Surreal Self Portrait Photography Ideas

Surreal self portrait photography is a great way to explore your photo skills. I personally have learned so much from over the past years from lighting to staging to editing and posing, which I use in all aspects in photography. Taking self portraits and compositing those into different scenarios gives you so much freedom when it comes to expressing yourself and your ideas. Here are some of my tips I’ve found super useful with my own work, but first let’s get a little background in this type of photography.

Surreal self portrait photography of book and book pages creative photo ideas

What is Surreal Self Portrait Photography?

This is a type of self portrait photography with a mix of surrealism, which can be added through photo editing or creatively done in your shot. One of my favorite surreal portraits is of Salvidor Dali by Phillip Halsman. The beauty in this picture is that everything is done in camera, meaning that there was no post production in order to manipulate the final image. This just shows that creativity is more important than software no how (although both is quite a weapon).

surreal self portrait photography idea of being trapped in the woods

Seeing Double

Who does not want to see two, three, 10, 100 of you and your pretty self? Adding multiple ‘yous’ in a scene is one of the first surreal self portraits I did. This is a fun project. For this pretty much all you need is a camera, a tripod, a space and well you! A simple idea to get you started with is to just start to mess around with different poses. Set up your tripod and begin to take pictures of you in different poses. Once you have a few that you like, stack them into your photo editing software and cut your self out of each image. The final image will give you a surreal self portrait.

For this image I walked into my woods and took two photos, one where I was hugging a tree and one where I felt like I was being squeezed. I used the above technique of cutting myself out and overlapped them into one final image.

Surreal Music Self Portrait Ideas for Beginner Photographers

Explore Your Interests

When in doubt explore themes that you already love. I have always had a passion for music (listening and playing) and when brainstorming possible photography ideas, I decided to mess around with pieces in my room that I already had. This may be one of the easiest and satisfying ways to explore surreal self portrait photography. Take a second and look around your room, house, your garage, and find a few pieces that mean something to you. Now think about how they make you feel, how one may use it, or how one should not use it. Above is an example of a surreal music photography photo that I took with objects in my room.

Double Exposure Self Portraits

Double exposure self portraits is one of my favorite types of portrait photography. It is probably the easiest of them all as well. The double exposure or multiple exposure technique is one of the oldest effect that was used in photography. Basically it is exactly what it sounds like. A double exposure is combining two images (exposures) on a single image. In film cameras, one would take a photograph, in most cases a portrait. Then you would rewind the film and take another image, of a landscape, nature or cityscape which would be taken on top of the original image.

For digital images like the piece below, I overlaid a self portrait and a landscape photo I took in photoshop. I then played with the opacity & blend mode in order to obtain a final image I love.

Useful Tips

  • Sketch out some ideas first. Brainstorming is an extremely helpful way to think outside of the box.
  • Tripods are extremely helpful with creating a photo stack along with a remote timer. (You can also use the 10 second shutter that is already on your camera as well)
  • Try different poses, different objects, and different backdrops. (I often find that the idea I first imagined in my head is now how the final image ended up)
  • There is no right or wrong way. Have fun and keep pushing yourself to new ways of thinking and expressing yourself.

I would love to see some of your favorite creative self portraits! Post them with a link below!