little red riding hood portrait

Selfies are a funny phenomenon, aren’t they? Since the advent of Myspace and forward-facing cameras they’ve developed this terrible reputation for vanity, duck-face-pouts and self indulgence. But for many of us, the truth is that being on-camera is an awkward and uncomfortable experience, and self portraits are a powerful tool against that.

BUT WHY DO YOU NEED PICTURES OF YOURSELF ANYWAY?, I hear the Daily Mail readers of the world cry, and my answer is – for lots of reasons! To look back on and realise how beautiful you really were, despite how you felt. To post on Facebook to get opinions on your new hairdo. To send over in a panic when the magazine you’re writing for asks for a bio pic for their scarily public site. Mainly though, to put yourself in the story that the body of digital photographs we’re all building up tell – because it’s far too easy to stay stuck behind the camera and leave yourself out entirely, then look back with regret.

When I’m mentoring clients on Instagram, I encourage people to share a little bit of themselves somehow. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a selfie – a hand here, a little hair or shoes on a pavement – just something to give viewers a tangible connection to the real life person behind the account.

beauty tips

And as a woman, open to the usual scrutiny of the western world, I’m not massively comfortable with sharing my face to 119k people every day either. People are lovely, and nobody is expecting me to be a supermodel, but it still feels strangely vulnerable to share a self portrait so publicly.
The added element is the accusation of narcissism – or at least, the fear of that accusation. It’s in a lot of our heads, I think – I’m not really sure that all that many people are looking and rolling their eyes at pretty selfies – but it’s a fair and real consideration, especially if your instagram is a part of your ‘personal brand’.

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So the solution I have found is the ‘creative selfie’. I’ve got two ongoing projects – #meandlukeskywalker and #meandorlafairytales, which you might have spotted on my Instagram. Finding a creative project like these to include myself in somehow reduces the focus on me, and makes it more about the fun of the photo. It doesn’t matter if I don’t look perfect because it isn’t really a photo of me at all – it’s a photo of a girl on a picnic with a cardboard cut-out, or a a fictional fairytale character.

It’s also a chance to do something a little bit different – to stretch my imagination and step outside of the usual Instagram cliches.

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& the icing on the cake? Since posting my Luke Skywalker shots, I’ve had a huge upsurge in enquiries from fashion brands! They email me and link directly to those silly, offbeat pictures, and cite them as examples of my work that they love. I mean, maybe they haven’t noticed that my pictured boyfriend is two-dimensional and only ever wears orange, but I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt and guessing that everyone’s a little tired of the same old ‘oh just strolling down a pretty street!’ blogger shots, & there’s space out there for people doing something a little more fun. Or maybe it’s simply that by being more present in my feed, I’ve reminded my audience that I’m a human. The very same thing I’ve been prompting my mentoring victims clients to do.

So I’m urging you to be one of them. Find your comfort zone, control how you appear, but find a way to share your physical self now and then. Strangely, it’s incredibly liberating, to let yourself be actually seen, and take control of how. I’m cheering you on. x

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You in? Here’s some inspiration…

Also, don’t miss my guide for Inkifi on the how to of creative selfies, from mounting to shutter release!


How do you feel about selfies and sharing your own image? Got some other favourites inspiration I can add to the above list? Leave me a comment & I’ll update to add them in!

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  • vermilion

  • November 19, 2016

How do you take these selfies though ? Who do you get to take them and give them creative direction ? I often find as soon I hand over my camera / phone to someone else – I am almost never happy with the result. I’d love some tips please.

  • Rosa Dias Silva Marcolin

  • July 02, 2016

Hi Sara! Loved the links above…and could’t resist adding a link of my own…it’s from a portuguese photographer and film director, called Claudia Clemente…she has a project called “playing with myself”…here goes!

  • Alison Burrows

  • April 11, 2016

ah so please i’m not the only one who can’t quite work this out. Add a 2 year old toddler into the equation (who loves an iPhone ) and it seems almost impossible to me

  • Ksenija

  • April 03, 2016

Hi Orla! I am really curious how you tape your Iphone to subjects? How you make photos? How you make sure you are in focus? Can you maybe write a blog about it, or at least explain it shortly here?))) Thank you! Struggling with taking photos alone of myself and my husband is not really hapy when I ask him))

  • Skye O'Neill

  • March 14, 2016

May I ask what is probably a very stupid question – from a technical perspective, how do you accomplish your self-portaits? For example the Luky Skywalker photo in your post (which I love!) – do you get someone to take it for you? Sorry if this is an obvious question, it’s just I would love to have myself in shot occasionally on my IG account (which is mostly architecture) but can’t quite work out how to do it, unless you have a helpful friend along with you!

