Have you ever asked any random walker to take a picture of you handing your camera to this person? This situation is especially common when you are exploring new travel destinations. Even if you are not traveling alone and accompanied by a spouse or girlfriend (boyfriend) but want to be captured in a picture together, you need somebody else’s help. Do you recall how many terrible photos have you received from all these strangers? Pics that were poorly composed, out of focus, blurry, etc. Have you ever regretted those missed photo opportunities? Especially when you traveled to some unique place that you will not be able to visit again anytime soon? Oh… I experienced this situation many times.Have you ever thought you can take much better photos yourself without any help from other people? Yes, you can take high quality self-portraits that you will enjoy all your life. Technically correct photos with proper composition, focusing and exposure. And you do not need any special expensive equipment. Your current DSLR with a kit lens (18-55, 18-105, 18-135 or 28-135, etc.), mirrorless camera or even point-and-shoot camera will work well. You just need some basic tripod ($20 tripod from Walmart or Target will be good enough) and ideally (but not necessary) infrared remote control for your camera (if available). And of course you will need some practice.
How to take self-portraits? This article is not about cheap bathroom selfies or primitive cell phone pics. The photos you can take using the described techniques will be at a much higher level. Yes, you can achieve almost professional quality, depending on your experience, equipment and time spent. You will not be time limited and can spend a lot of time on every shot by polishing it. Probably you have already guessed that first you will need to mount your camera on a tripod. Then find a shooting position, adjust height of a tripod, focal distance, ISO, aperture and shutter speed to get correct exposure, focus the lens (either at infinity or at the reference object that will be very close to you, for example branch of a tree) and finally set either timer-delayed or remotely triggered shutter release.I would recommend starting your self-portrait practice with 18 mm or similar focal distance and F8 aperture using a DSLR with cropped sensor camera (DX), most commonly used type of DSLR camera (or 11 mm and F8 on mirrorless camera). On full frame (FX) camera the corresponding focal distance will be 27-28 mm. At wide angle and narrow aperture you will have most everything in focus, so there is a high chance of a good shot from the beginning. This will work best for individual self-portraits. For a couple portraits it is much easier to play with a low depth of field because you will have your partner standing in a fixed position in front of a camera and you can focus on his/her eyes at F4 or even lower, and then step in the frame. This way you can get both persons in focus and blurry background. If you do not want blurry background and prefer a wide depth of field (everything sharp), simply take all self-portraits at F8-10. For individual self-portraits especially if you want to achieve narrow depth of field (blurry background), try to focus on something to stand in your place at the same distance. For example, you can use second tripod as a control object. Focus on this object in manual focus mode, then remove the control object and stand exactly in the same place to capture the photo. I would recommend shooting in aperture priority mode. But do not forget about correct ISO and make sure your shutter speed is fast enough (1/100, 1/125, 1/160 or shorter) to minimize negative impact of people motion on the photos (motion blurring). With a point-and-shoot camera use simple auto mode. Shoot in both JPG+RAW formats so you can use JPG files for quick uploads to social networks and RAW files for some advanced editing later. Remote control is a best way of triggering the shutter release because you will not have to run back and forth between camera and shooting position: just stand in front of a camera, relax, smile and press shutter activation button. Another option that can also be used efficiently is timer-delayed release, a standard default feature on most DSLRs, mirrorless and point-and-shoot cameras. However with a timer-delayed release it is trickier to get the best composition and face expression since you will always have to move around all the time. So you will need more time to polish your shots if you want really good results.
What are the limitations of the self-portrait techniques? There are virtually no limitations, only your creativity and experience. I have heard the story about the travelling newlywed couple who took wedding pictures using this method and their photos turned out beautiful. They were exploring a new country and obviously it was difficult for them to find professional photographer there. But a tripod, some skills and patience helped them to replace real photographer and brought decent results.Visit this page to see some wonderful examples of creative self-portraits: http://digital-photography-school.com/18-stunning-self-portraits/ These stunning photos are truly inspiring. You also can create an awesome captures like these by releasing your inner creativity.