The season of love will soon be upon us, and that certainly includes self-love. There’s a department we could all pay a little more attention to.
Photography is a perfect outlet for practicing self-love through artistic self-expression. Less like looking in a mirror, self-love photography pushes you to turn your entire being—perfections and “imperfections”—into art. Learn to love and appreciate your authenticity with these tips for self-love photo shoots.
What is self-love photography?
It’s no secret that many of us don’t give ourselves the same type of love we give to others. At times, it doesn’t feel like self-love and care fit into a busy schedule of work, social events, appointments, and chores. But self-love is a crucial piece of a fulfilling, healthy life.
Self-love is more than conquering insecurities and taking care of your body. It’s learning to unconditionally fulfill your non-material needs for empathy, celebration, affirmation, forgiveness, and empowerment. It’s also not a destination – it’s something you choose to give yourself every day. Choose to find the beauty in your body and life, speak to yourself with kindness, and treat yourself to the things that bring you joy.
Self-love photography calls for you to notice and appreciate the finer details of your being and your human experience. It gives you the space to interpret feelings and stories into visual art. In fact, being in front of a camera is often a very vulnerable experience, even for people who love the spotlight. (That’s the point). It’s crucial to be vulnerable and honest with yourself in order to give yourself the unconditional love you deserve. By expressing yourself through photography without judgment or negativity, you are actively choosing self-love.
Start with the right equipment
Whether you’re using a smartphone or a DSLR, you may want some equipment to help you take solo photos of yourself and even to add flare to your photography.
First, for self portraits, you’ll want a tripod. This will help you take photos of yourself, and more generally allow for hands-free shooting. There are tripods for both smartphones and for DSLRs. Some tripods even have attachments for both. This is a great investment for all photographers; it will allow you to shoot with a timer or Bluetooth remote, take prolonged exposure photos, and overcome shaky hands in low light.
Next, you may also want to invest in some new lenses. A great portrait lens, especially for beginners, is a 50mm f/1.8. These lenses are better at capturing a full scene, and a lower f-stop can add depth to your backdrop (this looks like a focused subject and a blurred background). For smartphones, there are both apps and lens covers that can create artistic effects like fish-eye and wide-angle.
Explore truth through self-portraits
To indulge in the cliché, a photo speaks a thousand words. Thus, think of how your stories could be represented visually. Reflect on what your “truth” is: the uncensored representation of your personality and the story of your life. There’s no path to unconditional self-love without unconditional honesty.
Start with these questions to get the thought process going:
- What would you be nominated “most likely” to be doing?
- What are some of your habits and creature comforts?
- Where do you feel most at peace? Most joyful?
- If you were a season, which one would you be?
- Do you have an item, like a pair of shoes, that you’ve held onto longer than you should?
Dive deeper with these ones:
- What have you conquered or overcome?
- How have you changed in the last few years?
- Do others view you differently than you view yourself?
- What do you love about yourself? In contrast, what are you trying to change?
- What are the different “faces” of your personality?
As you ponder these, think about how you could symbolize or represent your reflections visually. You’ll begin to piece together your life story. It doesn’t have to be dramatic or triumphant. It just has to be authentic. When you begin the creative process of visualizing these feelings, you’ll inevitably learn to notice the things that make you, you.
Learn to love the details
Self-love comes from understanding and accepting your whole self. Your whole self includes the seemingly mundane, your perceived imperfections, and even the things you’re working to change. Detail-oriented photography can help introduce you to those parts of yourself and learn to appreciate them from a new angle.
Start small by romanticizing your daily routines and the way your life “looks,” such as the steam of your morning coffee, the habitual way you tuck one leg while reading a book on the couch, or the scratches on your desk where you tap while you work. Capture these moments creatively using light and shadow or by creating interesting shapes with the natural lines and angles of your subject.
If you’re capturing your physical body, include the details that make you unique. Feature your freckles, stretch marks, scars, and birthmarks. Be patient with yourself as you learn to appreciate these parts of yourself by turning them into art.
Discover a new perspective on self-love
Look at yourself through a new lens. Classic self-portraits are a great way to practice self-love through photography, and you can stretch beyond the expected. Think of ways to creatively express your identity and your story through your photos. Think of it like a song or an abstract painting. The representation is personal to you, and you can create the feeling you’re trying to convey without naming it directly.
Embrace a new point of view on something mundane to you. This can make a photo more interesting and add layers of meaning and emotion to it. For example:
- Capture your morning coffee routine from an aerial angle to display posture and environment.
- Represent yourself deep in thought from a very low angle that shows your facial expression in detail.
- Snap a photo of a love note diagonally on the corner of the table with your feet out of focus below.
You can also use symbols and metaphors to represent your feelings. It may be difficult to capture the story of healing your mental health, but you can visualize it in your own personalized artistic fashion. This could be colors, objects, or body language. A few examples:
- Use red lighting to represent passion or anger.
- Cover your face less and less throughout your shoot to symbolize “unmasking” yourself, or coming into your authentic self.
- Look upward to show optimism and hope.
- Incorporate lavender to symbolize peace and calmness.
Connect self-love and self-care. As much as self-love is about acceptance and appreciation, it’s also about actively giving yourself the things that bring you joy. This calls for a little indulgence.
What makes you feel cared for? For instance, it could be a bubble bath with all the fixings, satisfying your sweet tooth after a long day, or putting on makeup and an elegant outfit. Bring this into your self-love photo shoot. Preparing these things for yourself is a great act of self-love, especially around this time of year. Capture both the process and the indulgence.
What makes you smile with your teeth? Bring it into your shoot. For example, play in the snow and take photos of yourself making snow angels. Moreover, get messy flinging paint around and take photos before, during, and after (you might want to bag your camera or use a waterproof phone case for this one). You can also blow bubbles in your backyard and capture the blissful smile on your face. Similarly, dance to your favorite songs and take action shots, some from far away and others close-up on your facial expressions. When you do what you love, the joy portrayed in your photos will feel genuine.
These photos could be best at the end of the more serious shots you’ve planned. Lighten it up and always end on a high note.
Be a model for others to practice self-love
Once you’ve explored self-love, pass the experience on to your loved ones by setting up self-love photoshoots for your friends or family. You can keep it light and fun or dive deep. Doing this from the other side of the camera will allow you more room to get creative. You’ll have more time and distance to think about the photos.
If you and your model decide to dive deep during this photo shoot, have a conversation beforehand. Explore the same questions and topics that you did with yourself to find the story. Together, you can brainstorm different ways to convey it visually using their body, symbols, light and shadow, and so on. Yes, we’re putting it all together here.
You don’t have to share your most vulnerable shots with the world. But some of your collection will make a great conversation piece for your home. Display your favorites in a modern, elegant way by turning them into glass prints. You can also compile the object-focused photos (like the ones of your morning coffee or the love note on your table) and turn them into a self-love Photo Wall. Your beautiful new glass prints will serve as an everyday reminder for you and your visitors to choose self-love every day.