How To Take Selfies: A Guide For Beginners

If somebody had told me three or so years ago, that I would have an extensive collection of self-portraits and I would be writing a tutorial on how to take your own, I’d have probably laughed at them. But life works in mysterious ways, and it appears that the first ever selfie I took of myself was on 29th March 2010 at 9:37am. I would have never done it, if it wasn’t for my 365 project: a free website, where you post a photo a day to document your life/creative process.

Selfies require you to be a little brave. To point the camera at yourself and let it document all your little imperfections up close. If you don’t like what you see in the viewfinder, you are the only one to blame. I was not ready for that back then. But, as with everything else, you have to start slow and take baby steps.

My first ever selfie and the story behind it:  "Tresspassing for Daffodils" I trespassed to get these. Yes, I did. Spring was here, the weather was warm, but I was lacking some spring flowers. So I went out and got them! :-) See the full story here: http://matadorlife.com/this-is-my-day-trespassing-for-daffodils/

My first ever selfie and the story behind it:
“Tresspassing for Daffodils”
I trespassed to get these. Yes, I did. Spring was here, the weather was warm, but I was lacking some spring flowers. So I went out and got them! 🙂
Read the full story here.

You don’t have to have a special camera/equipment to take a self-portrait. You can do it with your phone, a point-and-shoot camera, your DSLR. What’s the most important thing is for you to be in the photo.

In less that three weeks after my first selfie, I was ready to show my face to the 365 world. I figured I had nothing to lose.

In less that three weeks after my first selfie, I was ready to show my face to the 365 world. Many of my faces, to be exact. I figured I had nothing to lose.

So, once you have your photo-taking device and you have battled with the fear of being in front of the camera, it’s a matter of how. You can hand-hold the device (like my first selfies above), sit it on a firm surface, or mount it on a tripod. If somebody else is holding it, it does not count. It has to be just the camera and you. That’s how selfies are made.

Hand-held selfie by the window. This photo was going to go in the trash, but I went for a different crop and selective coloring and got something usable in the end.

Hand-held selfie by the window. This photo was going to go in the trash, but I went for a different crop and selective coloring and got something usable in the end.

Morning light and camera on the floor: too good of an opportunity to pass up. Even my cat knew that.

Morning light and camera on the floor: too good of an opportunity to pass up. Even my cat knew that.

For a good selfie, like for a good anything else, you must be in the mood. Maybe you see something, and it inspires you. Maybe you read a book and a visual image floats into your mind. Maybe you hear a song and it stirs your soul. Selfies are a statement, and outward expression of an inward emotional excess, a record of a fleeting feeling, a spur-of-the-moment image of you at the here and now.

The Great Escape Some days you just feel like breaking free... “I am an excitable person who only understands life lyrically, musically, in whom feelings are much stronger as reason. I am so thirsty for the marvelous that only the marvelous has power over me. Anything I can not transform into something marvelous, I let go. Reality doesn't impress me. I only believe in intoxication, in ecstasy, and when ordinary life shackles me, I escape, one way or another. No more walls.”  Anais Nin

The Great Escape (tripod and wireless remote selfie)
Some days you just feel like breaking free…
“I am an excitable person who only understands life lyrically, musically, in whom feelings are much stronger as reason. I am so thirsty for the marvelous that only the marvelous has power over me. Anything I can not transform into something marvelous, I let go. Reality doesn’t impress me. I only believe in intoxication, in ecstasy, and when ordinary life shackles me, I escape, one way or another. No more walls.”
Anais Nin

Yet, most of the time good selfies are equal to good light. You see the light, and it beckons you. You grab the camera, hold it as far as you can, while trying not to lose you grip, strike a pose, focus, click. And again, and again, and again. Until you get a couple of photos with you in them, hoping that when you upload them on the computer at least one will be worth posting with a decent amount of editing.

Apprehensive “Apprehension, uncertainty, waiting, expectation, fear of surprise, do a patient more harm than any exertion” Florence Nightingale “The mere apprehension of a coming evil has put many into a situation of the utmost danger” Lucan

Apprehensive (hand-held selfie created by use of natural light)
“Apprehension, uncertainty, waiting, expectation, fear of surprise, do a patient more harm than any exertion”
Florence Nightingale
“The mere apprehension of a coming evil has put many into a situation of the utmost danger”
Lucan

Reflection selfies are great for beginners. No tripod needed. They happen in windows, mirrors, hotel bathrooms, and other shiny surfaces that catch your eye. The camera/device can cover all or parts of your face, depending for the effect you are going for. You can have other reflections add to the effect. Everything is possible. It’s your selfie. Your rules.

Bathroom selfie.

Bathroom selfie.

Hotel mirror selfie.

Hotel mirror selfie.

Bath tub selfie. Genie in a Bottle, I called it ;-)

Bath tub selfie. Genie in a Bottle, I called it 😉

how-to-take-selfies

Cruise ship ceiling mirror selfie. When the peoeple around me saw I was taking a photo, they moved away. I am so glad I got my shot before that.

