Have you ever watched a cat or a dog look into a mirror? They become transfixed by the reflection. Deep down our animal instincts are intrigued by how we look. The Greeks told the story of Narcissus. Narcissus looked at his reflection in a pool of water and became transfixed by his reflection. A vain person may be called a narcissist; in fiction some characters that are vain like Draco Malfoys mother in Harry Potter carry a form of the name, Narcissa. Just like Dorian Grey we still love images of ourselves and self-portraiture is a genre where we can control the perception of our self.
A self-portrait is exactly that but a self-portrait does not need to be a picture of yourself but is always a picture of who you are. Self-portraits can be anything from a picture of inanimate objects which separately tell you not much but as a collection describes your likes habits and personality. A collection of images that act like a visual diary are portraits of your life, the way you live. It can tell people personal details about you good and the bad but just like any biography it can be well edited.
How not to make a duck face
There are many ways to create a self-portrait but I would greatly discourage people from standing in front of a public toilet mirror pouting with the camera in one hand.
Plan and focus
A good self-portrait needs an element of planning. What do you want it to say? Is this just a pictorial image showing the physical you or is it more of a characteristic portrait. In either case making a plan of the image before you take it will make the process easier. Planning where objects are going to be in the frame and where you will be.
Once you have set up the scene how are you going to focus the image. You could you use some math or a measuring tape to work out the depth of field. Or you could make life easy and have a person stand in or an object for you.
You can always compose the shot using a corner of a room. Focus the corner of the room and then stand in front of it and you will be sharp.
Manual and Auto
Using both manual and autofocus can make taking a self-portrait straight forward. First using the auto focus you can focus the image. Switching then to manual, the lens is focused and you no longer have to worry about it. You can take pictures over and over again with the focus fixed.
Phone a friend or use a timer
How do you take a picture when you are standing in front of it. There are two simple solutions one is to rope in a friend to press the trigger or the timer function on your camera. The timer function may have a set limit like 10 seconds or has multiple options. I would suggest using a length of time which, means you are not running into the frame, unless this is your desired effect.
I tend to use a remote or wireless trigger for my camera. they can be bought quite cheap and have more uses than just a self-portrait.
As you can see in this self-portrait , it llooks like the Girl is listening to music. In fact it is a remote trigger for her camera.
A self-portrait does not need to be a picture of you but is a picture of you. This is the most vital part of the self-portrait. Let the camera take your essence and show it to the world the way you want to be seen.