How to Take Good Pictures of Yourself for Instagram [Before vs. Afters!]

Table of Contents

Raise your hand if you’ve ever tried to take an Instagram-worthy pic of yourself, only to wind up shooting, deleting, reshooting, deleting, reshooting… you get my drift here. ‍♀️

After a while, you just want to give up and post a pic of your puppy instead.

(Note: There’s nothing wrong with that. Instagram could use more puppies! )

But here’s the thing: your Instagram feed could use more photos of you, too!

Why? It’s simple. People connect with your face. Posting pictures of yourself helps your audience see that you’re real and connect on a deeper level.

So how to take pictures of yourself for Instagram?

That’s what we’re covering in detail today, so buckle up!

how to take pictures of yourself- girls standing on rooftop taking selfies
Our Tailwind selfie party

Plus, we wouldn’t be Tailwind if we didn’t go the extra mile for you and demonstrate our own before and after photos of these selfie-snapping tips!

That’s right – to help you learn how to take good pictures of yourself, our brave team willingly took questionable selfies to be posted on the internet…

Forever. #CustomerService

So what are you waiting for? Let’s have a selfie party!

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1. Use the Proper Device

First things first – High-quality photos in social media reflect the brand’s quality and identity, even if it is your personal brand. But, to achieve it, you need to find a device that allows you to showcase all the ideas you have envisioned.

A high-quality image will capture your audience’s attention, communicate your message better, and show professionalism; some even believe it relates directly to increased engagement.

The good news is that nowadays, there are many available DSLR cameras and smartphones that make this task a bit simpler. So now, in the moment of truth, which of these two is better? 

We asked our social media strategist friends Marek and David and this is what they had to say:

Image size is another factor to consider because a low-quality camera might not provide the proper sizes to adhere to Instagram’s guidelines for photos and reels. To better understand Instagram image size, check out our article.

2. Find Your Lighting

Arguably the most important factor of a good selfie – LIGHTING.

If you’re puzzling over how to take pictures of yourself, the answer is definitely NOT doing it in dim rooms or super-bright artificial lighting.

Our world-class Community Manager Melissa bravely volunteered to demonstrate the difference for you.

First, she snapped a pic under the fluorescent lighting in her workspace.

This harsh lighting tends to wash out your skin tones and throw shadows into sharp focus.

Takeaway: Bright light does not equal good light.

However, when Melissa moved over to a large window and snapped her selfie, it made all the difference!

The natural light from the window illuminated Melissa’s features without washing them out! Her skin glows and her lips have color again!

Now it’s your turn! Here’s how to find your best light:

How to Take Pictures of Yourself in Great Lighting:

  • Shoot by a window or in a shady spot
  • If outside, avoid pictures in harsh mid-day lighting.
  • Experiment with taking your pictures mid-morning or mid-evening for soft, flattering light
  • Avoid light sources like house lamps (creates yellow light) or harsh bright lighting.
  • Don’t use flash if you can help it!

3. Practice Natural Poses

Let’s be real: it feels really awkward to pose for photos in a way that doesn’t look, well… posed.

If you’re anything like me when a camera is pointing your way you hit a variation of the same stance without even thinking about it!

(Mine is hand on the hip turned slightly to the side. Pageant style. )

There’s nothing wrong with a go-to pose, but it can quickly get repetitive in your feed. To amp up your Instagram profile and keep things fun, fresh, and interesting, you need to find natural-feeling poses that showcase you in the best way possible!

I know, I know. Easier said than done. That’s why our Chief of Staff Ellana offered to demonstrate!

In the before photo, Ellana strikes a basic pose for her portrait.

It’s definitely not a bad picture but doesn’t showcase Ellana’s fun, can-do personality.

In fact, by creating this enclosed shape with her arms, she’s unconsciously submitting a closed-off and uncertain look to the viewer.

