So, we’re out on a photo walk or on an everyday adventure and we see the perfect spot to take a self-portrait with our camera or iPhone, but….there are people around! Do we take the photo? Do we move on? What will they think we’re up to?
These questions come up a lot in my self-portrait classes and it such a good one to chat about! So I thought I’d share a few tips with you about how to take self-portraits (especially full body photos or those in which we step into the frame) in public!
Find a Bit of Privacy in a Public Space
You might be surprised to know, there are plenty of times I don’t take a photo because I do feel too in view of other people. One trick I really like to do is to find a bit of privacy in a public space. This could standing behind a tree, or on the other side of a fence, or just go down the beach a bit to take the photo.
Indeed, if you are setting up your tripod, you likely won’t be too inconspicuous, which is why I love to take photos from the ground (or near the ground, on a rock, on top of my purse)! That way your camera can be out of view (or like you just put it down) and you can take your self-portrait!
To me, it does feel really important to find a little bit of privacy. My personal exploration through self-portraiture is really based on finding my way back home to feeling present & at home in my own body, my own skin and a big part of that explored through movement. So finding these little bits of privacy even in public places, feels important to create that safe space to move or dance or whatever I need to do to feel grounded in my body on that day!
Have a Couple Camera Options!
One of the ways I really like to listen to my gut when taking these self-portraits is whether the moment I want to take the photo in public calls for using my iPhone or my DSLR. iPhones are much more subtle as they are so much smaller and someone would have to be pretty close to see that I’m taking photos from the ground with it!
My DSLR on the other hand, is much bigger and I’m more likely to be noticed using it! If you have a Point and Shoot, that is a great option too as it is pretty subtle!
Having these options feels really important too when I’m in a place where I don’t want to make it too public that I have a big fancy camera or if I don’t feel too comfortable being too far away from my camera bag. In these kind of situations I like to use my iPhone as it is much easier to set it down and step into the frame without being too far away!
Scout out Locations (and sometimes, just go for it)
If you’re craving to take more self-portraits out ‘n about, I totally recommend keeping your eyes open for good spots to go to and to make note of them! Places like parks, community gardens, in front of murals, in touristy places, in fields, in the forest, alleys!
I love to jot down places that I haven’t tried yet in a note on my iPhone as I see them and if at the moment it doesn’t seem like its going to be a fit to take a photo, you can always come back!
Yet, sometimes you might just see a spot that you REALLY want to take a photo. Sometimes we just need to go for it! The time we’re spending wondering if someone will come around the corner seeing us might be the exact time we need to actually go for it and take the photo! Often on my photo walks I’ll find a ray of light that is just asking to be stood in for a photo and there are plenty of houses around. Is someone watching from inside their house? Perhaps? But I like to remember that all the jumping and twirling might just add a bit of joy to their day! In this case, like my last point, I might decide to use my iPhone to make the photo more subtle to people watching!
For more locations ideas, check out this post: 10 Great Places to Take Self-Portraits!
Listen to Your Intuition, Not Just Your Inner Critic
I go on LOTS of photo walks, especially when spring arrives and the light has returned! I often try to go out every evening even just for a walk around a few blocks of my neighbourhood. What I’ve discovered about taking self-portraits in public is that it really helps to notice what is my intuition speaking and what is my inner critic.
When we can listen to our intuition, we can notice if it feels like a safe or comfortable spot to pause and take a self-portrait in public. We can notice what feels like the right type of photo to take in that moment. Do we feel brave enough to put down our camera and step into the frame? Or would this be a better moment to stretch our our arm and take an arms length self-portrait? Or do we feel most comfortable in that moment taking the oh so subtle foot self-portrait style photo? In each moment we have lots of options.
If none of them feel like a fit in that moment, I encourage you to just keep adventuring and not see it as not being brave enough or failing. Its listening to our intuition about whether or not it is a good moment to go for it! To tell you the truth I often find that when I have a moment of not feeling comfortable taking a photo in a certain spot in public (even if it is a place where I normally might take it) there is often a new spot, a different place that I’ll find further along on the photo walk to try.
Now, our Inner Critic on the other hand, might be that voice telling us that “We’ll look silly” or “People might laugh at Us” or “I’ll make a fool of myself”. These voices are trying to stop us from going outside of our comfort zone. Stepping into the frame and taking a self-portrait with our whole selves in it, especially in public, is vulnerable. Our Inner Critics…in a mean way…are trying to protect us. I know its hard to push past them ALL the time, but I really encourage you to not let them stop you from taking self-portraits in public all the time. I tend to like to remember different locations when I’m really having a rough Inner Critic day. On a day like this, I’ll try a location like the community garden near my house that is pretty quiet…and has a lower risk of people seeing me take my self-portraits than, for example, taking a photo standing in the sidewalk. Sometimes finding a space that feels a bit less busy is enough to help the Inner Critics take a hike!
Bring a Friend
Sometimes it can be helpful to have a cohort in our selfie taking and it can make us feel much more comfortable having someone to stand near our camera or cheer us on!
For my own personal journey with self-portraiture it has felt really important to find outside spaces where I can really feel comfortable moving and dancing as I heal my relationship to my body and feeling present in it. For me, this often has meant taking these photos solo as I feel more uninhibited and its that freedom, that ‘Dance like No One is Watching’ that I feel really in need of on this healing path.
But for you, going on photo walks with a friend might be the perfect answer, having support, and as you get even more comfortable taking photos out and about, you might try it on your own later on! I encourage you to do what feels right for you on this path!
And you know what…sometimes people will see us! Sometimes they’ll walk right into the photo (which makes for a fun outtake)!
I hope these have been helpful to you and I’d LOVE to know if you give taking a self-portrait in public a try! If you share your photo on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook please do use the hashtag #beyourownbeloved so I can find your photo as I’d love to celebrate you and cheer you on!
For more self-portrait suggestions & prompts, come join me for one of the upcoming sessions of one of my E-Courses! Beloved Beginnings starts soon, on March 10th, and is a 10 day exploration of seeing yourself with kindness through your camera!
Then starting April 1st, a new session of Be Your Own Beloved starts! This 28 Day class has been transformative in so many folks lives in shifting the way that they see themselves in photos from a place of critique to a place of self-compassion (and even seeing themselves with love)!