Photography Tutorial: How to Set up a Self-Portrait

Learn the basic techniques for taking a self-portrait on your phone or a reflex camera, with Laura Zalenga

Self-portraits have been a fundamental component of self expression throughout history, allowing artists to explore their own external image and internal truths.

While every new smartphone has a front-facing camera you can take a selfie with, a well-taken self-portrait typically requires a little more thought.

Laura Zalenga (@laurazalenga) is a photographer passionate about the art of self-portraits, who has given talks for clients like Adobe, Disney, Sony, and Mercedes Benz.

In this tutorial, she shares three different ways you can set up your own self-portrait photoshoot easily and effectively, depending on what tools you have available.

1. Phone timer

You don’t need a complicated photo kit to be able to take a great self-portrait: a smartphone camera with a self-timer is more than enough.

First, you need to find a support for your phone. If you don’t have a tripod, get creative. In this tutorial, Laura opts for a roll of tape, but a cup or even a shoe could prove just as useful. Make any adjustments you need to ensure the phone is stable.

Once you have placed your phone on or in its support, it may be difficult to access the on-screen button to take the picture. Most phones will have another button on their side (such as the volume buttons) which you can use to trigger the timer.

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2. Camera and remote control

Using a remote control can be a handy way of taking a photo once you are in your desired position and pose. Make sure your camera’s focus is set to where you are going to be placed. To do that, focus your camera on an object that is at the same distance you will be at before you get in position..

You can give yourself time to hide the remote if you do not want it to appear in the shot by using the timer.

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3. Camera and mobile app

This step involves using both your camera and your phone together. Connect your smartphone to your camera. Depending on the app capability, you may be able to set the focus and other settings on your phone.

You may think that the remote is the best option to use but sometimes it can be a distraction: having less control over exactly when the shot is taken may allow you to pose more intuitively.

If you liked this tutorial, you can learn more about how to use photography to express your thoughts and feelings with Laura Zalenga on her online course, The Art of Self-Portraits: Expressing Yourself through Photography.

You may also like:

- Fine Art Self-Portrait Photography, a course by Danny Bittencourt
- Directing People for Portrait Photography, a course by Emilia Brandão
- Introduction to Narrative Photography, a course by Dara Scully

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