Sitting the camera on the floor also works, but it’s a workout. If you don’t have a wireless remote, you can set your camera timer which will give you some seconds to press the shutter, throw yourself on the floor, spread your limbs in different directions, and strike a pose hopefully before the photo is being taken. Then, you spring up, take a quick look, the results are usually tragic, and you do it again. This little exercise continues until you get a somewhat satisfying result, or your body hurts so bad that you are happy with the outcome no matter what. In either case, you are extremely grateful that there’s nobody around to witness your ungraceful camera-floor-floor-camera mad dash.

How-To-Take-Selfies

This image might seem somewhat sensual and romantic, but now that you know all that goes on behind the scenes it’s not longer so evocative. Let me finish ruining it for you. This is our hallway floor. The photo was taken at around 12am, and the only light available was provided by the hallway light fixture. Camera was on the floor, remote hiding in my left hand. Inspiration: Moby’s “Dream About Me”. It took about 25 photos to get this shot (I was too sleepy and could not continue the camera-floor-floor-camera game too much longer). Now you know. 🙂

Once you overcome the initial fear and you begin enjoying taking reflection and hand-held selfies, you become like an addict. You see an opportunity, make sure nobody is watching, look around once more and then hurriedly snap the photo. If you do it too fast, it’s blurry. You are brave now, you do it again. But then, as with any addiction, if you do it long enough, it’s not enough. You need something more. A challenge to keep the adrenalin rush going. That’s when you invest in a sturdy tripod (you can pick one up virtually anywhere), and a wireless remote.

Tools of the trade. They give you the freedom you need to take your selfies to a whole new level, exposing more of yourself.

Tools of the trade. They give you the freedom you need to take your selfies to a whole new level, exposing more of yourself and what’s around you.

How-To-Take-Selfies

How to:
1. Camera mounted on a tripod
2. Camera set on remote control setting
3. Remote in right hand
Girl points remote at camera, camera focuses, girl has some seconds to strike a pose, camera takes photo, girl hopes photo is good. Process is being repeated, just in case. Until somewhat of a satisfaction is achieved.

The beauty of the tripod/remote/timer set up is that if you are having a bad hair day or you missed your beauty sleep to write a blog post, you can only take a selfie of parts of your body excluding your head.

The beauty of the tripod/remote/timer set up is that if you are having a bad hair day or you missed your beauty sleep to write a blog post until after midnight, you can take a photo of only parts of your body excluding your head.

black and white selfie

One thing to have in mind, is to keep the remote hidden. Obvious, yet sometimes hard to do in the couple of seconds the camera gives you (see my right hand: dead giveaway).

That's where editing comes into place. Cropping can sometimes fix remote-in-hand mistakes. Any average selfie can benefit from some good post processing techniques. Sometimes, it might be as simple as converting it to a black and white image.

But we learn thought our mistakes. Any average selfie can benefit from some good post processing techniques. Sometimes, it might be as simple as converting it to a black and white image, cropping part of it, and/or combining it with others.

To sum it up, the essential elements for taking a self-portrait are:

  • YOU
  • a photo-taking device
  • reflective surface/firm surface to sit the device on/a tripod
  • hand/camera timer/remote control
The essentials. Add good light to the list. It helps. Tremendously. For any photo.

The essentials. Add good light to the list. It helps. Tremendously. For any photo.

If you have these, you will manage to take a photo of yourself. But is that all that goes into it?

For me, it’s a little/lot bit more. As one of my 365 friends put it,

“there really is something about self portraits that encourages you to show your emotions. the isolation and loneliness of being both the subject and the photographer allow you to be who you are and show unrestrainably how your feeling”

Spontaneous/planned, song/movie/book/quote-inspired, taken for a reason or just because, selfies can be a way to express something within you that needs to show its manifestation. They just happen, you let them out, and then you keep moving, evolving and discovering. There are no rules on how/where/when to take them. You make the rules as you go. They don’t have to be perfect. You are not. Nobody is. And that’s where the beauty lies. In learning to love yourself, as you are. Imperfections and all.

I was sitting on my desk and the morning light caught my eye. It was flooding the room through the blinds, so i grabbed the camera from my desk, took the lens cap off, slid my dress strap down, and took some photos.

I was sitting on my desk and the morning light caught my eye. It was flooding the room through the blinds, so I grabbed the camera from my desk, took the lens cap off, slid the strap of my dress down my shoulder, and took some photos. That’s how this image was born. In a manner of minutes emotions were conveyed and recorded by the light.

Are you ready for your selfie? Feel free to share it with me. I’d love to see.

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This entry was published on July 10, 2013 at 1:14 am. It’s filed under How To-s, Selfies and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

6 thoughts on “How To Take Selfies: A Guide For Beginners

  1. A great article, good job! 🙂 You should write more of these ..only when you have the inspiration, of course 🙂

  2. Kristen on said:

    I’m officially inspired. Such vulnerably goes into taking self portraits :/ Maybe my next little project?

  3. Pingback: Shell Earrings “Honestly Inspired” (the result) | rosSun jewelry

  4. Pingback: Love Your Freckles: How Selfies Can Redefine Beauty | Slava Bowman Photography

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