Take content creation into your own hands.

As you all know, I am a Sacramento-based artistic branding photographer for small businesses. However, since I can’t exactly provide the same services I did pre-Covid, I wanted to take the time to do this super easy tutorial for you all so that YOU can create your own content at home! Your instagram grid should not be put on hold just because you can’t get new photos of yourself (that aren’t so obviously selfies).

I hope that you decide to try taking your own self-portraits right in the safety of your home- you can make them as crazy or as simple as you like! I can’t wait to see what you come up with.

What You Need:

  • A fully-charged phone! In-between learning your poses, trying to figure out the best angles and actually taking your photos, you don’t want to stop half-way through for a re-charge
  • If you do happen to have a DSLR you are wanting to experiment with, I suggest charging that up, clearing a memory card and seeing if the maker has a phone app for remote shooting! Canon’s is called “Camera Connect” (fancy, I know). Otherwise you will use the DSLR’s self-timer feature just like we will on a phone.
  • A Space

Where you choose to take your photos is the most important decision you need to make. Why? Because to put it simply: the right kind of light makes all the difference in the world!

  • Ideally you want to be somewhere close to a window or some glass doors that have a lot of natural sunlight coming through. (Natural light is the most flattering!)
  • I chose to photograph in my dining room, close to the huge sliding glass doors that let in the most light in my whole house!
  • However, we don’t want this window light to be harsh sunlight, so avoid taking your photos directly in sun shining at you through the glass
  • For example: look at this photo of my setup. Photographing in those strips of really bright sunlight over by the window would have been very confusing to work with. Keep it simple and go just beyond the harsh sunlight into what we call "diffused" light underneath and beyond the kitchen table to where I am taking the photo from.
  • If you have your choice of room, pick the one with white walls. White is a naturally-reflecting color and will basically bounce around all the light from the window back on to you in a more flattering way
  • And make sure your background is clear! Of course this is an aesthetic choice, but I believe in keeping it simple! So I took my paintings off the wall and the plain white was my background.
  • Props:
  • This can be anything from some books to your product to your laptop or your favorite drink (I suggest not actually filling said cup of drink though...just from experience). Have fun with it!
  • Also I may suggest a “prop” or old phone if you want to get some more business-tailored images of yourself with a cellphone in hand like I did!

Tips: Clean laptop and glasses smudges if you’ll be wearing them! Nothing looks more unprofessional than a grubby computer when the light hits it just right.

  • Things to prop up your camera/phone with.
  • Depending on where you're wanting to take the photos, you are going to need to get height with your phone (as a general photography rule of thumb, we never EVER shoot up- your phone should be at chest-level or higher for more flattering portraits)
  • You can either get a nice, tall stack of books that’s nice and precarious (I never said this was a fail-safe way to take photos haha), or we can find places that are naturally higher up to place our phones on:
  • This could be a bookshelf, a table, the counter, a ledge etc. You may have to get creative with this one depending on where you’ve decided to take your photos
  • I ended up sitting down for my photos so that I could use the dining table as my surface to shoot on
  • Next, find your surface and place where you’d like to have your phone and prop it up between two heavy objects like books. (I propped mine up between a hard-cover book and a candle -yes, we’re getting real fancy!)
  • The goal is to prop up your phone so it is as upright as possible without blocking the camera. You may have to try out different sized books (or candles) to make sure your phone is both well-supported and the camera is not blocked (the camera on my phone is the upper left so I put the candle on the ridght side so it wouldn't block it).

And you also...need to feel AWESOME!

  • I know photos aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but if you decide to take this adventure, make the most of it! Wear an outfit you absolutely love and think you look totally awesome in and do your makeup! (Sorry I can’t help you there, but that’s what YouTube is for haha)

Our next step in the Self-Portrait process is practicing your posing.

