How Much Self Should Be in a Self Portrait?

I don’t spend much time in front of the camera. Even for family events I’m often behind the camera and have to be reminded to pose for somebody else’s pictures. So what’s an inveterate behind-the-scenes person to do when the need arises for a “good” picture of them?

It’s self-portrait time!

As I put more of my work out in the world for art shows, contests, and publication, many ask for an artist bio that includes a photo of the artist. I did this for the first time last year. I set up the scene, set the camera on a tripod, and had my wife snap the shutter. I rather liked the result, but I got feedback that it was difficult to see what I looked like. (Thinking back, I’m pretty sure this was partly on purpose.)

The headshot

I decided this year it was time to try a close-up picture that showed more detail. This prospect was a little scary for me. (Knowing that no portrait is complete ‘till it spends time in Photoshop eased that fear a bit). After a recent portrait session, I sent the client on his way and took my seat under the lights with my trusty camera remote. I hadn’t had this kind of portrait done since college, and I was a bit surprised how much the results looked like a school portrait. A little self-conscious looking, for sure…but overall not a bad photo. I took a more playful take from that session, and adjusted the contrast, converted to black and white, and got results I liked even better.

An artsy alternative

For my last self-portrait try, I decided to use a technique I’d wanted to experiment with for a while. Using a slide projector as my main light source, I set myself in the path of a projected slide and shot five or six takes. The results are cinematic, and very much to my liking.  But maybe too far back in the direction of not showing enough facial detail.

All in all, this exercise in self-portraiture was a good experience, and I think it will improve how I shoot portraits of others. I encourage other photographers to try this yourself. But for anyone who needs a business portrait, find out how great a professional photographer can make you look.

By the way, if you have an opinion on my self-portraits, please share your comments below or visit my website at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *