What is self-photography?

Polaroid self-photography (photo by orphanjones - CC-BY)

Polaroid self-photography (photo by orphanjones - CC-BY)

Self-photography is a photographic technique that completely changes the style of photos that you take, because it includes you—the photographer—in every photo. Self-photography is not the same as using a self-timer.

With a self-timer, the photographer must fuss about with a tripod, or find some other way to stabilize the camera. After organizing the subjects of the photo, the photographer presses the shutter release (the “button”) and rushes to join the scene of the photograph. There cannot be any spontenaiety, and if anything spoils the photo then it must be set up all over again.

Self-photography improves on this by having the photographer hold the camera at arm’s length, and include him- or herself in the photo. It’s a technique that is available to anyone with a reasonably long and sufficiently strong arm.

The downside is that you can’t see the viewfinder while you’re setting up the shot. It requires a certain amount of practice to learn how to frame the shot properly, but once you’ve mastered this you can set up a self-photograph at a moment’s notice, to catch those shots that just couldn’t happen using a self-timer.

With self-photography, the photographer is no longer the outcast of the snapshots—the one who takes the photos of everyone else. Self-photography brings liberation and equality for the photographer.

An alternative and related approach is to use a mirror to help compose the photo. It doesn’t need to be a wardrobe mirror or bathroom mirror. It can be a truck mirror, some water in a pail, or a piece of chrome-plated metal. The mirror technique allows the photographer to be included in the composition without the delay caused by the self-timer, but because it needs a mirror the technique is very limited as to where it can be applied.

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