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3 Reasons Every Photographer Should Take Self Portraits

by Stephanie Faris
featured, photo & video

Peter Hurley

Every time renowned portrait photographer Peter Hurley takes a photo of himself, he learns more about how he looks. He sets his equipment up, using a self-timer, and is always surprised by what he sees. Whether it’s the tilt of his mouth or a feature he didn’t know was there, his self-portraits always reveal something about himself he wouldn’t ordinarily notice.

“That’s what a photographer’s job is,” Peter said. “You have to be the mirror.”

As a photographer, you spend most of your time behind the camera. You work hard to set up the perfect shot that will make your clients happy. By occasionally stepping in front of that camera, photographers can refine their own techniques and put themselves in the client seat. Here are three reasons every photographer should spend time on the other side of the camera on a fairly regular basis.

Learn More About Portrait Photography

A photographer can build an extensive portfolio of portraits, working with people from all walks of life, and still miss some of the best techniques of portrait photography. Only by putting yourself in front of the camera can you learn more about lighting, angles, and poses that bring out the best in your own features.

The learning experience won’t be the only great result you’ll get from your photography session. You’ll also have a wide array of photos of yourself that you can use for your professional headshots. Even if you don’t use them for professional purposes, you’ll still personally have great snapshots of yourself at various periods throughout your life.

Peter Hurley 2

Empathize with Client Unease

Once you’re on the other side of the camera, you fully put yourself in the place of each of your clients. You’ll grow to understand how uncomfortable it can feel to try to strike flattering poses while a bright light is blaring from above.

As you sit on the other side of the camera, imagine what a photographer could say to make the process easier. Think of the commands you usually issue and how little they make sense to a client. A strange twist of the shoulder or awkward tilt of the head may make perfect sense on the screen, but if the client can’t see that screen, there might be a few things you could say that would help it make sense.

Try New Techniques

The best way to set yourself apart from the many other professional photographers on the market is to take a completely different approach. When you’re being paid for a photo session, experimentation is off limits. The client expects you to have already perfected your technique.

Self portraits give photographers the chance to experiment with different lighting, angles, and lenses. No one scrutinizes a portrait as much as the subject of that photo, so if you can find an approach that you actually like, chances are your clients will like it, as well.

When you sit on the other side of the camera occasionally, you learn more than you could ever have imagined. It helps you experiment with new angles and gain empathy for your clients, making you a better photographer and business owner.

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Stephanie Faris

Stephanie Faris is the Simon & Schuster author of 30 Days of No Gossip, 25 Roses, and the upcoming Piper Morgan series.