How To Take Trendy Self Portraits (Indoors)

Hey friends! Happy Friday/blog post day!


How are we all feeling? Good? Weird? Mix of everything? Varies day by day? I've only got day-drunk once, so I think I'm doing decently. I've officially been on lockdown mode for a month and a day, and the first two weeks were the worst. One time, my brother thought we had been home for three weeks when it had only been two. I think that was the lowest point.


Today, we're officially shaking ourselves off. It's Friday, so it's weekend-eve (if that really matters anymore...?) so we have all the time to do creative things. Or, at least maybe a little bit more time.


I was talking on my Instagram story when I was taking the photos for this blog post about how now is the perfect time to dabble in things that have always interested you. Not only is it a good time because we're all home considerably more than normal, but also because it's such an unprecedented thing that we're all experiencing. It would be hard for me to believe anyone who said they aren't in some way mentally affected by our situation.


That's one of the reasons why I'm so excited for next weeks blog post about using photography (and self portraiture) as emotional therapy! Being able to see yourself in a photograph that has symbolism and a story can be so helpful in working through your emotions.


But! That is a topic for a week from now. For right now, lets get into the nitty-gritty of taking trendy self portraits.


Gear I'm using:

Camera: Canon 5D Mark II

Lenses: Tamron 35mm, Canon 50mm.

Phone: iPhone XR


Programs I'm using:

Lightroom Classic

Lightroom Mobile


Alternatives:

ANY camera.

GIMP desktop application

VSCO mobile app.


About the alternatives...

Any camera you want to use WILL work. All you need is something that will take a photo. That's it. I don't care what anybody says, but that is truly all you need. I've used my boyfriends point and shoot twice for fine art photos and it worked perfectly fine.


GIMP is an desktop software that I used many moons ago, but has only improved with time. It's completely free to download and use, and it has all of the essential tools for not only simple photo editing, but also for more complex editing.


VSCO has a reputation of being for teenage girls to edit their trendy Instagram photos, and for some reason that makes people hate on the app. Um... why!? It does a great job of being able to give consistent looking edits. That's a win. And, it has a RAW camera feature that will capture more data in your photos and thus make fine-tune editing even easier. (Supposedly. I will admit that I haven't delved into that feature, but that is what it is supposed to do!)


If you do want to use Photoshop/Lightroom, the Creative Cloud Photography plan is only $10/per month. My opinion, use some free resources for a while and then decide if you want to swim in that water.


Now! Onto the fun stuff!


Creating interest with trendy self portraits.


Interest is why people look at your photos and stay there. They simply find them interesting. But, rarely, you will ever be able to pique someones interest with little to nothing. These are some of my favorite ways to pique interest in photographs.


  1. Depth.

  2. Color.

  3. Lighting.


Easy enough! These are things that can all be done easily and with items you have laying around you.


Depth/Color.


(above) photos taken with my Canon.

(left) photos taken with my phone.


For this first example, I played with depth and color. All I did was drape a piece of thin red fabric over my camera, put it on a two second timer, and pose. Draping this fabric over the camera was all I needed to effortlessly create depth and dimension in this photo.


I just said it, but I'll say it again: depth gives you dimension. Having a foreground, midground, and background defines a photo, it's as if you're giving it mental layers. And, it's more visually interesting because it's not typical! It's something new being given to the eye, and things that are new and shiny are normally much more interesting.


If you add a color to that, even better! This could have still been visually interesting with a white sheet, or a sheer black sheet, but the red gives it a punch. Red is one of the top two favorite colors of all time!


Light.

(above) photos taken with my Canon.


(left) photo taken with my phone.


Okay, first of all, lets not mention the fact that I am very much a one-dimensional model. I only make one face. I am aware of that. Do not hire me for your sessions.


LIGHT. Oh man, guys, I could go on and on about lighting and the importance of it in every photographic sense. Not only is it imperative for a fundamentally good photo in general, but it can add so much drama, mood, and story into a photograph. With these photos, I wanted to show two different ways to use light. One for composing with interest and one for drama.


The first image is for composing. This can be tricky especially during self portraits because you can't see how it looks through the viewfinder, because you're in it! (Unless you have a camera with a flippy twisty screen in the back. In which case, good for you!)


In this first photo, I knew that the light was broad and sharp on my closet door. I wanted it in the background of the photo. This is another instance where depth plays a part in the photo. My hair is the foreground, my face is the midground, and the bright light shining behind me is the background. Each layer has an element of interest, and the lines are composed to also be interesting as well. This photo wouldn't be nearly as visually interesting if I was staring straight at the camera.


