(C) Isabella Bubola

How To Get Started With Self-Portraits

Self-portraiture is a genre that’s existed for hundreds of years (in painting, graphics, photography etc.). It’s only natural to have the urge to photograph yourself and many photographers have started their careers this way.

But how do you get started?

This might seem like the obvious thing to do, but you really need to create a lot of shoots to see what works best for you. How does your chin look if you turn your head on the left? Now how about if you turn it on the right, or look at the sky? It’s important to be conscious of your movements and that just needs a lot of practice. We all have faces and bodies of a different shape and finding out what accentuates the best of us requires some time.

emotive self portrait in mirror lips
No one’s watching while you’re doing self-portrait photos, and that means you can completely relax!

Learn from Narcissus! Observe how your facial expressions change in the mirror, grimace, pout your lips, act mean, fierce, sweet. Get in front of a whole-body mirror and watch closely the space your create between your arms and your upper body if you place them on your hips. How does that look? What if you put emphasis on one shoulder? We all have angles and poses that don’t really suit us, but you need to be aware of them as much as you need to be aware of the ones that do suit you.

Self-portraiture can be a lot of fun! First of all, you’re photographing yourself, so you can feel completely relaxed. Second, you can shoot whenever! It only depends on your preferences and how much free time you’ve got. Make use of accessories and makeup, transform yourself into different characters or try to extract a range of emotions. Lighting plays a huge role in photography, so shooting in the golden hour won’t have the same effect as shooting during a cloudy day; it’s all part of the fun. If you don’t like a photo – delete it. Try again. And again. And again.

emotive self portrait through the window
I always get asked about how I pose so well in my self-portraits. Truth is that it all just comes down to shooting a lot and learning what poses look best. Sometimes I know something won’t look right even before I take a look at the photo because I’ve shot so many self-portraits in the last couple of years and I have gradually learnt what poses suit me best.

Your first try could turn out amazing. Or not. Trial and error is an integral part of learning, and the only way to truly master something is to keep doing it. Many photographers have started 365 projects because it pushes them to create. I personally have good days and bad days, inspirational ones and totally dull ones, so I stick to my feelings and intuition. Whatever suits your needs, as long as you do it!

backlight self portrait
I shot this photo in summer 2014. at the beach, but when I came home I disliked the whole set. It was only a month or two after that I opened that folder again and thought: ”This one isn’t so bad”. It turned out that many people loved it too!

After the shoot, let your photos rest for a few days. Store them in a folder and don’t look at them. Then come back and try to really think about what you like and don’t like about them. Be critical, but don’t underestimate yourself. How’s the light? What about the pose? Clothing? Figuring out what you (dis)like about the photos will help you a lot next time you go shooting.
And most importantly – have fun!

Do you shoot any self-portraits? Or would you like to start?

photographer self portrait with cameraAbout the author
Hi! I’m Isabella and I’m a photographer, blogger and applied arts graduate. I love spending my time creatively, or watching movies, drinking tea, playing with my cats and hanging out with friends.
Find me here isabellabubola.com or on Facebook and say hello!


4 thoughts on “How To Get Started With Self-Portraits

  1. Hello Isabella! I’ve just discovered your work and I’m in love with it!!

    I’m a brazilian photographer and I do self-portraits. Sometimes it’s just like you said: we don’t like it. But then, when we give it a second chance it works.

    I started doing self-portraits 2 years ago, at a portrait course. There was a class all about self-portrait and then I fell in love with it. I found in it a way to see myself from another perspective. All my youth I was always feeling bad about my body, my face, my shape. Always thought everyone else was better and prettier than I was. In fact, a lot of people have this kind of issue, right?! With the self-portraits I learn that I was nice the way I am, with all my imperfections.
    And then I started a project, called Sui Amoris (from Latin, it means self love), where I want to show the beauty of real women and their particular universes.

    I just love so much to discover other self-portrait photographers, and today it was you.
    You have inspired my day, today! Thank you so much!

    If you would like to see a little bit of the Sui Amoris project, here is the link:


    thank you so much for reading this and share your knowledge and experiences.




    1. Hi Andressa! 🙂

      Thank you very much for your comment and link to your project. I think it’s SO important to feel good in your body and appreciate it. Self portraits have proved time and time again how healing they can be in accepting yourself and I’m glad a portrait course made you more sure of yourself and gave you a push to start a project like this. Btw, I love the top photo on your project page, the black and white one! It really speaks to me.

      I’m rooting for your project to keep developing! Take care and all the best xx,


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