This assignment ran from Apr 25 to May 9, 2014.

We're often asked how difficult it is to photograph people and make the pictures interesting. If you're among those curious to learn more, why not practice on yourself? We all have a self-identity that includes how we see ourselves, and expectations of how we want the world to see us. Here's your chance to show the world something about you. Maybe you want to share your joy for life or express deep, inner feelings.

Photograph your reflection in a mirror or window. Avoid getting your camera in the pictures by getting to know your camera’s self-timer. If you're using a smartphone, look for camera apps that include a self-timer (a few are free).

You don’t have to include your entire form—maybe just a portion of you is enough. Experiment with different lighting to create different moods. Maybe it’s your shadow that works best. With this assignment, you don’t need the cooperation of a subject; you can take as much time as you want to explore the possibilities.

Curated by:

Becky Hale
National Geographic Staff Photographer

Mark Thiessen
National Geographic Staff Photographer
Assignment Status
  • Open

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Published May 16, 2014.
Thank you for your contributions!

Craft Your Image

Posted may 7, 2014

As we observed at the outset, when you are your own subject you hold all the strings. There’s no subject uncomfortably looking at their watch while you work to position them in just the right spot. You are quite literally crafting your own image.  

Remember, this assignment should push you PAST the "selfie" where your only aim is to get a quick snapshot of your face. If you've already tried a straightforward portrait, challenge yourself to try an environmental portrait that gives the viewer more context. 

Many of your self-portraits draw on symbolism to emphasize poignant or difficult aspects of your lives. Others have examined their faces at close range, playing with light, patterns, reflections and shadows. Some of you have tried shooting dark scenes that reveal recurring dreams or created comical portrayals of your adolescent selves.     

Because these shots are staged, they can really tell the story you want. Maybe your hometown is central to who you are. Maybe it's your roll in your family. The images I've been most drawn to tell me something MORE about the photographer.

Here's an exercise: as a way to previsualize your self-portrait, try writing the caption. What words would you use to describe yourself. How does the viewer know what matters to you, the subject? An image may grow out of the caption you craft. 

Comfort Zones

Posted may 1, 2014

It’s been really great to see all of your images. Believe us—we get it. This is a challenging assignment. It’s inherently risky to reveal something about yourself in a photograph. As photographers, we are so accustomed to making others our subjects that turning the camera on ourselves can be hard and counterintuitive. 

One of my first assignments in college was a self-portrait project. I spent a LOT of time getting to know my self-timer and operate a rickety tripod in my dorm room. There was something about sitting in front of my own camera that was very intimidating. Trying to bridge that gap between how I envisioned the image and how much time it took to actually get there was a really difficult but satisfying process. 

Here are some things to keep in mind as you keep shooting. 

Don’t only shoot photos with your extended arm. 

Try using your tripod or set your camera on a surface. 

Limit your post-processing: The images should stand on their own without the heavy use of filters and adjustments. 

If your face is in the frame, avoid covering it with your camera. 

Lastly, try a variety of things. Good luck and keep shooting. 

Avoiding the "Selfie"

Posted apr 23, 2014

What we want to avoid are the traditional selfies shot at arm's reach. This tends to distort your facial features because the wide-angle lens is so close to your face. Plus, they tend to be spur-of-the-moment shots that lack much thought behind them. 

This may sound intimidating at first, but we promise you that once you start experimenting, you won’t want to stop. 

Remember, you can only submit up to three photos during the assignment and the assignment closes on May 9 at 5 p.m. EST.

Becky Hale

Becky Hale

National Geographic Staff Photographer
Becky Hale is a studio photographer on staff with National Geographic magazine, working primarily out of the photo studio at Society headquarters in Washington, D.C. A frequent contributor to the Magazine, her work is wide ranging and includes portraiture and still photography illustrating complex scientific and cultural stories. Despite spending lots of time with inanimate objects, she’s most drawn to photographing people. She’s currently working on a project documenting her Washington D.C. neighborhood.

Mark Thiessen

Mark Thiessen

National Geographic Staff Photographer
Mark Thiessen is a staff photographer with National Geographic for the past 15 years and is recognized for his work on science stories and wildfire. Recent stories include Methane, Titanic, and he was the expedition photographer chronicling filmmaker James Cameron’s dive to the bottom of the Mariana Trench in DeepSea Challenger. He also runs the National Geographic photo studio.