  • Faye Larsen

  • March 10, 2016

I would really love to be in more pictures so my kids can actually remember what I looked like when I only had a couple of grey hairs! I had no problem appearing in numerous shots in my Uni years where I was drunk about 70% of the time and podgy (looking back I was probably too busy having a good time to notice or care but I find myself more critical as I get older). Everything you say above is totally true and but I do just find my face looks all kind of weird and awkward (probably just being too critical) so I think the key will be to focus on faceless selfies for the time being! xxx

  • Josephine Boyce

  • March 07, 2016

It’s something I struggle with. I’m promoting my first novel at the moment and found an amazing community on Instagram (bookstagram) but one thing I don’t want to do it use any pictures of myself. It’s funny, I’m not at all self conscious about it but I feel like I already have to share a lot of myself to market my book and it just feels like the tipping point. I’m trying to stop worrying about it as I want to do a Q&A video but I guess I have that same fear of becoming a ‘selfie’ person. I think the introvert in me is a bit scared. Self-publishing a book was a little like baring my soul, now I’m scared to bare my image too.

  • Sara Tasker

  • March 07, 2016

Thanks Xanthe.
I loveloveLOVE your collection of portraits and am adding it to the list above. I’m tempted now to do something similar, but thinking (as you say) about the time I don’t have to play around…(you look exactly the same, btw!)

Fair point re: selfies vs self portraits. I sometimes think the idea of a self portrait feels too huge and impossible for people to even consider – connotations of formality and a certain type of image – so I’m hoping we can raise the bar on what ‘selfie’ means instead! 🙂 x

  • xantheberkeley

  • March 07, 2016

I couldn’t agree more! Your self portraits are wonderful and they show time and effort has gone into them.

I like to think self portraits are slightly different to “selfies”, for me there’s more thought and creativity that goes into them, rather than an arms length pout and click. I did a 52 week SP challenge 5 years ago… and it taught me so much… how to use yourself as a subject when there’s no one else around, you get to experiment and play, practice techiniques… all of which I use now in my work… and the most important part – proof of you and an acceptance of who you are in this moment.

It’s here if you’re interested – – All I think is how much younger I look! and how I had more time to just play with my camera!

Great post! xxx

  • Sara Tasker

  • March 07, 2016

Hurray! Looking forward to seeing the resullts – tag me on insta if you share any so I can admire! Glad to hear someone else likes the Luke photographs. I’m having way too much fun with him to stop! ?? x

  • Sara Tasker

  • March 07, 2016

Argh it’s awful, isn’t it? It’s horrible to feel so vulnerable doing something so simple. It definitely sounds like a creative selfie project – just you, no kids – could be an interesting journey for you and hopefully help you feel better in front of the camera! x

  • Sara Tasker

  • March 07, 2016

Hurray! Don’t let that fear win out. There are so many things I’ve missed out on for fear of what other people would think. No more! x

  • Sara Tasker

  • March 07, 2016

Hurray! Looking forward to seeing the results – if you share on Insta tag me so I can see! & we clearly share great taste in themes 😀 x

  • Sara Tasker

  • March 07, 2016

Hurray! I really hope so! All but the top image are iPhone. I use the built-in timer and a homemade tripod, or my human tripod/fiance! x

  • Little House Lea

  • March 07, 2016

You’re so right – not enough selfies and not enough to look back on in the future. I love the Luke Skywalker shots and will think about how to involve myself creatively in my feed now. Thanks!

  • Alison

  • March 07, 2016

Such lovely ideas. I’m battling with the promise to myself that I’ll be in more photos for my kids / selfie poser struggle. I have to have a child in front of me or I can’t do it, but I really don’t know why! Must. Try. Harder.

  • Hermione

  • March 07, 2016

Hit the nail on the head. My fear of perceived narcissism stops me putting selfies out there. This has inspired me to be a bit braver. Thank you x

  • ~ Sue ~

  • March 07, 2016

Oh how I love these. They might even tempt me to partake of the selfie phenomenon! Silly question, but you took these with a big camera, tripod and a timer, right? I’m thinking maybe I might need a rack and a third arm otherwise.

  • Sara Tasker

  • March 06, 2016

Thanks Miss P – glad to hear it’s got you inspired 🙂 x

  • Miss. P

  • March 06, 2016

What a wonderful take on the selfie! You have certainly inspired me to think a little out of the box, thank you!

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