Tonje Lilleås

How to shoot good outdoor self portraits

How to shoot good outdoor self portraits? Is this really a topic that’s interesting to write or read about? I say yes.

Coming back from an adventure with my family, I often can’t find a single image showing that I was part of the adventure. When you’re the one with the camera, you tend to end up with a lot of great images of everyone else and no images of yourself. And even if stepping in front of the camera can be terrifying, it’s nice to capture a few memories of yourself as well.

Self portraits can be great on overcast days. Check out this post if you’d like more ideas of what to shoot on overcast days!


First thing first; the technology. What do you actually need to capture a self portrait? And I write self portrait, not selfie, on purpose. Because I’m not talking about the selfies you snap with your arm stretched as far as possible to be able to show some surroundings. I’m talking about an advanced selfie, a self portrait. With a bit more thought and work put into capturing it.

You need a camera obviously. Any camera will do, even your phone. You need a tripod or some other way to make sure your camera will hold still. And you’ll need a way to press the shutter while you’re in frame. For the rest of this post I’m going to be talking about shooting self portraits with a DSLR, but most of this applies no matter what camera you have.

Choose your background

Ok, so you’ve got your gear down, next you need to think about what makes a good portrait. You see; there’s no difference between what makes a good portrait of someone else and what makes a good self portrait. The rules of composition are the same and how you choose your background is the same. Here’s a few pointers:

  • Look for a clean background that doesn’t draw too much attention from yourself

  • Try to find leading lines to pull the viewers eyes towards you in the frame

  • Avoid branches and other things sticking out of your head, as well as decapitating yourself with the horizon

  • Make sure you have a bit of space between you and the background so you can get separation in the image

But how do I pose?

Ok, all good so far, right? Now it’s time to pose. And this is the difficult part. You actually have to know your angles. So before you head out to shoot, practice in front of the mirror. Research poses on Pinterest or watch a tutorial on YouTube. There’s even an app called Unscripted that can help with a few poses for free (and lots more if you choose to go premium).

For me this posing thing is a bit challenging because I don’t fall into the general female/male categories they suggest. I never wear a dress or have long hair to play with, and I don’t want to look like a lumber jack, so I’ve just had to find ways to pose that feels like me. My point I guess is to not try to be someone you’re not when you pose. Then the self portrait will loose the most important part; you.

Press the shutter

Anyway; once you have the composition and pose down, it’s time to press the shutter. But how do you do that when you’re in front of the camera? Well there’s a few options.

The first is to use the cameras self timer. This is an option that is usually available no matter what camera you’re using. I’ve been using this method for years, and it’s totally fine. A few problems I’ve had though is nailing focus, and that it demands a lot of trial and error so it’s time consuming. You basically have to find a spot in your composition where you’ll stand for instance a rock or a straw or something, focus on that spot, press the shutter and run over to the spot to pose in time. If you’re using this method, try to avoid shooting with a very wide aperture as you’ll miss focus more often.

The second way is to use a remote shutter. This is a great way to get images of yourself. However a downside is that unless you’re close to the camera and have a flip out screen, you’re not able to see yourself in the frame. So this method as well is a lot of trial and error to get the image right.

The third, and in my opinion best, way is to control your camera from your phone. Through an app, for instance Canon Camera Connect for Canon cameras, you’ll be able to both see yourself in the frame, set focus and press the shutter on your phone. This way you’re in control of how the image turns out to a much greater extent than with the other methods, and it’s not as time consuming. Or at least it isn’t as long as the connection between camera an phone works smoothly. And it doesn’t always do that.

How to shoot great outdoor portraits – get creative

Ok, so that’s it. You’ve captured your outdoor self portrait. Does it look like any other image on Instagram? Then it’s time to get creative. Change up the poses, the clothes, the backgrounds or the light. Shoot through something for a blurry foreground. Shoot top down by using your drone or even from the ground up by using an action camera. Create, don’t just capture. That’s the beauty of self portraits, you’re in full control.

I hope you found this post valuable. If you did, please consider subscribing to my blog and following me on Instagram. It really makes me happy, and helps me reach more likeminded people with my content. Now get out and shoot some great outdoor self portraits!



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