Photography How To: Self Portraits by Emily

Friday, July 05, 2013
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I saw a great question of the Clothed Much forums about taking "successful selfies" and it got me thinking. What IS the best way to take a successful selfie? I tried it out myself and realized how tricky it is to make sure the camera is focused right and also HOW AWKWARD IT FEELS when someone walks by. So I've got a quick tip to address issue #1 there - I still haven't figured out the not-feeling-awkward part!!

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You're going to need some sort of tripod for your camera so it can be at nearly eye-level to you. You'll need a nice location with good, even lighting. And chapstick. Whaaat? Yes, chapstick.

We're going to use the chapstick as a marker as we set up the shot because it's tricky to focus the camera when you're just looking at a blank sidewalk. By placing the chapstick where you intend to stand, you've got something small and bright to manually focus your lens on before you jump in the pic. Chapstick is small enough that once you get yourself in the shot, you can tuck it into your back pocket, hide it behind your shoes, or kick it out of the way.

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1. Switch your camera to MANUAL FOCUS then carefully align the focus on the chapstick. Snap a picture to check focus and exposure. Then, switch your camera to SELF TIMER mode. Set it for 10 seconds.

2. Click the shutter, then run over to your chapstick! Okay, running is not actually necessary. 10 seconds is splenty of time to walk 10 feet, so don't stress.

3. You made it! Go ahead and pick up the chapstick. And then...

4. Line up your toes directly on the spot your chapstick was sitting. Strike a pose and wait for the click! Then put your chapstick back in position, check the back of the camera, and snap a few more. You did it!

Here's my go at it...

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But the real question is - how do you take selfies without feeling completely awkward?! Answers in the comments would be appreciated.. 'cause I've got nothing!


  1. This is a really practical tutorial! I think every blogger needs this tip. But i don't think there's any cure to the not feeling awkward part. Hmm, maybe do a self-portrait while you're on booze? Hahahaha.


    Cheers from Jakarta,

  2. ha. awesome. I've heard to tell people it's for a photography class if they ask.

    ... idk?

  3. You simply can't not feel awkward when taking selfies.
    It's always awkward! Just avoid people! And just fiddle around with your camera/tripod when you see someone walking by.

  4. Thank you Emily for answering my question! This is super helpful, using something to focus on, because I always had the problem of getting blurry shots.

  5. OOOh thank you so much because I'm so annoyed with not being able to take my pictures on my own sometimes.

  6. This is a wonderful idea! I'm always cutting off my feet, so this is brilliant!
    Sincerely, Sara

  7. Love this! I'm just glad I got hubby to play photographer for me sometimes!


  8. Shutter release! It makes life so much easier. That being said, not all cameras will accept a release. I have taken my own photos since day 1, and a shutter release was one of my best purchases.
    I find with the chapstick trick (which I still use when I am ill-prepared or when my release is broken/needs new batteries), it's important to increase your f-stop (if I have my shutter release I tend to shoot using f/2.5 to f/3.0, but with the chapstick trick, you really want to make sure you are in focus so a much larger f-stop is better)

  9. good self portrait! you are a cutie!

  10. This was a great post! Thank you for sharing!

  11. It's so awkward, but I get over it once I've got great shots for my blog baby. I just dang a hat with a color that would match to my skin color so that my camera would focus 3 ft away from where I would stand. I would press the shutter button, ditch the hat quickly and then pose. It's great for close-up picture of my abdomen to my head.

  12. Woah. I just got my first DSLR and have been struggling to figure out how to do this. My method involved counting steps away from a "marker" object like a tree. Very inexact.

    As for awkwardness, I try to stick to areas where people won't see me--like my backyard or a secluded park. I did have to explain the whole schpiel to a few of my neighbors though, but in the end I just tell myself that if other people think I'm weird, that's their hangup :)

  13. I LOVE this idea! Thank you!! I'm not a big selfie myself (I totally understand the awkwardness of it) but for those times when a selfie is appropriate (lol, I say that almost with a snicker), this is an awesome trick!

    Elena at

  14. This is seriously the best advice EVER! I do style on my blog, and I'm the photographer in the house (although i am teaching my lads to be little photographers), and this is pure photographic gold.

    THANK YOU! x

    1. That is great to hear! Glad this helped! :)

  15. Great tip! Was this using a 50mm lens? How far away do you normally stand and place the chapstick for the full body shot?

    1. Yes - it's the 50 mm lens! For the full body shot, I'd say stand about 10 or 12 feet back from the camera. There's always a little trial and error with that step, usually my head gets cut off in the first few shots I take. :)