The second example is for moody, dramatic light. Shadows add contrast, and when you can play with harsh shadows such as these coming from my blinds, it gives another element of interest. In this photo, the only thing lit up are these interesting lines of light on my face. The only thing illuminated is myself, giving the viewer a direct thing to focus on in this photo. You could add more interesting elements to this such a more dramatic expression, or a smoldering gaze at the camera. Play with light, y'all, it's a game-changer.


Other ideas for creating creative visual interest:

  1. Lace! Lace is an easy way to create beautiful photos. It's a versatile fabric since it not only looks stunning in almost every way it can be used, but it can also be used to turn any light source into something more moody. Here's a few photo examples from a couple of months ago when I got inspired to try it out.

  1. Fairy/Twinkle lights. These can be used similarly to the red piece of fabric, where you can put them close to your lens and then sprawl them somehow closer towards you. Or, you can hang them behind you and have them be in the background of your photo. OR! You can wrap them around yourself! These kinds of light are also incredibly versatile.

  2. Pick a color scheme! Lets say you have a bright yellow wall. You can dress head to toe in yellow and shoot like that. That's an idea straight out of almost any fashion magazine. Or, you could use it as a prop. Dress in purple and pop out against it. The same could go for a white wall. Any vibrant color could pop against that. Think of how you can create color schemes to tell a story, or symbolize something.


The only pose you need to feel cute.


Believe me when I say that I know that going in front of a camera can feel daunting. Hands! What do you do with them!? How do you make your body communicate that you're not uncomfortable? How do you look confident and like you're the baddest got-dang thing on this planet?


Listen to me. Sit/stand up straight wherever you are right now. Pull those shoulders back. Now, pretend that behind you, there's someone with a camera. All you'd have to do to give them a sassy, confident photo, is turn your head and stare at that lens.


A little shoulder-peek pose is also something totally versatile. You can look cute, sassy, sad, dramatic, whatever you want! You can go full on back to camera, and turn all the way. Or you can turn your body to the side and peek over your shoulder like that. Go for the gold on this one. You don't have to worry about hands or body language, I promise you. It's a winner.


Last step. Editing!


Editing is one of the most fun parts of photo taking. It's where you can really manipulate color, fine tune lighting and contrast, and give your photos a finished feeling. For self portraits you can do so many fun things in the editing process.


Now, editing is also something that very much varies person to person. But, these are my tips for creating a trendy edit.


  1. No true whites or true blacks. If you take a color dropper on almost any trendy photo, you will notice that even the lightest point isn't a true white. It will almost always be muted. You can adjust this easily with curve adjustments, or even with adjusting highlights. The same thing goes for the deepest colors. There's almost never a true black. This is especially important with black and white photos. Take this photo for example, there's not any true blacks. In my opinion, it gives a more vintage and soft feeling.


  1. Add drama with contrast. Contrast can be added in post, but it can also be something to think about while you're shooting. Like with the example above with the dramatic light! When you're shooting in that kind of situation, notice the shadows not only on your subject, but around it. How well is that composition speaking? How will it speak while you're editing? Are you exposing properly for the kind of edit you want? Then, while you're editing, you can add drama left and right.

  2. Light Leaks! Light leaks are two-second way to make your photos trendy. There, I said it. One of the main reasons I'm drawn to film photography and even free apps like HUJI is because of light leaks. Thankfully, they're not hard to replicate. You can even just add some presets to Lightroom and click! An added bonus is they're not hard to move, either. Nor are they hard to replicate on other programs like GIMP. There's a ton of Youtube tutorials for how to make your own light leaks! The photo below is obviously the exact same one as the black and white one above, but the feel of each is so different. Editing, folks. I love it.


  1. Use Presets. I used to look at photographers Instagrams, websites, Facebook pages, and I would wonder how they were able to get such a consistent and unique look to all of their photos. Then, I started joining Facebook groups full of professional photographers and I learned the secret. Presets. Duh. It was right in front of me this whole time. There's no shame in this game y'all, especially when you're first starting out! Sometimes you need a base to go off of and tweak until it's exactly what you see in your head. Especially with using new programs it can be tough to get your photos to that end point that you want them at. Using presets is a fantastic way to learn and develop your own editing techniques. Study the settings that presets have, and figure out what each of them do. Pay attention while you're playing with them so you can learn exactly what you like!


That's all folks. If you decide to take your own creative, trendy, indoor self portraits, tag me or send them to me! I want to see your beautiful creations!


All the love, health, and positive thoughts. xoxo

Ellie