I have a love & hate relationship with self-portraits for food photography. Sometimes it’s just technically or mentally annoying since I tend to be impatient.
In addition, I usually enjoy being behind the camera. I just don’t have any ideas on how to pose & I get bored easily.
Still, it’s always a good thing to get out of my comfort zone. In addition, it’s a perfect exercise to run back & forth the camera. Not to mention, that sometimes I’m doing an abs workout to get a good position for my photos.
A few years ago I took a photography course at university & my homework was to take self-portraits. After that challenge, I have been more comfortable to take some self-portraits. Since I get so many Instagram DM-s about this topic, then I thought I share a few things I have learned over the years. Still, be aware that this post is from a food photographers point of view.
10 Self-Portraits Tips
1. Tripod is My Friend
I usually tell myself not to be stupid and keep my camera safe. I know that it might be irresistible to put your camera on unreliable platforms when you don’t have a tripod. However, please don’t. I know that a good tripod might be expensive, but you might even end up spending more money when you break your camera (read more about why I use a tripod here).
My first tripod was quite light and shaky & it just didn’t hold my camera as I hoped. After almost breaking my new lens, I decided to get a reliable tripod. Now I can say that I’m SO happy with my Manfrotto tripod & it’s worth it. Thank you for that gift!
2. Autofocus vs Manual: Busy Background?
My biggest challenge with self-portraits has always been to nail the focus. I usually use the self-timer, remote or WIFI that is connected to my phone. When I use WIFi, then I can have my focus on photography rather than running back and forth.
I find it easier to use the autofocus once I’m already on the shot. At least, I found it to be the most comfortable option. I know that some recommend manual focus as well. However, I have played around with it, but I haven’t been happy with the results. The only time I managed to use manual focus was when I had a busy foreground.
3. Don’t forget the basic compositions
Yes, I tend to make that mistake too often. I just stand in the middle which isn’t bad. However, it might get boring after using the same composition for a
I know that making a self-portrait can be quite challenging & that’s why it’s quite easy to forget different composition. That’s why I try to make a little break and think through the composition.
For that reason, I try to use all the basic composition techniques such as golden ratio, rule of odds, triangles & rule of thirds.
You can learn more about these topics on my 21-day food photography challenge eBook that is dedicated to food styling & composition. This eBook is almost like a food photography “workout plan”. No, it doesn’t mean you have to do push-ups or burpees. However, you still might need to climb on the table. We can count it as a work out after eating all that food, right?! 🤣
4. Don’t Be Afraid of Judgments: Experiment
Yes, we all know those keyboard warriors. Yes, some might think that it’s weird to run around alone at home and shoot photos of yourself. Yes, some might think that you are crazy. Yes, everyone has their own opinions. BUT who cares.
In the end, I just like to experiment and evolve as a photographer. It has thought me to be patient. Not to mention, that I have the luxury to experiment with different techniques. In many cases, my clients ask me to add a human element to the images. Yes, even hands or legs tell the story (read more about my 37 styling tips including storytelling cliche here).
5. Set a Time Limit: Tiredness is All Over My Face or Photos
When you have a tendency to get only perfection shots, then please set a time limit. In the end, most of the time the first shots are always the best ones.
I have been spending a lot of time in one portrait. However, I can see on the images that the last images aren’t the best ones. It’s almost like my impatience and tiredness is all over my face.
6. Only One Expression & One Angles? Boring …
Almost every photographer recommends to shoot different angles. Therefore, it’s no different with self-portraits. I know that I make that common mistake as well. Still,
7. Obsessed with Perfection: Usual Photo Face vs Real You?
Usually, people tend to be quite critical with their photos & look. I typically find some details on what I don’t like on my images. However, most people don’t even notice them.
That’s why it’s almost essential not to seek perfection. For that reason, I tell myself not to delete some images I don’t like unless they are technical mistakes.
Sometimes some images might even look better on the camera & your usual “photo face” isn’t the best choice. Therefore, show some photos to your closest people. I have found that they usually tell me which photos are excellent. The thing is that they might see better the real me in there & I might be afraid to see it. That’s why I try to avoid my deleting habit.
8. Self-Timer or Remote? WIFI Saves the Day?
My biggest challenge with self-portraits has always been to nail the focus. When I do some food photography, then the focus part is easier. I use the self-timer & set the focus on the food and run for life to get my hands or legs on the shot.
However, getting your EYES in focus is always a challenge when you do a self-portrait. That’s why I usually use my camera WIFI that is connected to my phone.
No WIFI? Mirror or Flip the Screen?
When I had a camera without WIFI, then I used the remote, live view & a MIRROR. Yes, that might sound crazy! I didn’t have the option to flip my screen as well and I find it easier to use use a mirror.
That’s right! Back in 2017, I tried to pour cashew milk and take self- portraits with a MIRROR. At the same time, I was pressing my TOES on the remote. Say what?! Yes, I might have a serious issue asking for help.
That was quite crazy & time-consuming. Therefore, once I bought the Nikon D750, I was finally able to enjoy the WIFI option. Thank you!
Think About the Lighting: Lights Off + Natural Light?
The easiest option here is to stand next to your window to get some natural light. Above all,
When you use natural light, then always turn off the yellow lights in the room. The only time I leave them on is when I use it to my creative composition.
Manipulate the light: reflector or white paper?
Sometimes I like to place some white paper or a reflector next to me to get some extra light.
You can’t image how much a white paper/ material under your face can do. So, don’t be afraid to experiment with different light sources.
10. Use Your Creative Side: No Passport Photos
Yes, self-portrait doesn’t always have to be your passport image. You can always use your imagination & show different sides of yourself. Think about your favorite food, hobbies or pets. As a result, sometimes little details bring some new interesting point of view. For example, I quite often set my focus on food.
I get it, that some might think it’s not even a self-portriat. Still, there’s a human element & the definition says that self portrait is a portrait that an artist produces of themselves.
In addition, don’t be afraid to ask assistance. Self-portrait doesn’t mean that you have to be alone. For instance, you can even bring some friends or family to your shoot who help you to keep company and hold a light source. For example, for this raspberry image here I had a friend who helped me with this shot.
Therefor, they might make you feel more comfortable & fun. In the end, it all shows on the images when you are frustrated. I know that running back and forth from your camera can be challenging.
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