7 creative ideas for unconventional self portraits

7 creative ideas for unconventional self portraits

In 2011, I wrote a tutorial for the CMblog that challenged you get on the other side of your camera (Because You Were There, Too: 13 Tips for Family Self Portraits). In the tutorial, we explored techniques and tips for better self portraits, how to involve your children, and more; since then, the article has been read by over 85,000 people, pinned over 49,000 times, and we at Clickin Moms have used it to challenge our members to do a monthly self portrait on the photography forum.

the unconventional self portrait creative photography exercise by Sarah Wilkerson

Sarah Wilkerson

Now that you have the basics down, let’s kick off the new year with some refreshingly unconventional self portraits. One of my favorite tips from the original piece was the following:

Get a New Perspective: Set the tripod up low (kid height) so that full body shots don’t completely include the adults. Or set things up so that you’re shooting from behind. Or pull way back and get a ton of context and just let be as your family prepares breakfast in the morning or plays together in the backyard. Get creative. You don’t all have to be smiling and facing the camera.”

the unconventional self portrait creative photography exercise

Heather Lazark

the unconventional self portrait creative photography exercise

Melissa Everett

the unconventional self portrait creative photography exercise

Lacey Butler

the unconventional self portrait creative photography exercise

Carol Swaitkewich

the unconventional self portrait creative photography exercise

Kori Hiser

the unconventional self portrait creative photography exercise

Kimie Pruessner

the unconventional self portrait creative photography exercise

Corinne Tristram

the unconventional self portrait creative photography exercise

yellowbrick

the unconventional self portrait creative photography exercise

Parikha Mehta

the unconventional self portrait creative photography exercise

Courtney Kirkland

the unconventional self portrait creative photography exercise

Nikki Rainey

Here are some more unconventional ideas:

1. Off with your head

Zoom in tight and shoot just below the jawline. Feature the curve of your neck, the delicacy of the collarbone, even the femininity of the décolletage. Try bringing your hands into the frame as well, if you wish.

the unconventional self portrait creative photography exercise

Carrie Yuan

the unconventional self portrait creative photography exercise

angbrad03

the unconventional self portrait creative photography exercise

JoAnna Reynolds

the unconventional self portrait creative photography exercise

Heidi Golz

2. Capture the extremities

Speaking of the hands, how about making them the focus of the self portrait? Hands can reveal something about age and experience and could also be shown holding (or reaching for) something of personal value. Alternatively, can you photograph your feet? Do your shoes or your toes tell the viewer something about you? Does the ground you stand (or items on the floor) on signify something about your environment?

the unconventional self portrait creative photography exercise

Lisa Marsh

the unconventional self portrait creative photography exercise

Erin Roth

the unconventional self portrait creative photography exercise

Dina Farmer

the unconventional self portrait creative photography exercise by Tara Dragert

Tara Dragert

3. Not your average mirror pic

Instead of the mirror-at-shoulder-height half body shot (or the mirror-in-front-of-your-face selfie), angle your camera downward or upward and shoot a reflection that excludes the camera from the frame. Also, avoid making eye contact with your reflection. Either look away or look into the reflection of the lens itself.

the unconventional self portrait creative photography exercise

Beth Mancuso

the unconventional self portrait creative photography exercise

Jo Lien

4. Get out of focus

One of the most difficult parts of taking a self portrait (especially if you are the only one in the frame) is achieving tack sharp focus. Perhaps nearly as difficult is defocusing beautifully, but it can be a wonderful way to achieve a dreamy, ambiguous effect. One of my favorite self portraits to date involves this technique. Set your focus to manual and see how different focus settings establish different creative effects.

the unconventional self portrait creative photography exercise

Czarina Nocon

the unconventional self portrait creative photography exercise

Mandy Haber

5. Facial details

What’s your best (or most distinctive) feature? Fantastic eyelashes? A memorable smile? A perfectly sculpted nose? A scar that tells a story? Self-shooting in macro can be particularly challenging – but also incredibly rewarding when you nail it … take the challenge, and capture yourself in the details.

the unconventional self portrait creative photography exercise

Heather Pich

the unconventional self portrait creative photography exercise

Keely Owendoff

the unconventional self portrait creative photography exercise

Lisa Kitto

the unconventional self portrait creative photography exercise by Tara Dragert

Laura Welborn

6. Incorporate movement

Bringing motion (frozen movement or motion blur) into the frame can establish unexpected visual interest. Two of my all-time favorite self portraits come from CMpros Jennifer Jones and Anne Scherrer, both of whom used the motion of hair and head to bring unparalleled dynamism into the frame. How else can you incorporate motion? Let your fingers fly across piano keys, reawaken the ballet dancer of your past, run up the stairs, or simply jump….

