Optics Mag is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Read more.

23 Self Portrait Photography Ideas to Get You Inspired

Last Updated on

female photographer in the studio

Something beautiful happens when the photographer and subject become the same person. Self-portraiture is a great opportunity for any artist to showcase their talent in a way that has no boundaries and allows space for experimentation and creative expression. You can reinvent yourself or express your multi-faceted persona through the process of self-portraiture.

As a photographer, you get to direct the process without trying to translate your vision to a model and play with lighting and composition. It is an excellent opportunity to improve your skills and have fun with new techniques. 

If the thought of a self-portrait makes you cringe, we put some ideas together to get you inspired. Let’s have a look.

shutter camera divider 2

The 25 Self-Portrait Photography Ideas Are:

1. Creative Distortion


A simple prop like a glass full of water can bend light, producing a self-portrait that creatively distorts the face. You can showcase this refractive effect with various glasses with texture to create surrealist self-portraits.

2. Play With Shadows

self portrait shadows
Image Credit: ractapopulous, Pixabay

Shadow play with self-portraits can be fun and effective, especially with natural objects like leaves and plants. You can find a branch that has interestingly shaped leaves and hold them into the direct sunlight so they cast a shadow over your face. Play with different placements and facial expressions to get creative.

3. Textural Shadows


Using everyday items with exciting textures can help you create a unique and expressive self-portrait. You can use a blanket that casts a shadow by placing it under sunlight or bright indoor lighting.

Position it so that the light comes in from an angle, creating contrast with shadows, and the textural shadows will fall over the face or arms. It’s a simple and effective idea that doesn’t require fancy backgrounds.

4. Have Fun With Angles


Self-portraits don’t need to be at face level. You can create an exciting and dynamic portrait by playing with different angles and unique body poses. Go outside and angle your camera from below the waist to shoot the sky in the background, creating a fun composition and a unique visual structure.

5. Get Reflective

young woman photo with reflection
Image Credit: N-Y-C_Pixabay

Mirrors are helpful tools for creating an intriguing self-portrait. Move away from the common and overdone mirror selfie and showcase your creativity by playing with unique reflections. This idea is compelling, moody, and simple to achieve. You can experiment with lighting and composition to create something unique and fascinating.

6. Shoot Through Things


Get inspired by your surroundings by shooting through something as simple as an old fence. The fence will cast patterned shadows on your face, and by making your face the focal point, you will create an effective blur in the foreground.

8. Get Into Nature

woman with flowers in the background
Image Credit: AdinaVoicu, Pixabay

Shooting outside can provide a plethora of creative scenes and produce a more candid portrait. Use the natural light and botanical colors to your advantage. A burst of color can provide a beautiful contrast and gorgeous background for your self-portrait.

9. Use Light Tricks

light tricks in photography
Image Credit: REFLEX_PRODUCTION, Pixabay

Use simple lighting tricks to create something fun and captivating. Set up your scene in low lighting for a dramatic and low-key portrait. Create a narrow beam of light that will paint a portion of your face by controlling the light source. One way to do this is to use a poster board with a slit cut into it with the light positioned behind it. This trick of light creates a moody effect.

10. Use Candlelight

young man looking at a candle
Image Credit: brenkee, Pixabay

Candles can create a warm and isolated area of light to create an atmospheric portrait. Low lighting and a large aperture will catch the candle’s light, and you can get creative with choosing the position of the flame.

11. Creative Mirror Selfie

woman taking a mirror selfie
Image Credit: Dannypro_, Pixabay

The classic mirror selfie can be a compelling self-portrait when you put a unique spin on it. Playing with reflections, angles, and locations can enhance your photos. Think about the background of the mirror and what it will reflect and use that to create a great mirror selfie. Change your angle from eye level to looking down into the mirror for an interesting visual.

