How to Effectively Transform Yourself and Take Great Self-Portraits


Self-portraiture isn't always about the photographer. It doesn't have to compliment the artist or even reveal their identity. Sometimes, photos of oneself focus on different emotions, themes, and people. This can be done with the help of transformations both subtle and significant. Even a small change in makeup, hair colour, or expression can change your entire face.

You could say that such fictitious images are lies. In doing so, you'd be overlooking the cathartic experience this technique offers. Time and time again, self-portrait photographers (like Cristina Otero and Bailey Elizabeth, for example) prove that self-portraiture can be an exceedingly creative and selfless genre. Transformation gives people a chance to express themselves without revealing their real appearance. In addition to that, it greatly enhances creativity, allowing individuals of all ages to find a valuable part of themselves in a genre that welcomes everyone.

Many people who consider themselves shy find immense comfort in self-portraiture. Many photographers prefer to keep their backs to the camera, photograph facial details, or simply take an abstract photo of themselves in a reflection. The possibilities are endless, yet all of them revolve around the same idea of self-portraiture. For this and many other reasons, I'd like to share ways you can effectively transform yourself for the sake of self-portraiture. Once you find a method you're comfortable with, you'll feel compelled to return to this genre and find the peace and creativity it so generously offers.

By Matthew Henry

What Do You Want to Express?

Before you start taking photographs or even planning a transformation, it's important to be familiar with the story you want to tell. What emotions or themes spark your interest? Is there a story you'd like to keep in mind as you photograph? While being spontaneous is great for experimentation, it's useful to have at least one idea you could lean on. With a concept in mind, you'll be able to make solid decisions during your shoot and get the results you want.

If you're not sure what you want to express, observe your surroundings and research topics that truly interest you. Here are a few things you can do to understand the emotions you want to express:

  • Watch a film: movies, especially emotional ones, are great at encouraging an overflow of feelings. Though these feelings may seem unnecessary and useless, they are immensely powerful when used during shoots. Intense emotions, both uplifting and heartbreaking, allow creativity to freely wander. These same emotions can help you take self-portraits that are compelling, outstanding, and unique in every possible way.
  • Read a book: similar to films, books have a graceful way of opening up hearts and filling minds with groundbreaking ideas. Though it takes longer to read a long book than it does to watch a film, immersing yourself in a good book will make you feel refreshed.
  • Think of someone you admire: the people we admire often have many interesting stories to tell. Many of them experienced inexplicably difficult hardships, went on exciting adventures, or simply changed our lives in a way no one else could. The influence someone has had on your life can open up a plethora of creative ideas.
  • Think of how you want people to react to your work: sometimes, the simplest question can spark a tremendous idea. How do you want people to react to your work? What do you want them to feel? Using your newfound answers, you can create photos that will have the influence you desire.
By Aziz Acharki

Embrace Makeup

Even if you don't use makeup at all, you can conceal your real features with the help of face paint. This can help you recreate an iconic look or simply create your own masterpiece. If you enjoy painting, think of meaningful designs you could draw on your face. If you like experimenting with makeup, spend some time working with a variety of looks. For days when you're completely out of inspiration, communities like Pinterest, Tumblr, and Youtube will help you come up with the best concepts for your theme.

By Luke Braswell

Be an Actor

You don't need acting experience to transform yourself into someone else. All you need is empathy. Put yourself into someone else's shoes and imagine how they would feel in a particular situation. If you're inspired by a fictional character, this process will be much easier to experience. You don't have to look like anyone in particular – the most important thing is to feel, and to express whatever it is that you wish to tell. Once the emotions are clear to you, you can create a fitting concept.

By Peter Forster

Costumes, Locations, and Lighting

Looking for outfits will inevitably give you more ideas. You don't need to be a cosplayer to find a great costume for your desired look. All you need to do is open your eyes to the clothes you already have, and combine those in a way that appeals to your theme. However, if you really want to look different, then invest in a wig. Even affordable ones look great on camera.

Locations, combined with lighting, make a world of difference to a photograph. Artists who wish to conceal their faces prefer to cleverly hide themselves in shadows surrounded by beautiful locations, while others choose lighting that gracefully enhances their transformation. You don't need to have expensive lighting equipment to take incredible self-portraits; all you need is a little imagination and an openness to working with what you already have.

By Alex Iby

Self-portraiture, which so often does reveal the photographer's real appearance, doesn't have to be something you avoid. If you want to express yourself, be it thanks to simple inspiration or a desire to be heard, don't stop. Embrace the many faces of self-portraiture, transform yourself, and inspire others to take portraits that are as great as yours.

About Author

Taissia is a professional photographer and educator.

Just wanted to say thanks for this article. Very timely 4 me. I appreciate the time you went into writing this and the many ideas I took notes on to give me ideas and to now to set a time frame to get started on something I’ve experimented a little in the past. Recently I sent my cousin some photos & letter hoping to hear from her after loosing contact for 28yrs. I sent her 1 self portrait and now when we can get together she wants me to do a special portrait of her & her dog! You’ve help given me the juice to get started on my own self portraits to get ideas so I can do some I’ll be happy to do for her. As always the accompanying photos with the article was a shot to my creative thinking!!!

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