3 Tips for a Killer Self-Portrait

I love self-portraits. Actually, I love most pictures of me. Weird, right? It’s like I’m a six-year-old.  I must have some sort of crazy self-confidence and think that the camera absolutely loves me.

Um, no. I’m ridiculously insecure, I hate my chin and nose, my six kids and 3 c-sections have left me with a belly that just won’t stop jiggling, my skin is super freckly, and I have acne. Yes. I’m 36 years old and I still get zits.

Stupid zits.

But I really love seeing myself in pictures!

So, am I a narcissist? Maybe, but that’s not why I love my pictures either.

I love pictures of myself because I have discovered the magical formula to a killer self-portrait.

The key to an awesome self-portrait has nothing to do with lighting, posing, minimizing “problem areas”, or your expression. If you are going to LOVE your self-portrait you only need to do one thing:

Adjust your expectations.

I have taken hundreds and hundreds of self-portraits, and have come up with 3 tips that consistently help me make pictures of myself that I like seeing.

1. Take a buttload of pictures.

This is the biggest one.  Take a lot of pictures.  Like, a LOT, a lot. Take pictures of yourself every day. Take selfies with your phone, set up the timer on your fancy camera and let it fly, hand your camera to your kid and show them how to take a picture.

We hate pictures of ourselves for the same reasons we get upset at our kids, our spouses, or anything else in our lives. We have this idea in our head about the way things should be, and when it doesn’t measure up to those expectations, we are disappointed. The same is true for our pictures.

Up until recently, whenever I saw a picture of myself, I would get so upset. What?? How am I not as thin as I was in high school? Why isn’t my hair fuller and more luxurious? Why aren’t my boobs bigger? How are my eyes not BLUE??

Ok, I’m joking about the blue eyes, but I’m totally serious on the boobs thing. For some reason, I expected to see gorgeous, feminine curves, and was seriously disappointed at seeing my barely A cup completely overpowered by my ample backside filling the frame.

Honestly though, it’s not about how I look.  It’s about the fact that 99% of the time I see myself, I’m looking in my bathroom mirror. I see myself straight on, from the chest up. No wonder I didn’t recognize the rest of me! I literally DIDN’T RECOGNIZE my body or face from any other angle or perspective!

Find ways to get in front of the camera more often and learn to see yourself as you really are! Beautiful and real.

We all like to make fun of the selfies that teenagers take these days, but you can’t argue with their confidence!  It is not self-indulgent or narcissistic to want pictures of yourself.  Especially since we are usually the ones behind the camera.  I want proof that I existed!

Get on the selfie train!  Take a million pictures of yourself. Pick your favorites and share them with the world! Let everyone see you in all your beautiful glory (including yourself)!  The more you see yourself, the more you will like seeing yourself.

2. Show Emotion

This isn’t going to be much of a surprise to you. I try to show or evoke emotion in every picture I make. So, it doesn’t make much sense for me to abandon that principle in favor of “smile and say cheese” just because I’m the one in front of the camera.

When I make a self-portrait, I always try to create an environment in which I am showing emotion.


One of the best ways for a woman to look good in a picture is to actually be happy. In this image, I set my camera on the counter and shot some video of one of my favorite things to do with the kids – Dance party. It takes very little time to forget about the camera (mostly) and just enjoy being in the moment and enjoy my children. This isn’t a fake smile. This isn’t forced emotion. This isn’t a posed moment. This is a real memory. Real laughter. Real connection.

After I finished filming, I grabbed a screen shot of the video for the picture.


Life sucks sometimes. Sometimes our kids frustrate us. Sometimes our spouses break our hearts. Sometimes our friends are insensitive. Sometimes we do stupid things and feel ashamed of ourselves. Celebrate it.

This is certainly not the most attractive picture of me. But I love it. I love the honesty. I love the vulnerability. And I love that I was brave enough to share it.

3. Don’t take yourself too seriously.

Sometimes we need to have a beautiful picture made for us. Sometimes we need headshots for work, or just want to feel exquisite. I believe every woman should have pictures that make her feel beautiful. Please hire someone to make those pictures for you. If you want to look like a million bucks and like you belong in a magazine, leave it to the pros (like me).

This frees you up to be yourself! If you aren’t trying to be beautiful, you can be silly, make faces, and do whatever else you need to in order to feel comfortable in front of that camera.

Self-portraits aren’t going to win you any awards or beauty contests.  They are for you.  If you need to stick your tongue out to feel comfortable in front of the camera, do it.  Don’t pretend to be someone you aren’t just because you’re taking a picture.  Have fun.

Look, I know what I’m doing. I know how to get the light just right for what I’m going for, I know how to expose correctly, I know how to pose myself, and I know how to tilt my chin, just so… and I still feel like a freaking moron every time I take a self-portrait. So, why fight it?

I’d rather have fun. Unless you have a specific emotion or message you are trying to share (like the suffering and vulnerability in my earlier image), don’t over think it.

Have fun. You’ll like your pictures much more if you do.



2 thoughts on “3 Tips for a Killer Self-Portrait

Add yours

  1. I aboslutely LOVE this. It’s not vain or self-indulgent like I used to think it was! I want to enjoy looking at myself. And, wouldn’t it be a great thing to leave as a legacy to my kids??


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