5 Benefits of a Self-Portrait Project

5 Benefits of a Self-Portrait Project


With the new year here, many of us are making resolutions and setting goals for the coming year. As photographers, we are always striving to hone our skills and learn more about our craft, and the start of a new year is the perfect time to take on a photography project.

Photo by Cara Farnell

Now, there are multitudes of daily, weekly and even monthly projects to choose from, but a popular choice is a self-portrait project. Whether you commit to a daily 365 project, or a 52 weeks project, let’s look at the benefits and possible challenges of a self-portrait project for 2012:

1) With self-portraiture, you have the luxury of being able to work at your own pace, in a safe environment. You are exploring self-portraiture for you, and only you, which gives you the freedom to experiment with lighting, posing, post-processing and so much more, without the pressures of needing to please a client.

2) Whether you are a portrait, landscape or nature photographer, creativity and originality play an important role in your work. If you are not used to being in front of the lens, exploring self-portraiture can open your mind to new creative possibilities. Each of us has our own unique form of creativity, but the more we stretch our creativity, the more we grow as photographers. We can easily fall into a creative rut, but sometimes, trying something new, like self-portraiture, can help us avoid that dreaded rut, especially if you stretch yourself on a regular basis.

3) If you specialize in portraiture, experimenting with self-portraits will give you new ideas that you may then want to apply when you are photographing another person. Practicing self-portraits on a regular basis will help you narrow down what type of posing, lighting and composition will work in a given situation. That way, when you photograph another person, you will spend more time photographing them and interacting with them, rather than scrambling to set up the technical aspects of your shoot.

Photo by Dina MacLeod

4) If you commit to a 365 project, good for you! You are in for an extremely rewarding experience. But, let’s be honest here – a lot of us are too flooded with work, family and life to make that sort of leap. If you do not see yourself undertaking a 365 project, then you may want to consider a 52 weeks project. There are just as many photographers who have completed the 52 weeks as the 365 project, and at the end of the journey, they have come just as far as the people in the 365 camp.

Photo by Lee Jeffryes

5) Finally, self-portrait projects offer you a regular dose of self-expression and exploration. With a creative medium such as photography, even if you do not regularly take self-portraits, each of your photos is a reflection of how you see the world.  It is nearly impossible to explore self-portraiture without growth on a personal level, and personal growth, as photographers, almost always equals new creative horizons.

Want to learn more about HOW to take great Self Portraits? Check out Anna Gay’s eBook on the Art of Self Portraiture.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Anna Gay is a portrait photographer based just outside of Atlanta, GA. She is also the author of the dPS ebook The Art Of Self Portraiture

Some Older Comments

  • Calin S December 13, 2011 11:31 pm

    This seems like a very good project. Have to try it soon.

  • Mick James December 10, 2011 08:49 pm

    Does this qualify for a Self-Portrait? The sun was at the perfect angle for this shot. Will be signing up for the 52 week challenge in Jan.

  • Paul December 10, 2011 04:08 am

    Nice idea and nice photos, gives us something to aim for on these dark winter evenings!

  • Brianna Danylle December 9, 2011 05:29 am

    I've seen people do the self-portrait thing, but I didn't really understand it. Reading this article helps it make more sense to me. I think I'm game to try it. I'll do the 52 weeks challenge--I don't think I could handle (or want to subject others to) 365 pictures of moi.

    The cool thing with this is it will eliminate my excuse for not having a variety of pictures of myself to use for promotional stuff. :)

  • Lashawn December 9, 2011 04:34 am

    This is a great idea! I was going to do a 365, bit realized that it's a HUGE time commitment that I don't think I have. I started a blog and everything! Lol. But I think I'll do this and the 52 week project!

  • Jennifer Lycke December 9, 2011 04:15 am

    Thanks to this article, I think I've just added an item to my 2012 New Year's Resolutions list...a 52 weeks project...which can be an especially poignant process next year as I either a) become cured of my cancer or b) undergo further treatment. Either way, it could be a fascinating experiment. Thank you!

  • Verena Fischer December 9, 2011 03:50 am

    At the moment I'm busy with my 365 project, but sometimes when I'm a bit uninspired I tend to try a self portrait. This one is my favourite so far: http://experimentsinexperience.wordpress.com/2011/11/13/sleep-photographing/

  • Keivan Zavari December 7, 2011 03:33 am

    cool...I really need to do this! :-)

  • morphinion December 4, 2011 04:23 pm

    Inspired by "Through the Lens of Kimberly Gauthier, Kimberly Gauthier Photography" - "None of my self portraits are as amazing as these"

    Why to be amazing? What is amazing? There are so many objects and creatures around us so why to focus on a single face which points to all the wonderful compositions in front of us? Is it a fetish? Is it an ego-trip?

    Anyways ... to get to the point ... this is my one and only self-portrait:


    P.S. Those self-portraits are just wonderful ;o)

  • Cherry79 December 4, 2011 02:30 pm

    It helps if you're decent looking in the first place to do a self portrait. lol That's why I go out of my way NEVER to be in front of a camera. Always behind. lol

  • Clipping Path December 3, 2011 09:54 pm

    i like your winter project . This is so nice and nice your post.

  • Erik Kerstenbeck December 3, 2011 06:05 am


    Forgot to attach link!


  • Erik Kerstenbeck December 3, 2011 06:04 am


    Here is a quirky self portrait - mouth mounted Nikon SB 600


  • Heather December 3, 2011 04:39 am

    I was experimenting with self-portraiture quite a lot at the beginning of the year, but have stopped really. This post has inspired me to start taking self-portraits again. I think I'll commit to a 52 week self-portraiture challenge this next year.

  • Dana Andrews December 3, 2011 03:16 am

    Look, I know this is lame but I really do want to thank you for this article.
    I love studio shooting and spend a great deal of resources getting people to pose. It was obtuse of me, but I never thought to use myself as the model. Nor have I ever used the timer on the camera. So, new skills as well as cheap labor.
    So, it may have been a small item to write about but it was one of importance for me.
    Again, thank you

  • Through the Lens of Kimberly Gauthier, Kimberly Gauthier Photography December 3, 2011 03:06 am

    None of my self portraits are as amazing as these. Wow! I really need to get in front of my camera this weekend.

    Thanks so much for the inspiration.

    For me, the benefits of taking self portraits has been to tackle my camera shyness. I love taking pictures, I don’t like having pictures of myself taken. It has also helped me get used to what I can do, what my camera can do, and gave me an excuse to buy a wireless shutter release. I love that toy!

  • Mridula December 3, 2011 02:51 am

    Have to give it a try, though I would not commit a number as such. I hate getting photographed.

  • Brian Hursey December 3, 2011 02:16 am

    I just really started messing around with this. I did one Wednesday where I mixed strobist with light painting. Self portraiture really helps let you try new things. Although it is trail in error for focusing and framing your self. http://www.flickr.com/photos/bhursey/6431445481/

  • Diane Stresing (@DianeStresing) December 3, 2011 01:41 am

    Hmmmm good ideas; I'm easily inspired and slow to commit ESPECIALLY to new (non-revenue-producing) projects. But... perhaps I can commit to a monthly self-portrait. Yes. Mmmm. Liking this possibility quite a bit. Thanks for this and many other good ideas and practical inspiration!

  • Scott Wyden Kivowitz December 3, 2011 01:31 am

    A very simple Self Portrait project to get started with is Self Portrait Friday. (like today) - it's so simple anyone can do it! Grab a cell phone, snap a self portrait (be creative) and share it with the world using the hashtag #SelfPortraitFriday. You can read more about it on my website: http://scottwyden.com/self-portrait-friday/