Posing can be really difficult and a little frustrating without a professional there to help guide you, but I hope these tips of mine will help the process go a little smoother!:

  • Make sure your spine is always straight (yup, that means clenching those abs! Hey- it’s a win-win when you get great photos and a workout!)
  • A tip from my friend Monica: breathe in through your mouth and exhale through your nose!
  • My favorite way to get fun “laughing” photos is, right before “1”, to lean towards the camera and actually laugh! And I mean like a really loud “Hah!” that expels all the air from your lungs! It makes you laugh look super genuine (make sure to smile while you're doing it) and it also makes me actually laugh every time so I love this trick
  • If you wear glasses be sure to test out what your lenses will look like in your lighting situation! I had to keep my chin down a little lower than normal for these photos because my glasses got a huge glare if I lifted my chin past a certain point!
  • Just remember: one little adjustment could make a world of difference! So take your time and be patient with yourself
  • Practice all of your poses ahead of time so you know what looks good to you and so you know exactly what pose to strike come the countdown.

Setting Up the Space:

  1. Clear an easily accessible path from your phone to your chair or wall where you’ll be posing!
  2. Make your props easy to grab off the table or floor without tripping over them
  3. Know what pose and what props you need exactly for each shot

Take a coupe of test shots and double-check your photos for a clean background and any little things that draw your attention away from YOU! (I forgot this little blue cat toy in the corner).

Also you can see the corner of the candle peeking in on the right side of my frame but I actually quite like the effect! You could crop it out if you didn't like it later.

Taking Your Photos

After you’ve chosen your location, got your props, are all dressed up and have practiced your posing, it’s go-time!

Set your phone to a 10-second timer (this gives you enough time to readjust your phone once you press the shutter, grab your props, set your pose and then smile for the camera!) and then practice a couple of times with pushing the shutter button.

When I am in my camera app, my phone (the Google Pixel 4) can activate the shutter just by pressing the “up” volume button and this was a much easier way to start the timer since you won’t have to pick up the phone from between the books and then precariously slide it back in or prop it back up after you press the shutter button!

Start a mental countdown as soon as you hit that shutter button so you know exactly when the actual photo will take! That way you’re not sitting staring at your phone wondering if it actually took. This will also help you look your most genuine as I know it’s hard to keep a really believable smile for all ten seconds. Right before “one”, soften your face and give it your all!

And then rinse and repeat, baby! You’ll get a fun amount of exercise equivalent to a HIIT workout (no one else, just me?) and some super gorgeous portraits to use on instagram, your marketing materials, emails and more!

Change up the background, change your outfit and change up your props! (Trust me, you can never have too many photos to choose from!!)

Here are a few more General Photo Tips in case you’re new to this whole “portraits” thing:

  • Keep in mind the Instagram crop if that’s your end goal for these pics! On instagram you can only share square or 4:5 cropped photos so make sure that all of the information in the photo (you, your props, your chair, etc.) all fits into that crop. You can always go into instagram after the first photo to check!
  • A good rule to shooting for a square crop is to shoot horizontally instead of vertically so you know that everything will fit from top to bottom.
  • When in doubt, shoot wider! Get farther back and you can always crop in later :)
  • If your phone is angled slightly down to get your whole body in the shot, lean towards the camera to combat any unflattering double chin effects
  • I highly suggest bringing your photos into a free editing app like Google Photos or Lightroom afterwards for some adjustments.
  • I cloned out the thermostat in my photos using the simple “Healing Brush” tool on clone mode in Lightroom
  • I have my own presets I apply to all my photos to make them more consistent- I highly recommend looking into purchasing your own presets and giving this a try to make your photos pop even more!

So there you have it!

How to take your own self-portraits using your phone- who would’ve thunk!? Phones are so dang amazing nowadays, I can’t wait for you all to try this. I would love to see how they turned out once you do!! (Seriously, please shoot me an email at morganpotterphoto@gmail.com or a DM on instagram @morganpotterphoto!!)

And now that you have gorgeous new photos of yourself, be sure to check out my FREE Elevate Your Instagram Aesthetic Workshop THIS coming Saturday May 2nd at 3pm PST Live on instagram to see how to best incorporate your new portraits into your grid. See you there!