Life is like a camera lens. Focus only on what's important and you will

capture it perfectly.





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How you take your portrait isn’t really important. The important thing is that you do after all that planning for it.

Many of you will be worried about the equipment that you will need or how to take a photograph of yourself. If you search the internet you will find literally hundreds of tutorials telling you what equipment you will need, from the type of camera right through to the lighting. If you have already started searching, stop now! 

As I said in the COURSE OVERVIEW this project is not about the technical aspect of photography. This is about you expressing yourself and the way that you are feeling.

As with anything though there are somethings that will help you along the way and we will go through those in this unit. So we will have a quick look at some basic equipment and a few tips on how to take your portrait.

The best camera is the one you have with you.

Jay Maisel


There are some basic bits of equipment that will help you when taking your portrait. The first part of which will be a camera.

Don’t panic if your don’t have a ‘fancy’ camera. For this project I have put away the cameras that I usually use for work. Instead I have opted to use a Canon M10 which I bought second hand from MPB* along with a standard 18-55mm lens. If you don’t have a camera, or want to purchase one, don’t panic, your mobile phone will work perfectly.

A tripod will also help, or something to perch your camera on. Again the tripod that I am using is one that I bought from a charity shop for £3.00, so you can see it does not need to be expensive.

Now we have something to take your portrait with it is time to think about what else you will need to create your portrait.

Light is a key factor with any photography. Again for this project I am not using the studio, or my studio lights. Instead The light I have been using is from a window, you can’t get much easier that that. If you don’t have a window available, or the window is in the wrong place a lamp or a torch will be sufficient for the needs of this project. Just make sure that it is bright enough for what you are trying to achieve.

From a photography point of view that is all the equipment that you will need to capture your portrait. Don’t forget though to refer back to your notes to make sure that there aren’t any props that you wrote down.

*The above link to MPB will ask you for your email and give you a £20 discount code. I will also get a little bit towards my next purchase with them. If you don’t want to you use an affiliate link you can go to the MPB website here

The self portrait is an act of objectifying the self and in that regard is a unique form of portraiture.

Burton Silverman


I will not mislead you here, creating a portrait of yourself is easier said than done. Trying to capture everything you want in one shot, or trying to juggle the focus and getting back in time for the shot to be taken.

It may get a little frustrating and it is worth experimenting to find the method that works best for you. You may also want to try this before setting up your shot for the portrait.

There are a few tips though that will help you along your way.

Get Some Help

By far the easiest way to take a portrait is to get someone else to take the photo. They don’t even need to be an expert photographer.

Start On Auto

Many cameras these days come with different settings. If you are unsure what TV or AV mean it is best to start off in auto mode. It is one less thing to worry about when you are trying to work out how to take your photo.

If you are using a mobile phone you may have a portrait mode. This will help if you want to blur out the background a bit.

Use The Self-Timer

Many cameras and mobile phones come with a self-timer mode which allows you to set the number of seconds between pressing the button and the actual photograph being taken.

One thing to check with this is when the camera sets the focus. On cameras it may be the case that the focus is set when you hit the button. Not much use when you are still behind the camera rather than in front of it. To get around this put something where you will be. Make it something light that can be moved out of the way quickly.

Focus on the ‘temporary you’, hit the button and the run around and move ‘temporary you’ out of the way.

A Remote Trigger

Some cameras will allow you to use a remote trigger. These are great and I would suggest that you get one if your camera supports it. It really does save a lot of hassle and running backwards and forwards.

Third party remote triggers can be bought for a few pounds from places like Amazon so you don’t need to spend a fortune on the ‘official’ ones.

Mobile Phone App

Other cameras, like my Canon M10, allow you to use an app on your mobile phone to trigger them. These are great because you can see the image on your phone before you hit the button to check everything is looking okay.

Embrace the glorious mess that you are.

Elizabeth Gilbert


For many of you it may want your photograph to be taken outdoors. If this is the case that is great. All you need to do is work out where you would like your portrait taken. It is also a good idea to visit the location at different times of the day so you can see the difference in the lighting, in the morning the light may be coming from a different direction than in the afternoon. Also try to avoid taking your portrait at mid day, it may look nice out there but photography early morning or late afternoon does get better results.

There will also be some of you who want to create your portrait indoors. If that is you then it is time to start thinking about how you will create your studio.

The Background

What background are you looking for? If you are looking at setting your photograph in a room of your home then that is fine. All you need to do is have a quick check to ensure that there isn’t anything lying around that you don’t want to appear in your portrait. It is amazing how often things get missed.

If you are looking for a plain background then there are a couple of things that you can do. The easiest is to use a plain wall, if you are looking for a head and shoulders shot that is fairly simple, for anything more though it may mean moving some furniture out of the way first.

If you don’t have a plain wall a bed sheet will do the trick just nicely, just try to make sure it is ironed first so your don’t have all the creases.


For many of you the window may just be the light that you need. If however you are looking for a bit more you could use a lamp, with a bright bulb. 

The advantage of a lamp would be that you can move it around to get the effect that you are looking for. With a bit of experimentation you will also be able to make use of some other effects. With the light facing directly at you the shadows will be harsh, if you want to soften this effect you can turn the light slightly so it is in front of you, shining across you. Another thing that you could do is drape a sheet in front of the lamp, not too close though. The further you move the sheet away from the light, the more diffused the light will become giving off less shadows.

Reflecting light

If the shadows are too dark, or not dark enough, you could hang a white sheet (black if you want darker shadows) on the opposite side to the main light source. This will then reflect some of the light back reducing the shadows.


Whether you are working indoors or outside you should always make sure that the area is safe. If you are using a timer you will need to be able to get from your camera to position in front of it quickly. You will be amazed how many times I have nearly tripped over on a trailing wire or something else left on the floor.

MY PHOTOGRAPHY on the blog