the unconventional self portrait creative photography exercise

tammyw

the unconventional self portrait creative photography exercise

Tiffany Walensky

the unconventional self portrait creative photography exercise

Sarah Harrigan

7. The absence of you

Can you sum up who you are (or a significant aspect of yourself) without being physically present in the frame at all? Is there a spatial sanctuary in your home or yard that is very personal to you – somewhere that you can take a few moments for meditation, introspection, or escape? Does your desk, your vanity, your closet, or your kitchen represent you? Is there a collection of sentimental items, books, or some other objects that you could gather to convey something of yourself to an outside viewer? Think about what’s important to you – the values, personal characteristics, experiences, interests, and obligations that sum up who you are. How can you portray that?

the unconventional self portrait creative photography exercise

Sarah Mazza

the unconventional self portrait creative photography exercise

Gretchen Willis

What’s the best way to improve your photography? Shoot thoughtfully and frequently! Try new things and embrace creative and technical challenges. Every month, Sarah Wilkerson posts a new tutorial and challenges our members to join in a new Creativity Exercise on the Clickin Moms photography forum. At the conclusion of the exercise, we select Editors’ Choice images from among the exercise submissions and share them here with you on the blog. Congratulations to the ladies whose photographs included in the exercise above were selected as this month’s Editors’ Choices, and thank you to everyone who participated in the exercise!

editors choice 2013

And be sure to participate in the next exercise! Visit the forum where Sarah has posted the next challenge. We’d love to see your work!

Sign up for a risk-free membership!

About the Author:

Sarah Wilkerson is the CEO of Click & Company and also provides mentoring services, teaches advanced Click Photo School courses on composition & creativity, and authors the “Why It Works” series in CLICK magazine. She specializes in low light photography, everyday documentary, and tilt-shift work. A former attorney and Duke graduate, Sarah resides in northern Virginia with her Army JAG husband, four children, and three dogs. Visit Sarah Wilkerson online.
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67 Comments

  1. Kel Ward Feb 08 2013 at 1:21 pm - Reply

    Wow. These are all absolutely beautiful beyond words. Oozing with creativity, too! Well done, ladies.

  2. Rayna Feb 08 2013 at 1:25 pm - Reply

    These are gorgeous and inspirational! 🙂

  3. Carolyn Feb 08 2013 at 1:29 pm - Reply

    WOW. these are amazing!!! SOO much creativity.

  4. sarah carlson Feb 08 2013 at 1:30 pm - Reply

    Incredible images!

  5. Mindy Newton Feb 08 2013 at 1:31 pm - Reply

    Beautiful self portraits and perspectives from all of these ladies – thank you for sharing and for all of the great creativity exercises that can be found on CM!

  6. Carol Feb 08 2013 at 1:31 pm - Reply

    wow! not only does clickinmoms have the most talented women, it has the most beautiful too!!

  7. Tracy Bradbury Feb 08 2013 at 1:32 pm - Reply

    Wow, what incredible photos – so inspiring <3

  8. Sarah Wilkerson Feb 08 2013 at 1:32 pm - Reply

    This was my favorite Creativity Exercise to date — thank you so much to everyone who contributed and for putting yourselves out there so honestly, creatively, and beautifully.

  9. Jeanette Feb 08 2013 at 1:33 pm - Reply

    Absolutely phenomenal!

  10. JenM Feb 08 2013 at 1:33 pm - Reply

    Incredibly gorgeous shots!!!! Loved them all!

  11. Mabel Feb 08 2013 at 1:35 pm - Reply

    Awesome job everyone! Such creativity.

  12. Jenilee Feb 08 2013 at 1:36 pm - Reply

    great job these are amazing!

  13. Willie Kers Feb 08 2013 at 1:41 pm - Reply

    Awesome, incredible, beautiful & gorgeous! And so creative! Love them ALL!!

  14. Cassandra Feb 08 2013 at 2:02 pm - Reply

    Wow wow wow!! I am speechless!! These are amazing!!!!!!!

  15. Leah Cook Feb 08 2013 at 2:02 pm - Reply

    there is so much beauty + power here!!! just, wow.

  16. Ashley Feb 08 2013 at 2:05 pm - Reply

    Such beautiful images!

  17. Rachel Nielsen Feb 08 2013 at 2:17 pm - Reply

    These are so stunning!