In the after shot, Ellana relaxes back into her seat, leans on the armrest, and cocks her head slightly towards the camera. She’s adjusted to catch the lighting, and the uncertain posture is gone.

Now she’s just effortlessly cool!

Here’s how to take your own aesthetic selfies:

  • Use a mirror to check your poses. This might feel weird at first, but you’ll get a feel for which poses feel natural and expressive of your personality!
  • Use Time Lapse, an intervalometer, or photo bursts to try a few different poses in front of your camera to give yourself tons of options to choose from!
  • Take a million test selfies striking all kinds of poses. Find 3-5 signatures that you love, and practice until they are second nature!

Test All of Your Angles

Do you know your best angles? If the answer is no, you’re not alone. According to many group photos, I still haven’t found mine!

The good news is, they’re pretty easy to find with some dedicated practice! Ever heard someone stop a picture snap right to switch to their “good side”?

That means they know their best angle, or the most flattering angle to position their face or the camera in.

Our Pinterest Product Specialist Alisa volunteered to demonstrate a before-and-after of camera angles.

In her before selfie, Alisa has the camera angled down towards her face.

At the same time, she’s angling her face toward the camera 3/4ths of the way.

This changes the way the light hits her face in the shot, and accentuates away from one of her most gorgeous features: her eyes!

Boom! In her after selfie, Alisa is serving us a major smolder with two slight angle changes. She’s positioned the camera level with her eyes and tilted her chin at a slight angle.

Completely different look, right? Now you can see her eyes and the planes of her face are highlighted in all the right ways.

Here’s how to test all of your angles for perfect Instagram pictures:

  • Set up your shot with your desired settings, exposure, and focus.
  • Use the TimeLapse, Photo Burst, or intervalometer (on most DSLRs) to quickly take variations of the same photo from the same camera angle.
  • Focus on angling your chin, forehead, head, and body in different positions and angles. Keep full, 1/2 (profile), and 3/4 (turned slightly away) in your mind for all of these.
  • Reposition your camera higher or lower and repeat!

You will absolutely have a million photos to look at, but you’ll quickly get a feel for where the camera needs to be and where your face and body should be angled to get the most flattering looks!

5. Grab a Tripod

Unless you have the cash to burn on a live-in photographer, chances are you’ll be taking photos by yourself most of the time.

Knowing how to take pictures of yourself alone will change your selfie game.

One of the best ways to do it? Grabbing a tripod! You can find extremely affordable phones and camera tripods on Amazon.

Many of them are even equipped with a handy Bluetooth remote that allows you to snap an Instagram picture without touching your phone!

Our ace Customer Success Associate Sarah was more than happy to demonstrate for us!

how to take pictures of yourself alone - woman posing in front of tripod

Here’s Sarah’s before selfie.

It’s super cute!

Buuut you can see Sarah’s “selfie arm” that makes a self-portrait look a little less polished than we’d like.

Plus, when you hold your camera yourself, you can’t catch all the details of your great outfit. Boo!

It’s also tough to capture full lifestyle shots that tell a story this way.

In Sarah’s “after” selfie, she’s able to back up and strike a flattering pose using a simple stand and her iPhone’s self-timer.

Adorable, right?

Here’s how to take good pictures of yourself alone with a tripod:

  • Attach your device to your tripod and check for potential slipping and stability.
  • Adjust your exposure and focus to your desired settings.
  • Mark where you need to stand for your best shots.
  • Snap away!

6. Perfect Your Composition

Composition is a key part of a good photo, whether you’re taking product photos with your iPhone or a selfie!

Our Customer Success star Doricia was on hand to show you the difference composition makes. Let’s take a look!

In her “Before” photo, Doricia serves us a major look from a couch.

This photo is great, but the balance and composition are a little off.

If you imagined a grid over this photo, dividing it into 9 squares, you’d notice that it’s off-balance.

There’s more white space at the top of the photo, and the subject skews to the left.