12. Silhouettes

silhouette of a woman wearing a hat
Image Credit: thatsphotography, Pixabay

A self-portrait doesn’t always have to be a detailed image. Creating a silhouette is effective for black and white photography and creates a mysterious and intriguing image. You can get even more creative with props like a textured window for a more distorted and blurred photo.

13. Focus on the Eyes

woman with beautiful eyes
Image Credit: StockSnap, Pixabay

They say eyes are the window to the soul, so why not make them the focal point of your self-portrait. There are many ways you can get creative in showcasing your eyes in your image, and lighting is one of them. Use fairy lights for a moody effect and to provide warm light over your face. Blur them in the foreground so that the eyes are sharp and detailed and are the main point of focus.

14. Use Patterned Shadows


Using shadows creatively is a great way to create a unique self-portrait. A lace cloth provides intricate and detailed shapes for an interesting image. By standing under direct sunlight draped with a lace cloth, the skin is patterned with detailed shadows, creating contrast and texture with a unique touch to your image.

15. Experiment with Motion Blur

motion blur portrait
Image Credit: Pexels, Pixabay

Motion blur is a fun element to add to your self-portrait. This is achieved by leaving a trail when an object moves. You can play with different shutter speeds, depending on the amount of blur you want to achieve.

16. Ditch the Color

black and white portrait of a woman
Image Credit: chriscarroll071158, Pixabay

Black and white images are timeless and provide a dramatic visual to your self-portrait. The striking contrast portrays a nostalgic feeling to remind us of how color didn’t exist in the first years of photography. By opting for a black and white image, there is no distraction of color, and the focus is on the subject, the textures, and the composition.

17. Go Under Water

woman underwater
Image Credit: jeniffermilburn, Pixabay

This is a more complicated technique but an excellent self-portrait idea for photography enthusiasts who can pull it off. It requires some planning, skill, and practice but is extremely rewarding. You may need specialized equipment or a phone that can be submerged in water, but underwater portraits can make rare and exciting images.

18. Use Color Gels


Color gels offer a unique and creative effect to your self-portrait. They are color filters that you can attach to an off-camera flash or strobe light to create a colorful effect. They produce a dramatic visual to your image that you can customize to create a certain mood and are a great option to level up your creativity.

19. Play With Prisms


Add a playful element of color to your portrait by playing with prisms. A glass prism is used to bend light which creates a colorful flare. A kaleidoscope of color reflected onto the face creates a dreamy and creative effect on your self-portrait and is a fun way to play with light.

20. Don’t Be Afraid of Emotions

self portrait of a woman crying
Image Credit: Victoria_Regen, Pixabay

Vulnerability in your self-portraits can be therapeutic and empowering to you and anyone who may come across it. It can tell a story through imagery and is a refreshing change from the perfect smile you see in most selfies. It allows and inspires the need to express and capture emotions while creating a powerful and compelling image.

21. Play With Perspective


Create an illusion for an interesting and captivating image. Playing with perspective by uniquely positioning yourself and your camera will change how the viewer perceives your image.

22. Use Double Exposure


Tell a story by playing with double exposure. This can be achieved by layering two different exposures onto a single image with an editing program or setting your camera to multiple exposure mode. You can produce an image that is surreal, emotional, or even humorous. Either way, it will be unique and intriguing.

23. Use Bokeh


Bokeh is a great aesthetic to add to your self-portrait. It is visually appealing and can add a dreamy effect to your image. It is a popular technique used in photography today, and you can experiment by shifting the location of the blur in your portrait.

shutter camera divider 2 Final Thoughts

Creating a remarkable self-portrait involves vital elements such as location, lighting, composition, emotion, and technical settings, but it is a personal process that is not bound by rules.

As a photographer, getting out of your comfort zone and not hiding behind the lens is essential. You will broaden your knowledge, skills, and ideas by being your own subject and gaining more confidence in yourself and your work.

We hope these ideas have fed your inspiration and confidence to blend roles and get in front of the camera.

Featured Image Credit: Szabo Viktor, Unsplash

About the Author Robert Sparks

Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.