How to take better self-portraits in isolation

How to take better self-portraits in isolation

I’d like to share with you a few easy steps on how to take better self-portraits.

Miss documenting your daily life on your camera roll? Interesting meals and places, friends and coffees? Being in isolation has put an end to all that, but not necessarily to the desire to document what’s happening.

I had a breakthrough. On the 31st of March 2020, I managed to overcome my loathing for photos of myself when I posted some self-portraits on Instagram. I did my makeup that day and felt like sharing it. Since then I’ve endeavoured to do some more creative self-portrait shoots. I’d like to share what I’ve learned in the process. Here are my tips on how to take better self-portraits.

How to shoot

The above self-portrait was taken using my phone’s front camera (the selfie cam), my phone’s timer and a tripod. I bought a holder for my phone that attaches to my tripod a while ago and it has been a great help for TikToks. The self-portrait below is an example of a photo I took using my camera (Canon 5D Markii with a 50mm lens), my tripod and a remote timer. I think both photos work, showing that you can take self-portraits using your phone.

Good lighting

Good lighting is your best friend. You have two options if you want a bright self-portrait: Shoot in the direct sun or in a well-lit shady spot.

Shooting in direct sun means you’ll get bright, beautiful and well-lit shots, but try to take these in the early morning or late afternoon to avoid the harsh midday sun. If you shoot with the light behind your camera your whole face will be well lit (like the first shot above). If you shoot with the light coming from one side, the other side of your face could be in the shade. This could give lovely high contrast images (like the example below where half of the face is in the shade). Otherwise, bring a piece of white paper or cardboard close to the dark side of your face to bounce or reflect the sunlight onto the shadier side to even out the lighting.

The second alternative is to find a spot in your house (or garden if you’re lucky enough) where it’s shady and bright. Shooting out of direct sun means there will be even lighting on your face and it’s much easier to shoot like this. The self-portraits below were shot like this (I still used a light bounce to reflect more light on the darker side of my face).


Here Pinterest and Instagram can be super useful for inspo. Also, practice a bit with a mirror to see what you like (it’s okay to laugh at yourself too). My tactic has been to put on some music and to flirt with the camera, it’s been lots of fun. Not a Friday night at the club, but we’ll take what we can get. Think of making interesting shapes for a striking composition – like framing your face with your hands or arms.


Did a little self portrait shoot at my house to test out my new flash πŸ™Œ What do you think? ##photographer ##photography ##pinkhairdontcare

♬ did a full 180 but its chill lofi – llusionmusic


On mobile, my favourite editing apps are VSCO and Lightroom. They are mostly free and user-friendly. On Desktop I use Lightroom Classic and over the years I’ve bought presets from Christine Meintjies, The Blonde Abroad, Jaci Marie and HB Goodie that I’ve adjusted and adapted to suit my style. My recommendation is not to over-edit your pictures. Enhance a bit but stay clear of upping the contrast, saturation or clarity too much.

Be creative

Once you’ve got the hang of it, experiment with different ideas like crazy makeup or interesting photo techniques. Anything goes really as long as you’re having fun. I stuck flowers on my face for one shoot and did a shoot with a super low shutter speed another time. Experiment with lighting and composition. If you don’t like it, don’t give up. Try something else.


A lil flower inspired photoshoot to keep sane in the lockdown πŸŒΈπŸ’•πŸ“Έ ##photoshoot ##flower ##selfportrait ##photography ##pink ##tiktoksouthafrica

♬ Juicy – Doja Cat


We’re all going to die someday. Share your work. Share, share, share. Ask for feedback and remember: Those who matter won’t mind and those that mind don’t matter.

Enjoy the moment

Aim to enjoy the whole process as well as the end results. Expressing yourself can be super liberating and in a time of crisis. Creative work offers comfort when it feels like the whole world might be falling apart.

If you’ve recently taken any self-portraits please share a link below I’d love to check it out.

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