looked. It can be incredibly liberating to take pictures of yourself that under any other circumstances you wouldn’t take.
What are your tips for successful self portraits? What do you do to get over the embarrassment of holding a camera out in front of you?
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5 ways to improve photography without a fancy camera without a DSLR

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