In her after selfie, the composition of this shot is way more balanced. Doricia is centered in the photo, and it’s balanced on either side.

Here’s how to perfect your photo composition:

  • Enable the Grid on your camera (under Settings > Camera)
  • Practice lining yourself up with a vertical line on the Grid, or at the intersection of two lines
  • Balance your photo as much as possible with symmetry (if you fold the photo down the center, there should be an almost equal amount of detail on either side)
  • Scan your surroundings for unsightly clutter, details, or items that might distract the eye.

7. Put Finishing Edits on Your Photos

While we’d love to nab the perfect selfie on our first try, most photos could benefit from a few finishing touches in an editing app.

From lighting tweaks to blemish removal and softening, you can make your self-portrait shine with just a few taps!

Our Inbound Marketer Jordan demonstrates the subtle effects of a few edits using a selfie, and Adobe Lightroom.

Jordan’s “before” selfie is great!

However, it’s just a smidge too dark, which can make detail hard to see.

Plus, she’s taking her picture against a greenery wall, which looks a tad faded.

A punch of extra vibrance will make that colorful backdrop stand out!

A few lighting and color tweaks and voila!

Jordan’s face is illuminated with a gentle nudge of exposure, and the shadows on her face now aren’t as harsh.

You can also tweak selective colors in most editing apps.

That made it a breeze to increase the saturation and luminance of the green backdrop!

To put the final touches on your selfies, download an Instagram photo editor (we discuss the pros of our five top favorites!) and experiment with edits until your selfie is just right.

8. Play with the Settings on Your Camera

Before you go through the process of uploading your selfie to an app and making tweaks, poke around and see if your camera settings can’t manage some of those edits already!

For example, the settings in my iPhone 11 Pro often remove the step of editing my Instagram photos!

Here’s my own example selfie!

In this shot, I used the Portrait setting on the iPhone. This softens the background of your photo and makes the photo subject clearer!

The lighting is pretty good as is, right? #ThatNaturalLightTho

However, I often add the Studio Light setting to get a little extra brightness and crisp focus to my photos.

I’ve added that Studio Lighting to my after photo. Overall, my face, eyes, and hair are a pinch brighter and stand out more!

And the best part, I didn’t even have to open this selfie in one of my apps for editing.

How to Take Good Instagram Pictures of Yourself with Your Camera Settings:

  • Take yourself on a tour of each camera setting to understand what they do, and their best uses!
  • Set and lock the focus of your selfie (you!) to make sure that you don’t lose sharpness or clarity.
  • Pre-adjust your exposure and lighting on your camera before snapping your shot – this removes a common finishing touch!

Check Out Our Photography Webinar for More Tips!

Whew! That was a lot of tips and tricks for taking good photos of yourself for Instagram! And guess what? There’s more where that came from!

Sign up for our FREE Smartphone Photography webinar to go even-more in-depth on:

  • Different types of lighting and how to work with each
  • The art of photo composition and interesting tricks to try
  • Perspectives and angles (with examples)
  • Step-by-step editing tutorials in Lightroom (you can apply these to any of your favorite apps!)

Did we mention it’s absolutely free? Don’t hesitate- view our webinar right now!

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9. Start Scheduling Your Selfies to Instagram

Now that you’ve learned how to take good photos of yourself for Instagram… it’s time to get those beauties onto your feed! You can easily and quickly schedule all of your beautiful posts with Tailwind’s publishing tool.

Just upload your photos into your drafts and arrange them with our visual Instagram planning tool – the 9- Grid Preview.

Our Smart Schedule tool will analyze your best times for engagement and create calendar slots for each. Tada! ✨

And if you prefer to set it and forget it, just enable Auto Posting for Instagram Business accounts! Tailwind for Instagram will do the heavy lifting for you and post your amazing selfies on your behalf at the best times. ⏱

Can’t wait to try it out? Sign up for the forever free plan of Tailwind for Instagram – no credit card required!

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