How To Take Self-Portraits for Solo Travel, Couples Photographs, & More!

How To Take Self-Portraits

Self-portrait tip 1: settings

First things first – set up a tripod! No tripod? Carefully balance your camera or phone on your backpack. Make sure it’s stable and won’t fall! I’ve even seen someone get super creative and put their phone in a solo cup so it stood upright with the camera facing out.

For your lens, you can play around with what you like best or what effect you are looking for. The most flattering look is a larger zoom – 85mm and up is a particular sweet spot. I often use my 24-70 at 70mm as my go-to if I don’t have an 85 prime. 70-200 and even 100-400 are also great zoom lenses for portraits. Prime lenses make for VERY beautiful self-portraits, especially if you have a very fast lens and you shoot wide-open for a lovely bokeh. Try not to use too wide of a lens, as your face and/or body becomes distorted and appears wider than it appears with a zoom lens.

Lock down your camera or phone on the tripod and set up the scene how you might take a landscape shot (see composition tips below!). Start dialing in your shutter speed, aperture, and ISO, or leave the camera on auto. If you’re using an iPhone, there’s actually a drop down menu in the camera app that will let you acess more settings. On a camera, think about what kind of scene you want. If you want the landscape and you both to be in focus, set the aperture anywhere from f/8 to f/16. If you want yourself to be in focus and the landscape as less of a subject, aim for f/2.8 – f/4. I find f/2.8 makes for a beautiful bokeh BUT it’s very difficult ot nail the focus. F/4 is a good balance of still being able to stay in focus even if you move around a little, but you will still get that nice separation of yourself and the backdrop.

For shutter speed, balance out your aperture but try not to have too slow of a shutter speed, otherwise when you move you will be out of focus. Start with no slower than 1/60s (although I have gone as slow as 1/3s if I hold very still). Finally for ISO, keep it as close to 100 as possible to reduce grain, but depending on your camera you might be able to have a high ISO and be able to edit down the grain later on.

Self-portrait tip 2: composition

Approach your composition with an eye for the entire scene (unless you are doing a close-up self-portrait). Think about where you will stand in the frame and how you will play with the other elements in the scene.⁠ How will you fit in the environment? Will you add scale? Will you draw attention to something in the landscape? Use the same tools you would as with any other shot – think about the rule of thirds, leading lines, etc. The easiest self-portrait setup is putting yourself in the center of the frame, but you don’t always have to go for the obvious! Try placing yourself on the one-third line intersections or elsewhere in the frame.

Play with having yourself standing/sitting in the foreground versus the midground of the scene. I find the best shots have something in the foreground, maybe foliage or a leading line, myself (the subject) in the midground, and an epic backdrop as the background. The more layers in the image, the more interesting and dynamic the shot will be. That being said, focus on still keeping the entire scene simple without too many distracting elements to strengthen the focus on the subject. A final note – keep track of your horizon line and other lines such as trees that might intersect your body in the frame. Avoid things that might appear like they are sticking out of your body or are diving your body into parts.

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Self-portrait tip 3: focus

Getting the focus right when you’re taking self-portraits is easily one of the most difficult challenges. My trick? Use a hat, backpack or other small item that you are already wearing as a placeholder for where you will stand. Walk back to your camera and focus on the item you placed. At this point you can switch your focus from auto focus to manual focus if you want to be sure it won’t change, but I usually just keep it on auto. I would hate to forget it’s on manual focus later and mess up a shot! But that is up to your preference. When you’ve got the focus, all you will do is walk back to where the item is, and stand where it is – if it’s a hat, you just put it on then and there. And tada, you’re in focus!

Self-portrait tip 4: taking the shot

Self-portrait tip 5: posing

As I said in the beginning, I have a separate post just for posing tips – posing is an art form all in itself! I truly believe being “photogenic” is a skill you can improve upon, and it all comes down to lighting and posing. To get yourself started, save a couple of easy pose ideas on your phone for when you get stuck. Keep it simple at first – standing poses are the easiest. If you are feeling stiff or uncomfortable, add motion – it’s a great way to feel less awkward and for an added bonus, the shot often turns out much more dynamic! Twirl, play with your hair, fake walk back and forth – you might feel silly but just take a bunch of shots. There will likely be quite a few you don’t like BUT there will be gems in there too!

When you start to get more comfortable with posing, you can start to develop 3-5 go-to poses that you know will always look good. I will often take 10-20 shots and then walk back to the camera to check on the shots. If I like a pose, I’ll try to re-do it to practice, and I’ll make sure the shots are in focus. Just remember where you were standing!

Self-portrait Final Tips

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RoamFreeRebecca content creator photographer

Hey I’m Rebecca!

I’m a travel & outdoors photographer, blogger, and content greator living in the US but you can find me adventuring around the globe! On this blog I share tips to help you improve your photography, inspiration and advice to explore the outdoors, destination guides, travel tips, and more to plan your own adventures!

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