Photo Challenge Assignment: Artistic Selfies


You, like me, probably scoff at the concept of a “selfie” – one of those photos of oneself taken with the front-facing camera of a smartphone or, even worse, a selfie stick. With the amount of selfies that flood the internet every day, you probably feel that the world doesn’t need any more. But not to worry – we’re not talking about those kinds of selfies here. Instead we’re going to get artistic with selfies. Why? Because incorporating yourself in your photos can actually teach you a lot about composition and mastering the moment. Plus, it’s just plain fun!

In your next and final assignment of the Outdoor Photography Guide Photo Challenge, you’re going to get creative and explore the concept of the artistic selfie. Read through this post for specific tips and creative ideas for taking artistic selfies, and make sure to check out the inspiration gallery below.

But first, watch this video for some words of advice from this week’s guest expert (and king of the artistic selfie), Ian Plant:

Remember to join the Photo Challenge Facebook Group to share your shots from this week’s assignment!

Tips for creating artistic selfies


With the artistic selfie, you’re not just taking a photo of yourself. You’re using yourself as an artistic visual element within your overall composition. So don’t just walk in front of the camera and wave! Your presence needs a purpose: to provide a sense of scale, to tell a story, to add a dash of color, or to create a point of compositional interest. For example, with this photograph I made looking out from inside an ice cave on Lake Superior, I used the artistic selfie to accomplish all of these things. Using my camera’s 10-second timer, I ran out of the cave and struck my most manly and dignified pose. I tried this several times until I got it right! Photo by Ian Plant. Canon 5DIII, 17mm, ISO 400, f/11, ¼ second.


Your artistic selfie doesn’t even need you in it. You just need to find a way to include a hint of you. What I mean by this is that you can include an abstraction of your physical self. One way to accomplish this is to use your shadow, as I did for this image. After setting up my composition, I stood in front of the open window of this abandoned building, using my camera’s ten-second timer to give myself time to get into position and to strike an appropriate pose. Photo by Ian Plant. Kolmanskop Ghost Town, Namibia. Canon 5DIII, 19mm, ISO 100, f/11, 1/15 second.


One important use of the artistic selfie is to create a sense of scale in your photos – or, if you prefer, to intentionally distort scale through the use of forced perspective. That’s what I did here with this image of a glacial ice cave. Although the cave was rather large, the ceiling was very low. Using a wide angle lens, I had my camera mostly pointing up at the ceiling, only a few feet away. By selecting a position for myself several dozen feet away from the camera, I made myself look small in the picture, while the ceiling of the cave seems to loom large overhead. Photo by Ian Plant. Vatnajokull National Park, Iceland. Canon 5DIII, 15mm, ISO 800, f/16, 4 seconds.


For this artistic selfie, I photographed my reflection in bubbles formed by sea-foam on the shore. The bubbles lasted only a few seconds, so I dashed out to find some foam as a wave retreated, setting up and posing as quickly as I could! Photo by Ian Plant. Assateague Island National Seashore, USA. Canon 5DII, 90mm, ISO 400, f/32, 1 second.


In this photo, I let my shadow fall into the scene. I didn’t just want to take a photo of me taking a photo, so I held the camera to my eye with one hand, while I raised the other to strike a more interesting pose. It was tough triggering the shutter with only one hand, but I made it work! Photo by Ian Plant. Olympic National Park, USA. Canon 5DIII, 16mm, polarizer filter, ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/100 second.


Artistic selfies can teach you a lot about using your photos to tell a story. For this image, I wanted to share my experience of camping solo under a sea of stars. During the exposure, I crawled into my tent (I made sure to turn my flashlight off, in order to avoid having any unintended light in my photo). Once inside, facing away from the camera, I fired my flash once to illuminate the tent from within and to reveal my silhouette. The result captures something of the mystery of that evening spent alone among the dunes gazing at the stars. Photo by Ian Plant. Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness, USA. Canon 5DII, 14mm, ISO 3200, f/2.8, 30 seconds.

Inspiration gallery by Ian Plant

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