How To Take a Professional Looking Self Portrait

A self portrait is necessary for things like business cards, websites or even social networking sites. The goal of the self portraits is to show the subject's personality in the right light. But, hiring a professional photographer isn't necessary. People with a little bit of photographer know-how can take professional-looking self portraits by simply wearing the right clothing and using a digital camera with a timer.

Step 1: What to Wear

Clothing is important when taking self portraits. Solid-colored light or dark clothing looks best on most people with darker colors, providing a slimming effect. Never wear white, as it will wash most people out. Jewelry should be kept to minimum since it can be distracting.

Remove glasses for photographs. It will create a reflective surface, and it will also create shadows on the face. If glasses are a part of a person's personality, remove the lenses. People taking self portraits should try to cover up all parts of the body, except the face and neck.

Step 2: Be Expressive

When taking a self portrait, photographers should always smile, and the smiles should be natural. Many people can take tight-lipped smiles or even no smiles the wrong way. Wear hair simply. Too much bangs, tight buns or spiky hair can look unnatural to many people. 

Step 3: Setup

Self-portraits should be taken against a solid-colored background, preferably a dark blue or black. Sheets or other types of fabric work well for this. Simply pin them up against a wall or other surface. Remove any distracting objects, and keep the area uncluttered.  Position a stool or high chair in front of the background. Whatever type of seating is used, it should help keep the subject sitting straight.

Set up the camera on the opposite side, and try to position it to where it will capture the neck up. A photograph should mark on the sheet where the head will be and then position the camera so that it can focus on that area.

If possible, set up the scene near a window to capture natural daylight. If not, position lamps to the sides and to the front of the subject. Try not to use the flash as this will wash out the subject and create harsh shadows. If the lamps do create some deep shadows on the face, throw a light piece of fabric over them to create a diffused light pattern.

Use a reflective surface like a white board to bounce lamp light onto the subject's face. Experiment with the light until it creates the correct effect.

Step 4: Take the Pictures

Most digital cameras come with timers so a photographer just needs to hit the timer, sit down, smile and wait. If someone has an external shutter release button, he can just keep shooting with that until he gets the right picture. 

Photographers should just keep reviewing the pictures until they find one that they like. It may be best to take a few photographs and then download them to a computer for review. Many LCD screens don't give enough detail to see whether or not the picture is actually blurry.

Take a few different shots looking at, away or slightly above the camera. Most dead-on shots don't look natural, but experiment with them anyway.