  18. Lara Hunt Feb 08 2013 at 2:18 pm - Reply

    Tammy, you got it girl! Funny and full of life . Just how life should be. Tragic comedies. I just loved it! As my litlle girl says ” Fantasticular” . Its hair new combine word…:)

  19. JoAnna Feb 08 2013 at 2:26 pm - Reply

    beautiful images! once again, i consider myself incredibly lucky to be surrounded (virtually) by such amazing women! you all continue to inspire me on a daily basis!

  20. Wenchy Feb 08 2013 at 2:38 pm - Reply

    Absolutely beautiful.

  21. Kelly Wilson Feb 08 2013 at 3:03 pm - Reply

    Beautiful images!! Beautiful mamas too 🙂

  22. Lisa Benemelis Feb 08 2013 at 3:08 pm - Reply

    Stunning!! This might be my favorite grouping of images thus far. Absolutely love each and every image. <3

  23. elaina mortali Feb 08 2013 at 3:37 pm - Reply

    so in love with these all!!!! amazing ladies! thank you for sharing.

  24. Nichole Feb 08 2013 at 4:32 pm - Reply

    These were really amazing to see! and I loved this challenge. It got me to actually start to try some self portraits so thanks so much.

  25. Jess H Feb 08 2013 at 4:33 pm - Reply

    Love, love, love ALL of these! So many talented and amazing ladies on CM! <3

  26. Lana Simovski Feb 08 2013 at 5:11 pm - Reply

    Wow! Congratulations ladies amazing images

  27. jennifer Feb 08 2013 at 5:46 pm - Reply

    These are all so beautiful and amazing!! Great work ladies! <3

  28. Kristin Dokoza Feb 08 2013 at 7:44 pm - Reply

    Just gorgeous images!

  29. mommaceleste (Celeste Pav) Feb 08 2013 at 11:32 pm - Reply

    So many moving and beautiful images!!

  30. Ally Feb 09 2013 at 1:28 am - Reply

    Beautiful images ladies! Amazing!

  31. Sarah Vaughn Feb 09 2013 at 2:41 am - Reply

    Incredibly incredibly beautiful.

  32. Lisa (Tout Petit Pixel) Feb 09 2013 at 8:24 am - Reply

    I’m amazed by the creativity here!! Beautiful, beautiful work ladies! <3

  33. LaShawn Feb 09 2013 at 9:52 am - Reply

    love all of these! Great creativity with all of them!Beautiful ladies!

  34. Jax Feb 09 2013 at 4:49 pm - Reply

    Wow! What a fabulous, creative collection of shots! Well done, ladies!

  35. miranda Feb 10 2013 at 10:58 am - Reply

    These had me in tears. Such beautiful images and beautiful women.

  36. Alexis Feb 10 2013 at 12:40 pm - Reply

    I loved, loved, loved this exercise! The pictures and stories behind each were so amazing. Congrats to all of those chosen! I don’t envy those who had to narrow down the choices. Great job Clickin Moms!

  37. Melissa Feb 10 2013 at 12:46 pm - Reply

    Such amazing talent and creativity here! Gorgeous work by our CM members!

  38. Meredith R. Feb 11 2013 at 12:55 pm - Reply

    I don’t know how I missed some those! All incredibly beautiful and what a fantastic exercise.

  39. Audrey Feb 12 2013 at 5:20 am - Reply

    WOW – You have totally inspired me to take a self-portrait – something I have never done before! Some truly gorgeous and creative images here.

  40. erica bean Feb 13 2013 at 9:46 am - Reply

    these are wonderful! It is sooooo hard to get on the other side of the camera! I just may have been inspired to give it a try. Thank you

  41. Jodi Feb 13 2013 at 11:18 am - Reply

    what beautiful women are featured here in these images… i am inspired by your creativity and the way you expressed yourselves through your self-portraits.

  42. Mara Feb 17 2013 at 9:36 am - Reply

    These are truly art – every single one! I am truly in awe at the talent, creativity, and raw honesty of the women featured here!

  43. Karen Burns Mar 04 2013 at 10:33 am - Reply

    Lovelies, all ~ inspiriing

  44. kelly garvey Mar 04 2013 at 10:53 am - Reply

    oh my gosh these are amazing selfies WOW! i could have never pulled those off!

  45. Karen Mar 11 2014 at 4:57 pm - Reply

    These are amazing!

  46. Tré May 31 2014 at 11:14 am - Reply

    Very artistic!

  47. Photographe mariage Aug 10 2015 at 10:19 pm - Reply

    Great job, good luck

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